When Wolves are Truly Ambassadors

By Bob Ferris
Many of us who have worked with wolves are familiar with the term ambassador wolves. These are wolves taken around to various venues to get people more familiar with wolves and the concept of iranian_wolf02having them on the landscape.  But that term took on a new meaning for me this week as I got an e-mail plea from a scientist in Iran seeking information on the use of fladry to protect livestock from wolves.  Here wolves truly were acting as ambassadors.
Here is my response to her.  I will send the link on to her but if others want to add advice from their experience or encouragement for her efforts, please feel free to use the comment section.
Fladry franceDear Colleague:
Thank you so contacting me regarding the use of fladry to protect livestock from wolves and prevent the need for lethal control of wolves.  I am pleased that you are considering this option and hope that others around the world elect this option as an alternative to lethal response.  
The wolf in Iran (see above) is a little different in size and behavior than what we have in the US and I suspect that there are also significant differences in fladry_spooler_Sun_Ranch_09b_WEBSIZEhabitats as well as agricultural practices in your country.  That said, fladry has been proven effective to some extent across differing predator species and habitats so it should be an option explored particularly if used in concert with other non-lethal approaches such as livestock dogs, human presence and keeping the area clear of attractants such as decomposing carcasses.
While all fladry basically consists of some form of wire or rope with streaming flags attached at various distances and hung horizontally, there are a lot of variations in terms of specific designs (please see pictures).  You or your livestock partners will have to experiment and find what works best for you and your particular situation.  In addition to variations of the design of the line and flags, variations in the optimal size of enclosures, the number of animals and location of pens relative to cover and human habitation will also have to be experimented with until the right mix is achieved.  
In addition there has to be an acknowledgement that fladry—even with complimentary forms of non-lethal approaches—will not work all the time or with all individual animals and can be impacted fairly quickly by habituation.  My understanding is that hybridization with domestic dogs is also a problem for wolves in Iran and the presence of wild dogs could cause problems as well.  
fladry_windHere is some useful references both in the popular and scientific literature to help you begin you search for the most effective suite of fladry options.
Wishing you good luck in this endeavor and international cooperation in wolf protection and recovery,
Bob Ferris
P.S. And below is short film clip from our friends at Defenders of Wildlife showing a wolf visting a stock pen surrounded by fladry.  And others should feel free to comment and add advice as well.