Episode 1

July 27, 2023


Why We're Here

Hosted by

International Wildlife Coexistence Network Josh Adler
Why We're Here
For the Wild Ones
Why We're Here

Jul 27 2023 | 00:26:00


Show Notes

Join us as we seek solutions to human-wildlife conflicts around the world.


Part 1 w/ Suzanne Asha Stone - Executive Director of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. On the front lines of wolf restoration in the Western USA since 1988, Suzanne founded the ongoing Wood River Wolf Project in 2008, was the lead author on the first landscape level wolf and sheep nonlethal measures study Adaptive use of nonlethal strategies for minimizing wolf–sheep conflict in Idaho, and is a current member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC) Canid Specialist Group.  


With a special reading of Aldo Leopold's 'Thinking Like a Mountain' 

More at WildlifeCoexistence.org




Lonesome Howl – NOVA

Nature Sounds - Relaxing Nature Sound Atmospheres, Bird Song, Forest Sounds For Stress Relief 

Maps & Transit - Magnetic North  

Trio Metrik – Vogelperspektive 

Dilating Times - Snail Summer 

Pan – Level 

Johnny Ripper – Over & Out 


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Episode Transcript

Host 00:00:08 A deep chesty ball echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiance, sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world. Every living thing and perhaps many a dead one as well pays heed to that call to the deer. It is a reminder of the way of all flesh to the pine of forecast of midnight scuffles and of blood upon the snow to the coyote, a promise of gleanings to come to the cowman, a threat of red ink at the bank to the hunter. A challenge of fang against bullet, yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears, their lies, a deeper meaning known only to the mountain itself. I'm your host, Josh Adler. This is for the Wild Ones brought to you by the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. You can find our site [email protected]. A friend recently wrote to me with thoughts about conservationist philosopher ado Leopold, his short essay, thinking like a mountain in which he explores humanity's simultaneous predation of and dependence upon the wilderness. She writes that he watched and actually participated to his regret in the early 19 hundreds as humans in hubris and folly exterminated wolf populations. In order to keep more deer alive for hunting, Host 00:01:59 Allow me to continue with Leopold's essay, which has become a touchstone for coexistence. Thought only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf, those unable to decipher the hidden meaning. Know nevertheless that it is there for it is felt an all wolf country and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day, even without sight or sound of wolf, it is implicit in a hundred small events, the midnight Winnie of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces. Only the ineducable tyro can fail to sense the presence or absence of wolves, or the fact that mountains have a secret opinion about them. My own conviction on this score dates from the day I saw Wolf die. Host 00:03:00 We were eating lunch on a high rim rock at the foot of which turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a dough forting, the torrent, her breast awash in whitewater. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error. It was a wolf, a half dozen others evidently grown pups spraying from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful mullings. What was literally a pile of wolves, rye that and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rim rock. In those days, we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy. How to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide rocks. We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then and have known ever since that there was something new to me in those eyes, something known only to her and to the mountain. Host 00:04:11 I was young then and full of trigger itch. I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunter's paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view. Since then, I have lived to see state after state extricate its wolfs. I have watched the face of many, a newly wolf less mountain and seen the south facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed first to anemic, destitute, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears and forbidden him all other exercise. In the end, the starved bones of the hoped for deer herd dead of its own, too much bleach with the bones of the dead sage or molder under the high line junipers. Host 00:05:14 I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves. So does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer and perhaps with better cause for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows, the cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he's taking over the wolf's job of trimming the herd to fit the range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence, we have dust bowls and rivers washing the future into the sea. We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen. The most of us with machines, votes and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing. Peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind the rose. Dictum in wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the hell of the wolf, long known among mountains but seldom perceived among men. Host 00:06:44 By learning from nature, our community feels that we can navigate the narratives of our time to understand and implement systems based on how nature manages danger and safety, risk and reward, uncertainty and security. These are the challenges that have inspired us to begin this conversation through the podcast for the wild ones to give voice to the wild ones in our backyards, in our parks, in our oceans, and in our hearts. Host 00:07:25 This episode is the first of two featuring I W C N founder Suzanne Asia Stone. I first met Suzanne in 2017 when I went out to Sun Valley, Idaho in the fall, looking to better understand conflicts between ranchers and wolves in the Northern Rockies. For over a decade, Suzanne and the community of around Wood River Wolf Project had played referees and successfully kept herds and wolfs safe with the lowest loss rates in history. The world took note and Suzanne got rather busy bringing predator smart farming and non-lethal methods to every continent where domestic livestock and wild predators share landscapes. We're gonna hear more about those non-lethal methods in our conversation with Suzanne, as well as why she's formed the Wildlife Coexistence Network. Thanks so much for making time to speak with me today. Suzanne, maybe tell me a little bit about your year in 2023 so far. Guest 00:08:27 Oh boy. We are as an organization on an out, out, flat run <laugh> to keep up with all of the needs and opportunities and connections and contacts. There's so many people around the world that are embracing this understanding that, for example, rewilding is so important and it's essential to the health of our planet. It's wonderful the efforts that are underway. At the same time, we have to not only restore those species and protect the other ones that we have, but learn how to live with all of them. Because our inability to live with wildlife is, it's what's led to the, what they're calling the six extinction. It it's essential that it's not just about bringing the species back or preserving the genetics and things like that. We have to switch to a different path and our relationship with nature, and that is the absolute key to all of this being successful and sustainable over the long term. Guest 00:09:30 You know, we really are getting a clear understanding that these things are all connected and of course they're deeply connected to the survival and the welfare of humans as well as these species across the planet. So one of the things that I, I found in the last year that was just kind of stunning to me, that not only are we losing species like the ones that we know about, the rhinos and koala and all the other species that are on the verge of extinction are, are facing it now, but we are also losing, uh, like in North America, we've lost 3 billion birds from the population of North American birds just since the 1970s. And you know, that covers my lifetime. So today from when I was a child were 3 billion birds less across North America and that, you know, there's so many different reasons, but we as humans are connected to all of them, and so in order for us to restore and protect what we have left, we have to, we have to look inside of ourselves and just know that collectively we have all had a role in the condition of the planet where it is today, and we all have a role in what we want this earth to look like or how we want to leave it for future generations and how we help them obtain those changes that need to be made in order to secure the health of the planet and that it's, it's doable. Guest 00:11:03 Certainly if we had been told probably that we would have this kind of influence a hundred years ago, I think people would've scoffed at the idea that wildlife would be on this verge of extinction eradication across so many different areas, Guest 00:11:21 The scientists are telling us that 96% of all the, um, mammalian mammal biomass on the planet is humans and our livestock and the remaining 4% is all the wildlife combined. We have to leave room and we have to examine how we use resources from an individual level, from a community level, from a province or state, from a government, national government, and then collectively around the world how we do this, because we're having that influence at all of those different stages. It's personal because nature's been part of my life since I can remember the interactions I had with wildlife as a child, even just chasing different bugs. Butterflies, especially like what we call them, the lightning bugs <laugh> when I was a kid. A lot of those populations are gone. It's stunning to see in just one lifetime how much we've lost on the planet, knowing that if we care enough we can restore, but it means changing our behavior and that's coexistence. Host 00:12:28 The numbers of human influence that you're referencing are just startling and almost incomprehensible, yet they point to our collective power in a way we have influenced the planet on this huge scale, which presents a kind of sense that then maybe we can collectively harness that power to change the way that we're influencing the planet for the better. Guest 00:12:56 Knowing that we can successfully restore species gives us the courage to think big of what else can we do it. It has to come in like a tandem though of yes, we're restoring the species. What are the things that are required of us to change our behavior so that we're living and working with nature instead of against her? We've spent the last many generations really ignoring that it wasn't a high priority for us to understand natural systems in a way that, you know, affected human behavior. I think humans, people just felt, especially over the last century or two, that nature was just always going to be there and it, it was just this, there was no way to deplete it. It was always going to be abundant. We know now that that isn't true. I love how you phrased it that that we have this collective power. We have the collective power to destroy that is for certain we have seen it. We are in the verge of destroying our own home, our planet for and making it very inhabitable for billions of people. We also know that we can choose to use that collective power for good and to restore wildlife, restore the climate. Host 00:14:14 To back up to the idea that you mentioned about working with nature instead of against her. How does the international Wildlife coexistence network serve that mission? Guest 00:14:28 I W C N really serves as a way of bringing people together from different disciplines. We have a very interdisciplinary type approach, so we have people who are coming together from science, agricultural managers. There's different types of researchers and ethicists economists, government specialists at all kinds of levels. Indigenous leaders, technical engineers. There's educators, there's artists together to help us learn how to tell the story better as well, and so that we can help people understand how they themselves can be part of this story to transform the planet into one that is protected on a biological level. As well as that our collective impact on the planet is more sustainable. It's really serving that function as a, a network of providing training, interdisciplinary collaboration, shared research, and then practical part of the boots on the ground, which is something that a lot of organizations aren't as lucky as we are to have, and that is that we have projects themselves that are physically boots on the ground where we are implementing these types of changes in behavior, demonstrating how we can live lighter, live more in harmony with nature by working with her. Guest 00:15:45 Those are things like the Wood River Wolf Project in Idaho where we're now in year 16 demonstrating that you can use non-lethal, proactive tools and techniques to promote coexistence between wolves and sheep. In this case, sheep are the most vulnerable to predators on the landscape in the western United States, and we're working in one of the most rugged terrains. It's, it's very much like the Alps in Switzerland and France and Italy and, uh, that it's very rugged, very remote, and we have 20,000 sheep in our project area, which is a very intense amount of sheep to have in working together, and they're in bands of like a thousand to over 2000 sheep and moving across this landscape that's extremely wild. It's, it's like the hardest place to do this. The, the, the worst case scenario of can we coexist with wolves and bears and mountain lion and coyotes and the other species that we en encounter for year 16. Guest 00:16:44 We've demonstrated beyond any doubt now that yes, we can, and it's actually a better way to manage not only wildlife, but it's a better way to manage the livestock, the sheep as well. We lose fewer sheep, way fewer than other areas where they're relying on the traditional archaic system of just killing predators like wolves and bears. In fact, in the 16 year history of the project, now we've lost two wolves and both of them were situations where we could have moved forward with non-lethal if the livestock owners were willing to try it a little bit longer. But the reaction here in the west is that if something bothers your livestock, you kill it. Guest 00:17:27 What we've been able to show without any question is that these non-lethal methods, things like lighting, different types of remote pasture type fencing, like ladder things that are very portable, fox lights, air horns, you know, just things that tell the wildlife humans are present and that they are protecting the livestock and that we have livestock guardian dogs with us, which wolves think of as being just another pack of wolves that they normally would not want to encounter. So it's, it's about making the wildlife adverse to the risk of trying to take the sheep and doing it proactively so that we're working on the landscape in a way that provides the best results from the predators. It's also great for the sheep because we're losing far fewer, it's less stressful for them and, and we're spending less money doing it than when they come to start killing the predators that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. I know of a pack in Washington where it was close to a hundred thousand dollars for just one back of wolves, and if they had been able to spend even a 10th of that money on preventative measures, it would've been beneficial both to the wildlife and also to the local community, and especially the local, the livestock. Guest 00:18:42 So it, it's just a matter of having, um, a vision of what can we do and how we can do it differently, and then being willing to try those methods and work until we refine them in a way that makes them more successful and in harmony with working with nature. Host 00:19:00 One thing that I love about your work in the Wood River Wolf Project as well as with I W C N, is that you are also considering the communal, the societal, the economic benefits for people in the strategies and methods that are being implemented in your solutions. Maybe you can speak a little bit more about how improving animal husbandry makes a big difference in producers, business models and other benefits that maybe from other projects where you're seeing that humans are also benefiting from changing the way that they're relating with the wildlife around them. Guest 00:19:43 It's remarkable to me. I look at ranchers, livestock owners, managers who are kind of putting the livestock first and changing their livestock placement dream methods to really focus on the, the health of the animal. It's really interesting to see when they take that approach, how much calmer the livestock are. Cattle, for example, usually are less reactive around people because they're working in a more of a, like a trust capacity with the, with the cattle, Guest 00:20:13 Their system is usually a lot gentler around livestock, uh, especially with the cattle herds when, you know, traditionally when I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see cowboys out there chasing cows with horses and electric prods, and then now recently it's more ATVs and I mean, it's just things that really scare them difference between like dominating the livestock as opposed to working with them and trying to work using their instincts, their understanding interpretation of the world and building trust with them enough that you can get them to do the things you want them to do, but without having to force them or intimidate them into doing them. We have a lot to learn from them and it really reminds me of, and even more so with the indigenous people that have always lived on the land, that when you're living that close to nature, you have a far better understanding of nature's rhythms, the timing, when certain plants should be emerging, when's the best time to harvest those plants, when do we see rivers rising and flooding, but also understanding that there are species like beaver who are the ecosystem engineers and they're incredible what they do in terms of their service to biodiversity and that they help raise water levels and if you live in the West <laugh> water level is live or die. Guest 00:21:34 So it's, they're all tied together with I W C N. We're just bringing all of these people into kind of one place where we can, it's almost like we're crowdsourcing for solutions. It is taking these really tough, we call them wicked problems, ones that we haven't been able to easily resolve, and then bringing people together to, you know, look at them from different angles. It's always inspiring and we never take no for an answer. <laugh> no, Host 00:22:05 As a wildlife advocate, how do you navigate the need for personal change, but also the kind of societal level challenges? Guest 00:22:15 That's been the, I think the toughest challenge and why the COP 15 has shared looking at biodiversity, one of the five points that they came out strongly identifying was the need for coexistence and doing that at a government level. So it's, you know, helping inform governments that it is not enough to stem the tide on how much damage we've done to the environment. It is not enough to try to restore pockets of wildlife that we have lost. It is about changing our approach to how wildlife are managed around the world, and it's really not about managing the wildlife. It is all about managing us our behavior because we have the greatest impact of being able to make those changes. And it's always been about us having countries that are really looking at changing the whole structure of things like predator control. We've seen massive changes throughout Europe. Guest 00:23:18 I look at Italy as being one of the, the great examples of where there was so much loss of biodiversity at one point, and yet now they have thousands of wolves, they've restored brown bears, they are working at the soil level to help restore ecosystems below the ground and really getting this, this, uh, whole habitat approach and how we manage our collective influence. It's going back again to like the indigenous, to the tribal leaders looking at how did people live on this planet for all the time that we have thousands of years be able to glean from those experiences that knowledge, braiding Sweetgrass is one of my favorite books, and it's an incredibly well, well-written description of not just the author's love of botany, but her indigenous roots in learning how to reciprocate with nature so that you're giving back, you're, you're aware of your own impacts and giving back. Once governments relays that they have that same level of responsibility for the sake of all of the generations to come, whether they're two-legged, four-legged or a legged or you know, whatever. We are responsible for that life around us. Guest 00:24:38 That awareness is growing and it's growing around the planet and it's so exciting to be able to connect with people who are working often independently, just doing everything they can to try to save a species, to try to help restore a habitat, to bring something back, to do the rewilding efforts that bring in all the parts and pieces of the puzzle and then help empower those people to be successful. And that is the heart and soul of the International Wildlife Coexistence Network. That's why we're here to help bring that awareness about, to learn from people who are experts and to help share that information so that all of us can make those choices to live working with nature, in harmony with nature, and helping support our local ecosystems so that they are resilient and can help us through the, the mess that we've gotten ourself into on the planet, climate and loss of biodiversity. Host 00:25:39 Hope you've enjoyed the first part of our interview with I W C N, founder Suzanne Aisha Stone. We'll hear more from Suzanne about building the world we want in part two. So take a break, get some fresh air if you can, and join us for the next episode of four The Wild Ones.

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