Cattle Ranchers Use GPS Tracking for Wolves

Wolf tracking

Ranchers in northeast Washington are taking non-lethal, proactive measures to protect their cattle from wolves. Environmental group Conservation Northwest in conjunction with Washington State are sponsoring a pilot program that allows ranchers to monitor the wolves by using GPS tracking.

Last year, seven wolves from one pack were killed after repeatedly attacking cattle. The action drew intense public criticism and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was inundated with over 12,000 emails mostly opposing the decision.

The new program equips range riders with laptops that receive GPS tracking data from the three collared “Judas wolves,” named for betraying the pack’s location. The GPS provides the wolves locations during the past 24 hours, although data collection can be affected by dense groups of trees and the timing of satellite orbits. Two of the wolves wear GPS collars while one wears a collar with a radio-based signal that can be detected when the wolf is nearby.

Daily satellite downloads of the wolves are provided by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Additionally, the state and Conservation Northwest are sharing in the cost of three range riders. The efforts so far are paying off.  According to one rancher, “We’ve lost nothing to wolves.”