As large carnivores populations have recolonized historic range in some areas, the role of the range rider has risen to prominence.
There are a few variations of range riders depending on the rancher, the rider, and other factors. There are range riders who are primarily herdsmen actively managing cattle, there are riders who are primarily wildlife technicians tracking carnivore locations, and riders who mostly check on or doctor cattle. The first group most closely matches the original concept of the range rider, and is what we generally mean by the term.
The best range riders are those who proactively manage livestock by combining grazing management and stockmanship with knowledge of local carnivores, with one of the goals specifically being to prevent conflicts. These riders do several important things. They are a human presence with livestock, but for presence to be meaningful, it must be perceived by the potential predator as a threat.
Riders find and treat or remove sick animals, which are easy prey. They find carcasses, which must happen quickly if cause of death is to be determined. Carcasses also attract carnivores, which may then prey on nearby livestock; so, depending on the situation, riders may remove carcasses, or move livestock away from them.
Range riders have varying degrees of responsibility for grazing management, depending on the context in which they are working and the management goals of the ranchers and agency land managers. Conventional livestock management scatters cattle, but increasingly grazing management is moving towards gathering cattle into relatively large herds and then moving the herd. This can take advantage of the natural behavior of grazing animals: herding up for safety in numbers. Concentrating cattle also makes several other coexistence tools more effective: Only if livestock are in herds can guardian animals, scare devices, night penning, and other tools work.
Range riders who can do all of the above can reduce livestock-carnivore conflicts. The information provided by range riders or wildlife technicians to ranchers and agencies can also lead to better decisions with regard to both livestock management and wildlife management. It also helps make the unknown known, and thus less threatening for ranchers or ranch managers.