While traditionally range riders – “cowboys” of old – were men, many of the range riders in the Tom Miner Basin today are women.
Rising early, riding during dawn and dusk – the prime predator movement time – tracking herds, predators, and carcasses, and managing and moving livestock, are all work both men and women can do equally effectively.
Range riders or herders protected Montana’s livestock for more than a century before disappearing in the early half of the 20th century.
Armed with rifles and mounted on horseback, those riders protected relatively small herds of cattle or flocks of sheep from predators. As times changed, and ranchers started to turn large numbers of livestock out onto summer pastures with little supervision, the riders faded into legend.
The Tom Miner Basin Association, in conjunction with the Western Sustainability Exchange, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, is bringing back the old strategy to improve range and riparian health, protect habitat, increase drought resilience, and sequester carbon by combining grazing management and stockmanship with knowledge of local carnivores to prevent conflict.
As a human presence with the livestock, riders offer an additional deterrent to predators. They also treat or remove sick and injured animals that they find and document carcasses to determine the cause of death, remove the carcasses or move the livestock, and concentrate cattle to make grazing and range management more effective.
“Actively managing grazing with regenerative practices can benefit overall grassland health. The healthier the grasslands, the healthier the cattle and the habitat for prey species. The healthier the habitat, the less likely wolves and bears will turn to livestock for food.
Furthermore, the more robust a regenerative grazing program, the less ranchers rely on expensive herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, thus lowering their operating costs and increasing their profitability.”
 Western Sustainability Exchange Range Rider Program, http://www.westernsustainabilityexchange.org/range-riders/