Friday, August 3, 2012

Wolf intern is pioneer for future program

University student pilots wildlife advocacy internship program


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Oregon State University student Kasey Moore poses with one of the remote cameras she helps set up as part of her internship with the Wood River Wolf Project. Moore is the programís first intern, and project coordinator Suzanne Stone said she hopes the program will expand significantly. Photo courtesy of Kasey Moore

Oregon State University junior Kasey Moore is already a pioneer in her field.

While her area of study, wildlife biology, is well established, she is the first member of what wildlife advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife hopes will be a large internship program with the Wood River Wolf Project in Blaine County.

Moore spends most of her days in the field and was unavailable for a face-to-face interview, but wrote in a series of emails to the Express that she has loved every second of her roughly six weeks with the program.

The Wood River Wolf Project is dedicated to helping livestock producers deter wolves and other predators through the use of nonlethal deterrents. Standard tools in the arsenal include fladry—red flags tied to a sometimes-electrified line that is put up around sheep herds—telemetry, to determine the location of wolf packs, guard dogs and humans sleeping with bands of sheep overnight to scare off wolves who might be testing the bands.

Moore said she spends a lot of time setting up remote cameras to seek out wolf activity—such as the one that caught an alpha female on film out Warm Springs Road north of Ketchum—and talking to Peruvian sheep herders.

As most of the herders speak Spanish, Moore said she has been using the language she learned both at the university and during a study abroad experience in Chile.

"I do speak enough Spanish to have conversations with them and check up regularly with them to see if there have been any issues," she said. "All of the herders I've met with so far have been extremely nice and willing to listen to us explain our project."

Moore said she'd also distributed spotlights to some herders to help them scare off nearby wolves that might be scoping out the sheep bands.

Suzanne Stone, Wood River Wolf Project coordinator and spokeswoman for Defenders of Wildlife, said that despite Moore's "intern" status, she is in many ways a full member of the project's field crew.

"She's really pretty much doing what a field crewmember would do," Stone said.

She added that Moore does not converse with ranchers regarding wolf politics. Such conversations can become contentious, and Stone said Moore does not yet have a lot of experience with the types of conflict that can arise.

Moore was offered the opportunity after attending college with Stone's daughter, Sierra, with whom she shared a dorm building.

"We instantly became friends and when she heard about my interest in wildlife, she told me about what her mom does," Moore said. "When Suzanne would come to visit Sierra, I was able to talk to her more about this work."

When asked how she came to the decision to take on the project's first intern, Stone said it was mostly due to Moore herself.

"Kasey was simply very persistent," Stone said with a laugh "But the university has had an interest in wolves, they conduct research in Yellowstone, and it was natural to reach out to the folks there."

Moore also had previous experience as an intern with the Corporación Nacional Forestal de Chile, the country's forest service, during which she hiked through the southern Andes and set up camera traps for huemules, an endangered species of deer.

"She has done outstanding work," Stone said of Moore. "That's not something you can teach—it's something you have to have the passion to do."

So far, Stone said, she is so pleased with Moore's work that she plans to expand the internship project. The eventual goal would be to form teams of interns from both animal husbandry and wildlife biology, to educate both groups regarding the others' perspective.

"It's not easy work," Stone said. "This is the type of wildlife work that requires more of an interdisciplinary approach. You have to deal with social conflict as well as biological issues."

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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