In response to public concern regarding wildlife issues in the Big Hole watershed, BHWC formed a wildlife subcommittee in November 2008 to discuss wildlife management issues. The wildlife subcommittee is led by Jim Hagenbarth, BHWC Vice-Chairman and rancher and Dean Peterson, BHWC board member and rancher. The wildlife subcommittee invites solutions from all sides of wildlife issues. Tana Nulph, Conservation Programs Coordinator, manages BHWC’s wildlife programs and grants.

Video: Ranching with Wolves in the Big Hole Valley

The primary objective of the wildlife subcommittee is to provide wildlife conflict reduction to help both ranchers and wildlife thrive in a predator-rich environment. BHWC’s wildlife conflict reduction initiative is a collaborative effort with many partners and contributors, including People and Carnivores, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, WCS Community Partnerships Program, Defenders of Wildlife, USFWS-Montana Partners for Fish and Wildlife, USFWS-Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, the Montana Livestock Loss Board, the Cinnabar Foundation, the Vital Ground Foundation, and many local ranchers who have contributed wood chips, use of heavy equipment, knowledge, donations, and more.


Regional CONFLICT REDUCTION GROUP secures nfwf funding

Beginning with exchanges with landowner-led groups on reducing conflicts between people and wildlife, eleven groups are now working to build our individual capacity to reduce conflict by collecting our local actions. Together, we successfully secured a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to do this work across 12 million acres, but will be applying individually to funding sources like the Montana Livestock Board Loss prevention grant program.  Our goal is to support individual, local efforts between the Northern Continental Divide and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystems.

BHWC Conflict Reduction Programs


Upper Big Hole Range Rider

Since 2011, BHWC has employed a Range Rider who monitors 7 grazing allotments (6 USFS and 1 BLM) for 8 livestock producers in the Upper Big Hole basin. Ranchers turn their cows onto these lands July – September each year. The range rider monitors the allotments (using day & night patrols, photo monitoring, foot, horse and vehicle patrols) for predator activity, cattle behavior, and range health during this time period. The rider reports any predator activity to the livestock producer who can then adjust cattle accordingly. If livestock depredation is suspected, the rider reports to both the livestock producer and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wolf biologists who then investigate the situation to determine if the producer can be reimbursed for their loss.

2018 Range Rider Program Summary



Livestock Carcass Removal Service

Predators are especially attracted to carcasses during spring calving (March-May in the Big Hole Valley), because mortality rates are higher during calving. That’s why BHWC offers free carcass removal to local ranches each spring. Our Wildlife Programs Technician, Johnathan Costa, picks up carcasses with a dump truck on loan from the USFWS-Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (who also pays for the truck’s fuel) and takes them to our compost site next to the Montana Department of Transportation’s Maintenance Shop near Wisdom, Montana. All information regarding livestock mortality and ranching operations is kept confidential.




Carcass Composting

The Upper Big Hole Livestock Carcass Compost Facility opened March 2017 next to the Montana Department of Transportation’s Wisdom Maintenance Shop. Carcasses  picked up in the Big Hole Valley during spring calving are taken to the compost site, where they are broken down into minimal amounts of compost. The compost site is protected by permanent and electric fences to prevent predators and scavengers from accessing compost piles. Livestock producers can also deliver carcasses to the compost site during the summer by making prior arrangements with Wildlife Programs Technician, John Costa, via call or text (phone number listed below). 


Sage Creek Carcass Removal

Since 2017, BHWC has partnered with the Centennial Valley Association (CVA) to provide livestock carcass removal free-of-charge to ranchers who calve in Sage Creek.  Each spring, BHWC Wildlife Programs Technician, John Costa, hauls Sage Creek carcasses to the Beaverhead County Landfill in Dillon.  Removing carcasses from ranches during calving season – which is a high mortality period for the ranching industry – removes predator attractant, controls predator populations, and makes predators work for their lunch rather than feeding on livestock.  Carcass removal may also prevent livestock-predator conflict.  The carcass removal dump truck is on loan from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service – Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, who also pays for fuel for the truck.  The CVA reimburses BHWC for removing carcasses from Sage Creek.

Conflict reduction RESOURCES

Montana Standard: Big Hole range rider tracks wolves toward middle ground

People and Carnivores: Ranching with Wolves in the Big Hole Valley – featuring BHWC’s Dean Peterson (video)

Washington Post: With their population expanding, can Yellowstone grizzlies co-exist with humans? (video)

Washington Post: The Grizzlies Are Coming

MT Public Radio: To Keep Predators Away, Montana Ranchers Compost Dead Cattle

Carcass Composting Fact Sheet (PDF)

Carcass Disposal Option: Composting

“Should You Consider Carcass Composting?” by Cora Helm

Contact information

To learn more about these programs, contact:                                                 To make arrangements for carcass removal, contact:


Tana Nulph                                                                                                     Johnathan Costa

Associate Director                                                                                           Wildlife Programs Technician

Big Hole Watershed Committee                                                                      Big Hole Watershed Committee

(406) 267-3421 or tnulph@bhwc.org                                                              (209) 628-2225


Carcass removal & composting services are not currently offered in the fall/winter.