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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Electronic aversive conditioning for managing wolf predation


Electronic training collars have previously been used to condition captive predators not to attack livestock and other prey, but the use of aversive collars in actual management situations involving wild predators has not been scientifically evaluated and published. We adapted and tested commercially available dog training collars in an actual management situation involving wild wolves. Because we temporarily held wolves in captivity, we also discuss the use of pens as a tool that provides management flexibility. Three packs that had been implicated in killing livestock were held at a pen facility at the Flying D Ranch near Bozeman, Montana. Wolves from 2 packs were used in training collar experiments. We ran trials using bison calves, domestic cow calves, and hides to test equipment and the behavioral conditioning paradigm. In our program, we were unable to condition wolves not to attack livestock because of a variety of logistical and behavioral reasons. We concluded that temporarily holding wolves at a small, moderately accessible facility is of limited use for determining the utility of aversive conditioning as a wolf predation management technique. More research is necessary to effectively apply electronic training collars to wolf management. However, we determined that maintaining holding pens for wolves provides flexibility to managers in translocation efforts. Because wolves in our studies survived to reproduce, our collaborative efforts have made a significant contribution to wolf recovery.

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