Feds want a ‘range rider’ to protect California cattle from wolves, but no killing allowed

·3 min read

Ever daydreamed about listening to wolves howl on the open range with a herd of cows and your horses as your only companions?

Then the U.S. Department of Agriculture has just the job for you in northeastern California.

On Friday, the federal agency’s Wildlife Services branch posted an advertisement for a “Range Rider” position. The employee’s mission would be to protect cattle from wolf attacks in Modoc, Lassen and Plumas counties.

Under California law, people cannot kill wolves under any circumstances, so the range rider would need to use “non-lethal wildlife mitigation” to keep the wolves away from the cattle, according to the posting.

“Ride horseback over rough terrain and in other off-road environments to transport self and equipment for performing official duties,” the job posting reads. “You will ride along with a herd to protect from predation.”

The salary range is between $36,587 and $52,341. The federal government won’t be providing you with a horse, however.

“To qualify for this position, you must own, or have access to, at least two horses (including tack) used to traveling in steep, mountainous landscapes in close quarters to livestock,” the posting reads.

The range-rider position is the latest way state and federal governments are trying to help ranchers in California share the landscape with the state’s newly arriving wolf packs, which attack livestock from time to time.

Many ranchers would prefer to kill wolves when they attack their livestock that are often left to graze unattended on miles of open range on private and public lands in northeastern California, but wolves are protected under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

Wolf advocates have said range riders are one possible solution to help prevent wolves from harming livestock.

Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a budget that allocated $3 million in funds to help ranchers use nonlethal methods such as livestock guardians and specialized fencing known as fladry to protect their animals. The funds also can be used to compensate ranchers for the fair market value of their livestock if officials determine the animal died in a confirmed wolf attack.

So far this year, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has received five applications for wolf-kill reimbursements. Their applications are currently under review, said Peter Tira, a spokesman for the department.

There have been five documented wolf attacks on livestock in Lassen and Siskiyou counties so far in 2022, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s gray wolf webpage.

In the years since OR7 in 2011 became the first known wolf to venture into California in nearly a century, more than 40 wolves have passed through, settled or been born in California. Almost all of them have stayed in a remote, five-county region about the size of West Virginia in California’s sparsely populated northeastern corner.

There are three small wolf packs — the Lassen, Beckwourth and the Whaleback — known to live in the area where cattle outnumber people.

A handful of wolves in California also have died under suspicious circumstances — at least one of them from a bullet — but so far no one has been arrested.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting