Research into nonlethal wolf control measures received a boost in Idaho with a $10,000 grant awarded to Defenders of Wildlife. The nonprofit conservation organization, which focuses on wolves, is putting the money--from the Christine Stevens Wildlife Award of the Animal Welfare Institute--toward a research project into a technology called "foxlights."
Suzanne Stone, Northern Rockies representative with Defenders of Wildlife, has worked with wolves in Idaho for 27 years, but first discovered foxlights last year while collaborating with a researcher in Australia who was working on dingo recovery. The lights flash randomly, mimicking someone walking through a forest with a flashlight. Stone said because the flashes are random, animals can't get used to it.
"We don't know for certain that it will work with wolves," she said, "but that's what we'll be testing and it's an exciting tool because it's inexpensive and it'll prevent habitation."
Foxlights are used around the world: from lions in Africa and grizzly bears in Canada, to snow leopards in Mongolia. In Idaho, testing will begin as the spring grazing season kicks off in Blaine County, as well as in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington.
According to AWI wildlife biologist D.J. Schubert, Stone's proposal was "unique."
"Wolves are controversial, and we didn't select it because it involved wolves," he said. "It's more because of the actual study, the fact that we're looking at technology from other counties and seeing how it could work in North America."
Stone said there are about 650 wolves in Idaho. Compared to 50,000 coyotes, 3,000 mountain lions and 20,000 black bears, wolves are the state's rarest large carnivore.
"That's why we're trying to find good conservation strategies that are nonlethal, so we can prevent conflicts [with livestock] from happening," she said.
In honor of National Wolf Awareness week, Oct. 12-18, the Defenders will host a film and discussion on Oct. 15 from 6-8 p.m. at the MK Nature Center to talk more about nonlethal efforts to protect livestock and wolves.