Niche Marketing to Wildlife Conservationists
By: Charlottes Conley Posted On: July 8, 2014
by Charlottes Conley, Conservation Associate at Defenders of Wildlife
It’s well known that consumers frequenting farmers markets these days are concerned about where their food is coming from and how it is grown. They want to feed their families food that is organic, grown locally and better tasting than what they could find at the local supermarket.
A new movement is taking good food one step further, to ensure that it’s also wildlife friendly. If you raise and sell cattle, lamb, bison, chickens or even honey, you might find that there are times when you are competing with the local wildlife. A bear gets into your beehives. A wolf eats one of your cattle. But there are things that you can do to prevent this from happening. The key is to remove attractants and change husbandry practices to lessen the chances that wildlife will be attracted to your animals. For instance, using temporary fencing around animals during vulnerable times like birthing; adding livestock guarding animals to your herds, or increasing the human presence by hiring a range rider to bunch the herd and ward off predators at key times can make a world of difference. Nonlethal deterrents can be used in almost every circumstance from apiaries to aquaculture. Electric fences are great deterrents for grizzly bears and black bears, keeping them from apiaries and some livestock. Livestock guarding dogs (or llamas and donkeys) work well for keeping livestock bunched and can alert you to the presence of wolves, and often scare them away. Fladry, with a thin rope with cloth flagging, and “turbofladry” – or electrified fladry, are great ways to temporarily protect vulnerable livestock, at night or during certain times such as birthing or when in proximity to areas of known wolf activity. Predator proof enclosures can be created to protect small livestock from Florida panthers and other predators. Animal husbandry alterations can reduce conflict – changes to the time and length of the birthing season and shed-birthing are great ways to reduce the risk of depredation when young are at their most vulnerable.
At Defenders of Wildlife, we have found that nonlethal deterrents are more sustainable and, when compared to lethal options such as poisons, are certainly better for the environment. Simple logic will tell you that lethally removing wildlife year after year without changing the conditions on the ground that cause conflict is a waste of time, money, and energy. We should be looking for creative solutions to deal with wildlife conflict for the long term, by protecting resources and addressing factors that cause predator predation, such as attractants and carcasses, vulnerable livestock and proximity to areas where predators congregate such as den sites for wolves.
Consumers who care about wildlife will vote with their wallets by purchasing from producers who use nonlethal deterrents, sending a message that there is a demand for their use – and rewarding producers who choose to use them. But you have to educate them and let them know there is this option. A non-profit organization, Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network has created a certification program and label that producers can display. The “Certified Wildlife-Friendly” or “Predator-Friendly” labels help consumers identify “producers whose actions contribute to wildlife conservation around the world.” These labels tap into the power of the marketplace to create on the ground change by providing incentives to producers for the protection of imperiled wildlife.
Over the years, Defenders has helped numerous producers purchase electric fencing and guard dogs, hire range riders, and deploy scare devices to keep wolves away. These proactive methods help protect livestock—and predators. Defenders is working through several avenues to get the tools and techniques of nonlethal deterrents into the hands of Wildlife Services agents, producers, extension agents and conservationists. There is little state or federal incentive for the use of nonlethal deterrents. However, ecosystem services provided by predators are a public good, and healthy, intact ecosystems should be encouraged. While Defenders and other organizations work to shape state and federal policy to incentivize the use of effective, lasting solutions to wildlife conflict, alternative approaches such as labeling help to bridge that gap by providing a market-based incentive.
If you are interested in using nonlethal deterrents strategies to resolve wildlife conflict and reduce predator casualties in the food production process, check out Defenders’ guide to nonlethal deterrents, “Livestock and Wolves”, at their website www.defenders.org. You might want to also reach out to Wildlife Services, NRCS, Extension, and any other agencies you work with and request assistance with implementing nonlethal deterrents. If you are interested in becoming a “Certified Wildlife Friendly” or “Predator Friendly” producer, learn about the requirements and details at www.wildlifefriendly.org.