Pine Valley has typically been a very tranquil place to live. There is a lot of ranching here, and with ranching comes challenges. In April, local ranches came face-to-face with one of those challenges.

Wolves returned to the valley and the surrounding area, and with wolves have come depredations. Calves and cows have been wounded, and some have died.

Local ranchers Shella and Barry DelCurto were in the middle of this depredation. They didn't know how to protect themselves, their livestock, and ultimately their livelihood, against this challenging predator. The DelCurtos knew they needed to find a way to better prepare themselves for the coming spring.

In September, Shella and Barry were offered that opportunity. The organization Defenders of Wildlife was willing to send both of them to Tom Minor Basin near Gardner, Montana, where they attended the four-day Range Rider workshop, looking for answers. They found Hilary and Andrew Anderson, workshop leaders and cofounders of the Tom Miner Basin Range Rider Project.

The Andersons are third-generation cattle producers successfully ranching on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park, where wolves and grizzly bears are a fact of life. They have been dealing with wolves for many years and have had some significant successes in reducing depredation. The west boundary of their ranch is West Yellowstone Park, where the wolves and grizzly bears know no boundaries.

During the four-day seminar, the DelCurtos learned about:

● ranch/range management

● low-stress cattle handling

● wolf behavior and hunting habits

● profitability

● how to better utilize your range rider

● proactive non-lethal tools and techniques

Shella and Barry came away with a different outlook on the situation in which they and their fellow ranchers find themselves. As Shella puts it, they “had hope for the future.”

The DelCurtos decided that if the Andersons and their ranching neighbors could implement a plan and make it work, then maybe the same could be done in the DelCurto's operation. “If (the Andersons) can survive among one of the largest populations of grizzly bears, and where wolves abound, then we can survive here in the panhandle of Baker County,” Shella said.

Plans were then set in motion to bring the Andersons to Oregon for local ranchers and interested parties. “We wanted to share the knowledge we found with our fellow ranchers, where wolves are going to be an everyday way of life.”

Shella believes this is a chance for ranchers to become proactive rather than reactive. “As Hilary Anderson says, ‘We do not own what we do not create.’ To that end, we are bringing Hilary and Andrew to Halfway so that we can learn from their experiences,” Shella said.

The Andersons will share their experience about the costs and benefits of each non-lethal or husbandry method. Business profitability and sustainability is a theme that may be most appreciated by livestock managers, owners, and those who ride for them.

The two-day workshop will be held January 10-11 in Halfway at the Lions Club Hall. Seating is limited, so please register early. The cost is $50 per person, which includes the two-day seminar, two lunches, and one dinner. Registration is required by Jan. 5 at www.unitedcommunitypartners.org/strategic-ranching. Alternatively, you may contact Shella DelCurto at mightyadashin@gmail.com or (541) 519-5563.

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