Today’s episode sees us welcome researcher Avery Shawler to talk about her work studying wolves and livestock, the interesting area of the conflict between these two groups, and what her investigations are showing about this relationship. Avery is a Ph.D. student at the University of Berkley California, and she conducts her fieldwork in Wyoming, taking multiple trips a year into the wilderness! The exact focus of her study is the elk migrations in the area, and how the wolf-livestock conflict affects these routes. We have a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation, covering wolf ecology, chronic wasting disease, conservation of habitats, and the interesting ins and outs of working in Grizzly country! Near the end of the episode, we also get into Avery’s amazing and scary story of survival in Idaho, when she was injured, stranded and alone, and very nearly didn’t make it back alive. Listeners can expect to get a great background on what a path into this field of conservation biology can look like, and Avery’s passion and excitement about her work are certainly contagious! Avery gives us some great insight into the dynamics present on ranches in relation to wolves, the danger they present, and how ranchers are trying to deal with that. Vastly knowledgeable as well as considered and balanced, Avery shares her perspective on the different interests involved, offering some observations around rancher culture that may surprise listeners. We also talk about bears, survival skills, cutting edge technology, and more, so make sure to join us to catch it all!
Key Points From This Episode:
- Avery’s background, moving around as a child, and how she became interested in conservation biology.
- Some of the jobs that Avery has had in the field of ecology and conservation.
- Understanding chronic wasting disease and how it spreads through deer and elk populations.
- Wolf predatory habits and patterns and how important it is to understand these in relation to studies of elk.
- Methods used for elk capture and monitoring and developments in the field.
- Elk migrations and charting the average timespans and routes.
- Getting to grips with the wolf-livestock conflict and historic attitudes towards wolves.
- The economic problems that wolves cause for ranches — cycles of the ongoing battle.
- Methods that are used to deter wolves and the constant updates needed.
- Different breeds of cattle and how ranchers are trying to make cows more resilient against predators.
- Lethal control against wolves and why Avery believes it has a place on ranches.
- Avery’s research into how wolves set up den sites and their travel patterns.
- Short and long-term strategies for Avery; the questions at the top of the list.
- The array of work that is keeping Avery busy at present — research, teaching, and more!
- Learning about wolf predatory patterns by tracking and monitoring through GIS.
- Avery’s experiences with grizzly bears and how bears generally react to human presence.
- The legal status of killing bears and the litigation involved, even in self-defense cases.
- Avery’s amazing story of survival alone in Idaho!
- The mountaineering and wildness skills that Avery acquired that came in handy during her crisis.
- Avery’s thoughts on going out into the wildness now, after her near-death experience.
- Closing thoughts from Avery on conservation and how to connect and support her work!
“It is really important that we keep these working lands and ranches intact because they are the places that wildlife can still move through.” — @AveryShawler [0:21:59]
“We use the data that we collect to build this model, so trying to figure out if there are certain characteristics associated with where wolves kill. Do they tend to kill in areas where there is tree cover? Is there a certain slope they don’t kill any animals because it is too steep?” — @AveryShawler [0:47:37]
“We were all yelling at each other to get together, whipping out our bear spray. And we wake up the bear, and the bear starts to walk towards us!” — @AveryShawler [0:53:09]
“It is just being aware of the risk, finding out ways to mitigate it, and recognizing that there is risk that you can’t control.” — @AveryShawler [1:17:26]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode: