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Are Wolves A Threat To Your Cattle?

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New Mexico ranchers are fighting for the right to protect their livestock from the threat of the Mexican Gray Wolf. Share this video explaining the situation, and let us know what you have done to ward off predators in your livestock operation.

There’s been mountain lion recently sighted in the river hills near our ranch, and we suspect we lost a calf this summer to this big cat. In my area, predators aren’t very common, and the death of even one calf is disappointing, to say the least. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to deal with predators on a regular basis.

But for many ranchers -- from Northern Minnesota to Southern New Mexico –predation of livestock by cougars, mountain lions and wolves carries a huge economic bite. In fact, in the lower 48 states, 5% of all cattle losses are due to wolf predation, says westernwolves.org.

READ: Younger Calving Cows Most At Risk To Predators

According to westernwolves.org, while wolf predation causes relatively few livestock losses compared to other sources, that small percentage can add up to big losses for individual livestock producers and their livelihood. The website points out that there are many compensation programs for lost livestock -- both from the private and public sectors. While such programs sound great, I’ve been told by ranchers in Northern Minnesota that it’s often difficult to prove a wolf attack because there are no remains of the victim animal.

The westernwolves.org website continues: “Despite the challenges of raising livestock in areas with predators, many producers remain successful and some are discovering that certain husbandry techniques used to protect livestock from wolves can actually lead to reduced predation by other animals, higher stock weights and survival, and increased profits.

“Current research suggests that livestock production may indirectly benefit wolves since the habitat and open space provided by ranch lands is crucial for big-game animals, which are the primary prey of wolves. Successful wolf conservation may ultimately depend on wolves and livestock producers learning to coexist.”

 

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The organization encourages the use of sheep guard dogs, range riders, fladry (flags that act as a visual deterrent), improved fencing and pasture rotation to help protect against wolf attacks and help manage livestock in areas where predators are an issue. Research is also underway to develop a wolf repellent and a sound device to deter wolves from preying on livestock.

Unfortunately, some of these management practices can be costly and labor intensive, making them difficult to execute. When a predator is killing thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars’ worth of cattle, I can see why a rancher would prefer not to have to coexist with wolves. However, killing a wolf can lead to public outcry and even death threats to ranchers and their families.

READ: Wolves' Economic Bite On Cattle Goes Way Beyond Predation

Watch this video from the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, and you’ll see what I mean.

I realize that there is a lot of animosity between environmental groups and ranchers, but folks must realize the economic hit of predation can sink a ranchers’ livelihood. I’m not sure what the solution is, but I would be interested to hear from readers.

Do you live in an area where predators are a big concern? What restrictions do you have to abide by to protect your livestock from these predators? Has the general public fought against your right to protect yourself from these predators? How have you managed your livestock to ward off attacks? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 23

Jose Varela Lopez (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

First of all, thank you for sharing the video and your thoughts with folks who may be unfamiliar with the impacts of wolves in livestock operations.
I think it's also important to note that it is not possible for a ranching operation to co-exist with wolves. All of the techniques you mentioned for keeping wolves away from cattle have been tried in New Mexico without sucess. The wolves learn quickly how to beat the system and continue to kill livestock. Several large ranches in New Mexico have suffered such dramatic losses that they have de-stocked their ranches.
Now the Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to expand the "wolf recovery" area to include most of New Mexico and Arizona.
I would urge your readers to keep abreast of this situation because you never know what other state is going to have wolves forced upon them next.
The fact if the matter is that wolves are not "iconic" animals like the environmentalists would have you believe. Wolves are nothing more than killing machines.

Jim Holder (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

day herding

Linlaw (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

In North Alabama wolves are not a problem. Coyotes and especially wild dogs do cause some losses to new calves. We can generally coexist with coyotes reasonably well. However, the greatest danger these days are the white-tipped buzzards which are very aggressive, are apparently attracted by the scent of the afterbirth and will show up in large numbers at a calving and, if not checked, will attack and kill the newborn calf and other vulnerable nearby animals. They will work together to keep the mama cow away so others can peck out the calf's eyes. These are also protected predators.

Jc2 (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

I do not have any solutions to offer, but agree that the introduction of these predators to areas where ranchers graze has been a disaster. To think that people have threatened ranchers with harm for protecting their domestic herds from wild predators just shows how misguided and misinformed these people are.

Levi willis (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

I live in north western Alberta an we have always had wolf,bears and cougar issues. The governments legislation states that we shoot anything that is endangering, threathening or pursuing our livelihood. Although of we do kill anything it has to be reported and documented and investigated. Although at our 1500 acre ranch in the green zone. we have only ever had less then 5 events in 15 years.

California Native (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

We are located in far Northeastern California,in the big timber country with a whole assortment of predators.Serveral years ago due to heavy snow storms at calving time we experienced 7 calf deaths that could easily be seen were caused by a Mountain Lion with lots of identifying tracks, bite marks, and kill pattern. We called Fish & Game who came out after the 3rd kill, denied that there was a Mountain Lion involved and wouldn't take any action or do any investigative patisipation to stop the killing.Finally a local group setup a camera with a dead calf and supplied the needed photos to prove the culprit was in deed the Mountain Lion.Fish & Game denied it could be the Lion and accused the locals of baiting the camera setup instead of accepting undeaniable facts. The locals had to resort to the 3 S's to eliminate the offending lion killing spree. Then the death threats started coming in against the locals by outside groups who lived in nearby city's. The locals were made a target just because they stopped the problem when Fish & Game refused to take care of the problem.Just so the uninformed understand the problem, California passed a law to protect the Mountain Lion years ago and livestock & people have died in higher & higher numbers as the population of Mountain Lions has grown unchecked.

R. Harold Smoot (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

What I have a hard time with is when a cattle rancher uses 'stewardship' in regards to maintaining land they lease public lands.
Last I checked, public lands are just that. They are not owned by the rancher and in most cases are leased at below market rates that come with a number of additional, taxpayer funded subsidies - road maintenance, predator control, etc...
The majority of small businesses in this country are forced to adapt to constant changes in the market place. They are not held up by the taxpayers and if they don't invent, improvise and make changes they simply go out of business.
To claim one is a 'steward' of land owned by each and every citizen of this country - while employing archaic and outdated predator controls and allowing their product to destroy and pollute our lands seems rather hypocritical.
If your product is in danger of predation then it probably is in an area it shouldn't be. Wolves were here long before cattle and thrived along with all the ungulates they hunted. The river banks were solid because that prey was constantly on the move.
With cattle and those who raise them, they have destroyed the natural balance on our lands - not theirs.
If our tax money is going to continue propping ranchers up in their saddles for an outdated and increasingly insignificant lifestyle then they have to begin employing non-lethal measures to protect their incomes and our wildlife or else choose another means of income - just like the rest of us. If not, then they should only expect more head butting and costly lawsuits.
Interesting article BTW- thanks.

Bob Rowland (not verified)
on Aug 13, 2014

I see you have been reading the anti-ranching propaganda. First over 80% of Montana's confirmed wolf depredations on livestock occur on private lands not public lands.
Second every business in America receives some sort of subsidies from the government, who builds your roads and bridges?
What's hypocritical is claiming the wolves were here first the ranchers should learn to live with wolves, why not claim the Indians were here first and keep your ancestors where they came from. A thief is a thief I would guess you scream every time someone steals from your business.

Jose Varela Lopez (not verified)
on Aug 17, 2014

Mr. Smoot:
I was going to respond to your comments one by one, however, given your overall lack of understanding of the cattle industry, the Taylor Grazing Act or the Endangered Species Act I will only say that your lack of understanding must be what leads you an incorrect conclusion with regards to this subject.

on Aug 13, 2014

It's good to see you believe all the anti-ranching propaganda.
First of all over 80% of Montana's confirmed wolf depredations on livestock occur on private land not public lands.
Second your a fool to believe your business is not subsidized as most businesses are, who builds your roads?
Third ranchers have always adapted and changed.
Fourth I'd love to see your reaction to thieves because a wolf is a thief.
Lastly why stop at wolves were here first why not claim Indians were also here first and move all your ancestors back home. Who are you to judge insignificant or outdated.

on Aug 13, 2014

Whoa there. A wolf is not a thief. A wolf is a wild animal, and wild animals are not bound by human conventions. Wolves and other predators can be problems for humans, but that does not make them immoral!

on Aug 13, 2014

I'm not a rancher, but I fully empathize with the ranchers and their concerns. People who issue death threats to people simply protecting their livelihoods are absolutely despicable. I have no problems with killing individual problem wolves. After all, they kill each other when they encroach on another wolf's territory, so ranchers should have no compunction about doing the same. It is the species, not individual animals, that I care about.

That being said, it is absolutely essential to have wolves as part of our ecosystem. They are as natural as the sun and rain and wind and the grass, and removing these magnificent animals greatly impoverishes our natural environment. Ranchers have come to live with other predators, they will learn to live with wolves as well.

One of the keys to preventing livestock attacks by wolves is to maintain a large and healthy wild game population so that wolves do not need to attack livestock. I have little sympathy for hunters who complain that wolves are eating up all the game. These hunters should learn to compete with wolves on a fair basis.

Lisa McCorison (not verified)
on Aug 14, 2014

We live in central MN and have so for most of our lives. My husband kills one deer per year for his freezer, but he enjoys seeing biodiversity when he's in the woods, including wolves...which he has only seen two his entire life. We miss hearing wolves (have only heard coyotes since they started killing wolves two years ago). Our beef farmer neighbors use guard donkeys to protect their cows and our sheep farmer neighbors use Great Pyrenees w/great success. We have family who don't have any guard animals and their cows/calves do fine...they just keep them close during calving. We have only heard of two llama or alpaca being killed by wolves, and frankly those don't appear to be as sturdy of animals as donkeys. Our horses and dogs have been fine when wolves have been nearby. Our horses chase off anything that goes in their pastures, including our dogs. We live where we live because we want to see critters. They are totally easy to live with if people would just do a little to coexist. They eat mostly rodents for crying out loud.

Jeff Wetherbee (not verified)
on Aug 14, 2014

We have had death threats made toward our children also. people are unbelievably sick minded.

Matt_____ (not verified)
on Aug 15, 2014

The solution is SSS (Shoot, Shovel, and Shutup)

Matt_____ (not verified)
on Aug 15, 2014

More smartass know it all trolls on this site, than ranchers!

Matt_____ (not verified)
on Aug 15, 2014

If I gutted your lapdog in your living room just for fun, how is that different from Your wolf in My pasture on My baby calf. All of my cattle are beloved pets. I am with them every day, every step of their lives, and nights also.

Wolves kill calves for fun, just like weasels kill chickens or ducks for fun. I wish I would have recorded what I found that day in my pasture, but from now on I carry a camera and an AR. I guess it is just time before I have proof and a nice bedspread. HA HA TROLLS!

Sarah (not verified)
on Aug 27, 2014

What were your economic losses? A few hundred dollars? A few thousand? I mean any economic loss is bad, I am just curious to see some actual numbers here.

Are you sure it wasn't a coyote? Are you sure it wasn't a dog?

Where do you get this idea that wolves kill calves just for fun? Why would a wild animal endanger itself for more than one carcass? Why would it risk getting kicked in the head by the mother to kill for no reason?

I'm sure that this attack felt personal and I'm not trying to downplay your loss. I wish you had recorded it as well because then I might sympathize with you more. I think that if a wolf has become accustomed to feeding on your livestock, it's probably not benefitting the environment anymore because it's feeding on your livestock and not natural prey and the best course of action probably is to shoot it before it teaches other wolves to hunt livestock. I'm not an expert on wolves and I am not personally familiar with anyone who has lost livestock to predators, but I am sympathetic to wolves because I read that RMNP has to cull so many elk every year because their population is overgrown and it makes me mad that we can't just let the wolves do it and then there would be less coyotes feeding on marmots and pronghorn fawns, etc. (Not actually sure if there are pronghorn in RMNP.)

Chandie Bartell (not verified)
on Aug 19, 2014

How is the Government following the law of the land guaranteed in the United States Constitution, to protect life, liberty, and property when the Endangered Species Act gives more rights over the legal citizens that pay taxes to a wolf?

Barb Rupers (not verified)
on Sep 11, 2014

Can you give a link to this statement which I find suspect:
"In fact, in the lower 48 states, 5% of all cattle losses are due to wolf predation, says westernwolves.org."

Barb Rupers (not verified)
on Sep 12, 2014

The last link does not work.

The following is to information put forth by the USDA-NASS for 2010:
http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/PageServer?pagename=priorities_wi...
"Less than a quarter of one percent, 0.23%, of the American cattle inventory was lost to native carnivores and dogs in 2010, according to a Department of Agriculture report."

Suzanne Stone (not verified)
on Sep 12, 2014

This article misquotes the westernwolves.org statistics which specially say that wolves related cattle losses are less than 0.2 percent - not 5 percent. http://www.westernwolves.org/index.php/wolf-conflict-facts Nonlethal predator deterrents and livestock management techniques are less expensive and more effective than outdated lethal control measures. Wolves and livestock can coexist but it takes a willingness to try new methods and learn how to use them effectively. More info is available here:http://www.defenders.org/publications/livestock_and_wolves.pdf

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A fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell, SD, Amanda grew up on a purebred Limousin cattle operation in which she and husband Tyler are active. She graduated with a degree in agriculture journalism...

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