Interviewer Patrick start out by telling me just a little bit, what is fladry?
Patrick Graham Well turbo-fladry is a high tension electric fence that essentially has nylon pieces of cloth that are sewn right into the electric fence and the idea is that we string the fence up in different coral shaped pens, overnight pens, and they're temporary corals that keep the wolves out and the sheep in. So the reason it's called turbo-fladry is because it has the ability to, we can make it hot so we can pump electricity through it and it works great to keep the sheep in the pen and the wolves out. I can go into some of the history. Basically, this is derived from an eastern European technique that was invented to help sort of funnel wolves into certain areas where they could then be hunted, and the towns people would tie together their old rags and dirty laundry and run it out across a field and have miles of this stuff and basically create a large funnel that wolves wouldn't have any other place they could go. They don't run underneath it and won't jump over the top of it. And essentially they would just be funneled along the line of the fence that was erected by the towns people, get to the end, the apex of this funnel, and then they would be shot and they would basically make the hunting effort a lot more efficient.
Interviewer Tell me about some of the other nonlethal means of keeping wolves away from sheep.
Patrick Graham One of sort of the omnipresent characters in this whole protecting sheep from wolves game is the Pyrenees or Akbash mix. They're guard dogs and they come in teams up to five dogs per band. Some times we even have groups of dogs up to seven dog strong, and they work together and basically form a perimeter on the periphery of the sheep band, and when they become alerted to predators in the area, not only namely wolves, but coyotes, bears, mountain lion and other things that could potentially threaten the well-being of the sheep, they'll alert the herder that he's a predator in the area, and the herder will come out and use some sort of nonlethal or scare tactic to scare the predator away from the sheep band. That can be anywhere from an air horn that's used in the marine world, a megaphone where he yells into it and just his voice alone scares the wolves away, or just a shot fired into the air from one of this high caliber rifles does the trick pretty well. So the dogs are really important. When we spend the night up in support of the sheepherders we use high-powered LED spotlights to shine over the sheep band and try to identify where the wolves are, and air horns are probably the most effective tool that we use.
Interviewer Tell me specifically about this band of sheep. You were telling me a little bit about their history.
Patrick Graham So the sheep band that we are here with right now is a sheep band that's from the Flat Top Ranch owned by John Peavey and his family, and this sheep band is trailed over a hundred miles throughout the forest this year, and ultimately will migrate down into the north end of Ketchum and will trail right through the center of Ketchum in celebration of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. So these are sort of the stars of the show. It's a festival that happens every year in October. It celebrates the heritage of sheepherding and us of the land in that way, and there's plenty of lamb to eat throughout the festival. So these sheep have… This is considered a dry band, so there are no lambs in this band. It's all ewes and the rams shipped out a little while ago, I think about 2 and 1/2, 3 and 1/2 weeks ago maybe, somewhere in that range. So ya they'll come through Ketchum and work their way down south and back to the Flattop Ranch before they ship out to California.
Interviewer What kind of interaction has this band had with wolves over the last year or two?
Patrick Graham This band in particular has lost four sheep to wolf attack in the last four months I'd say, and before that on the ranch there was a big problem with wolves and predators during the lambing season, and that could be partly a result of the wolf pack that was in that particular area had a history of sort of chronic predation and the lambing technique that was used in that specific lambing ground wasn't ideal for that sort of interface to be present, so we used fladry and nighttime presence to try and reduce some of those conflicts in predations. So this band in the last two weeks specifically has been coming through a piece of country that is inhabited by a pack of wolves. There are six wolves in this area. Every night we hear the wolves howl and the sheep are right next to where this rendezvous side of this wolf pack is. There are four pups and two mature wolves here, and the guard dogs and the wolves they basically showdown every night. They howl and the dogs respond with barks and howls and barks and back and forth. And we've done our best to haste these wolves out of here and in the last two months we haven't had a single predation, and the sheep have literally been grazing in meadows that is riddled with wolf scat and tracks.
Interviewer Ok Patrick, tell me the sheepherder's routine here.
Patrick Graham The sheepherder will work sort of in phases throughout the day. He'll bring the sheep down to water in the morning, then as the sheep get exposed to the heat of the day they'll actually noon or rest and kind of siesta near that water in the shade and just relax, and then they start their sort of diurnal migration uphill to higher ground to where instinct leads them to believe they'll be safer at night and they'll herd together quite tightly, work their way up to a ridge, bed down over night and the sheepherder will sort of be on the same schedule where he comes down and uses his campo here overnight, I mean during the day as sort of a siesta spot to relax and get hydrated, and then he'll work his way up into the mountains, spend the night out with the sheep, and then be right up in the area where the sheep are and herd them down using the dogs to a water source, and then back up. So the sheep will water twice a day in an ideal case, and then they'll move to higher ground for the evening.
Interviewer How effective is this situation here where you're doing the fladry?
Patrick Graham So turbo-fladry is an effective tool when it's applied in the right configuration. There's a story that my supervisor Suzanne tells about a ranch that set up a line of turbo-fladry around a pasture where there was preexisting barbed wire fence. The fence was up for quite a while, close to 30 days, and the wolves in the area found a weakness in the fence where one of the flags had wrapped around the high strand electric part of the fencing and crawled underneath it and were observed in the pasture, and there was a helicopter that was working in that same area trying to haze wolves, or capture wolves, and they flew and found where the wolves were. As the wolf was running towards the fladry to escape, it came right up against the fladry and realized it was in a different area where the weakness didn't exist and instead of jumping over the fence or crawling underneath it, which the wolf could have easily done, it decided to about face and run directly underneath the helicopter that was hovering overhead. So we all know that wolves are petrified of helicopters, and it chose to take its chances on the helicopter instead of the fladry.