Prevention is Key to Co-existence.
See more links at bottom of page for resources and references.
For decades, if not centuries, public and government have been killing wolves and other predators to protect livestock. For example, the U.S. government was practicing lethal control on coyotes for 80 years in an effort to increase sheep production, only to realize that this had no effect on the sheep industry! (2) The real culprits were increasing production costs and decreasing product prices.
READ this 25 year comprehensive review about the Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations, by Wieglus and Peebles (2014). This long-term view provides more evidence for a positive correlation between the number of wolves killed one year and the number of livestock killed by wolves the following year. In other words, killing more wolves lead to more livestock losses the next year.
In 2002, the BC Wild Predator Loss Control and Compensation Program was initiated, with compensation funds coming from the Ministry of Agriculture and lands. Under this program, ranchers are compensated for 75% of the value of an animal lost. In Alberta, ranchers are compensated 100% for livestock losses confirmed to wolves. In the Northwestern USA, compensation programs have been in effect for 20 years. These mitigation efforts are to minimize the chances of ranchers taking things into their own hands by shooting predators on their property that they view as a possible threat.
Look at the facts:
-2005 research done in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming indicated that LESS THAN 3% of all livestock mortality was due to wolves, grizzly bears, and black bears COMBINED! (2)
Total livestock losses due to non-predators was at least 89%, with respiratory and digestive problems contributing the most (between 8 – 32%), (2).
This study points out that total cattle losses due to wolf depredation in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are minor when compared to other causes of death, (2).
Misperception #1: Wolves cost the livestock industry too much.
Fact: there are only a few losses each year which has minimal effects on the industry. However, to an individual rancher losing even a few animals seem like a lot. This leaves an angry impression which is often exaggerated and this is the voice that gets heard. If your ranch is within the territory of a wolf pack and there are no problems, ranchers are advised to LEAVE THE PACK ALONE; they may be protecting livestock from wolves that are more prone to go after livestock (1).
Misperception #2: Wolves kill for fun and in excess of what they can consume, often referred to as “surplus killing” .
Fact: Surplus killing is considered uncommon in the wild, however a few documented cases do exists (3).
Wolves may not return to a carcass once it is disturbed by humans, leading to the thought that excessive killing is occurring when it would not have (1,2). This could also lead to wolves killing another animal to replace the food source they have just lost (1).
The number of wolves feeding on an animal may not be able to consume the entire amount (1). In the wild, any leftovers would provide for scavengers and contribute to biodiversity.
Surplus killing does occasionally exist among sheep in the Northwestern US, but has not been documented in cattle. (2)
Livestock and domestics display poor anti-predator behaviour, which are reactions recognized in nature to deter predator advances (2). Sheep especially have prey traits that make them more vulnerable to predators (2). It is important for wolf conservationists to acknowledge that some livestock depredation is caused by wolves each year, although minimal. Livestock production and wolf habitat often overlaps, and where they do, there will occasionally be losses. It is valuable to recognize both sides of the story, and by investigating concerns we can discover the facts.
It is essential for people of all backgrounds to work to recognize wolves as an important part of an ecosystem, not something to be liked or disliked, to improve tolerance. Note that a deep-rooted social identity often influences an individuals’ tolerances more than actual encounters with wolves and other predators. Regulations or guidelines can also be viewed as threat to private property rights and government interference. Perceived risk can be as important as actual experience in shaping attitudes… education is imperative.
Wolf Awareness is working proactively towards forming working partnerships among various shareholders, at the individual and organizational level, to facilitate the development of community-level working groups focussed on coexising with wolves and other large carnivores.
Many predator-friendly ranching practices are inexpensive but an initial investment into providing this type of information and making it accessible to livestock producers is necessary. Some of the more commonly used and discussed techniques include: confining or concentrating flocks during periods of vulnerability, establishing a human presence using herders, synchronizing birthing to reduce the period of maximum vulnerability, and pasturing young animals in areas with little cover and in close proximity to humans. One of the most basic provisions for not attracting predators to areas where livestock is being raised is to remove dead livestock immediately from pastures.
Monitoring the health of domestic animals regularly is critical to ensure dead and weaker domestics are cared for and managed responsibly, as these present more of an opportunity to wolves and other predators. If a producer can remain “unattractive to wolves” by promptly managing for dead and sick livestock, as well as maintaining a strong human presence, livestock depredation rates should decrease in most areas.
As conservation of biodiversity has become a global issue, efforts have been made to restore wolf and other predator populations that were exterminated in the past. In many of these areas, ranchers may have grown accustomed to a predator-free landscape and many practices fostering preventative husbandry practices have been forgotten along the way. It is imperative that education be provided to livestock producers to ensure that these tools are not left out of the toolbox. Just as essential as recognizing the available tools is that ranchers apply management practices that benefit rangeland health which simultaneously reduces conflicts with large carnivores, as described by Keystone Conservation in “Livestock Management for Coexistence with Large Carnivores, Healthy Land and Productive Ranches” (2015).
Livestock producers may have also become accustomed to externalizing the costs of production in many aspects. Just as any business or corporation would be responsible for environmental impacts and/or investing in protection of business assets, so too should this apply to livestock producers or any independent party. Responsible management practices are key to the successful outcome of any proprietor.
We have listed some of our favourite reads about plans for successful coexistence:
- Wolf Awareness Ranchers Guide to prevent livestock losses (23-7-2014)
- Livestock Management for Coexistence with Large Carnivores, Healthy and and Productive Ranches – Keystone Conservation (2015)
- Wolf-Livestock Nonlethal Conflict Avoidance- A Review of the Literature – Western Wildlife Outreach (2014)
- Effects of Wolf Mortality on Livestock Depredations – PlosOne Research Article; Wielgus and Peebles (2014)
- Heavily Hunted Wolves Have Higher Levels of Reproductive and Stress Hormones – Functional Ecology Journal Article, Bryan et al. (2014)
- From Conflict to Coexistence? Insights from Multidisciplinary Research into the Relationships Between People, Large Carnivores and Institutions – European Commission (2013)
- Living with Livestock and Wolves, Wolf-Livestock Non-Lethal Conflict Avoidance: A Review of the Literature – Western Wildlife Outreach (2014)
Co-existence Among Livestock and Wolves
Wolves occur throughout the Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic to as far south as Mexico, Saudi Arabia and India. Once they were abundant over much of North America and Eurasia, although human encroachment and habitat loss have reduced their ranges to much smaller portions of their former habitat. In many such areas, people are livestock producers. However, wolves can kill livestock (i.e. wolf depredation) and this obviously creates conflict with people.
Biologists have spent decades learning about wolf depredations on livestock. Most research indicates that culling wolves does not reduce livestock deaths over time, unless wolves are exterminated (Wallache et al. 2009, Muhly et al. 2010, Harper et al. 2008).
Indeed, there is no evidence to show that indiscriminately killing wolves works as a long-term solution; depredation still occurs in areas that have been practicing lethal control for decades.
Due to historical values and differing social and cultural views, (e.g. urban versus rural) a polarity of opinions exist around wolf management. The spectrum ranges from those who want to protect livestock to those who want to protect wolves. Both objectives could be met simultaneously through working together cooperatively. For example, a large amount of money has been invested within parts of North America to kill wolves in the name of livestock protection. In areas where research has been done, increases in the numbers of wolves killed does not result in decreases of wolf livestock conflict but may actually increase depredations as found in the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southwest Alberta (Muhly et al. 2010). However, when producers record livestock deaths results consistently show that prevention and protecting livestock from wolves reduces conflicts. Prevention of livestock conflict could therefore offer an effective tool for addressing the problem of livestock depredation on a local scale, while fostering nature conservation (Musiani et al. 2004).
As conservation of biodiversity has become a global issue, efforts have been made to restore wolf and other predator populations which are understood to be critical in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Humans have been raising cattle in the Americas for 500 years. Wolves were present on the landscape long before this, but were extirpated in many areas of Alberta and BC through targeted killing during the 1950’s. In recent times, wolves have been more accepted in returning to their former habitat as public perceptions have shifted and wildlife management practices have changed. Ranchers accustomed to living in predator- free landscapes must again learn how to effectively prevent depredation. It is imperative that livestock producers have all the necessary and available tools to effectively coexist with wolves.
Husbandry Practices May Reduce Depredation Risk
Husbandry methods used to avoid depredations are relatively inexpensive. Some of the more commonly used techniques discussed here include: removing dead livestock and attractants, confining or concentrating flocks and herds during periods of vulnerability, establishing a human presence using herders and range riders, livestock guardian dogs, synchronizing birthing to reduce the period of maximum vulnerability, and pasturing young animals in open areas and in close proximity to humans. The type of husbandry used has a large influence on predation when compared to the type of wolf management used or wolf population densities (Musiani, Boitani, & Paquet, 2009).
One of the easiest steps to take to prevent attracting predators to areas where livestock is being raised is to remove dead livestock immediately from pastures. If carcasses are not removed a predator WILL come in to feed (Wood River Wolf Project workshop, 2013).
If a producer can remain “unattractive to wolves” by promptly managing for dead and sick livestock, as well as maintaining a strong human presence, livestock depredation rates will decrease in most areas.
Currently, there is no known place in North America where livestock is the majority of wolf prey (Musiani, Boitani, & Paquet, 2009). This is not always the case in other countries where wolf populations have been all but decimated, such as Europe and Asia. In many of these places, wolves now rely on livestock, small animals and/or garbage as predator prey systems have been lost.
Not all wolves predate on livestock.
In 2005, research done in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming indicated that LESS THAN 3% of all livestock mortality was due to wolves, grizzly bears, and black bears combined (Muhly and Musiani 2009). Total livestock losses due to non- predators was at least 89%, with respiratory and digestive problems contributing the most (between 8 – 32%), (Muhly and Musiani 2009).
This study points out that total cattle losses due to wolf depredation in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are minor when compared to other causes of death (Muhly & Musiani, 2009).
Where wolves and livestock overlap there will be occasional losses. However, throughout the lifespan of a domestic animal; weather, genetics, feeding, birthing and transportation all pose much greater risks to survival, as indicated in the image to the right.
Issues of safety when wolves and other wild predators are nearby are unwarranted. The real dangers are poison on a landscape, more guns and traps. A larger issue at hand is tolerance.
Compensation Programs for Livestock Losses
Compensation programs occur in various parts of North America and cover a wide range of expenses.
Programs sometimes include costs associated with prevention measures. For example, USA-based Defenders of Wildlife compensates for all types of stock killed by predators including livestock guardian dogs. The amount of compensation for loss of an animal or product to a wolf varies from 100% full market value (even if depredation event occurs in spring) to a fraction of this. Sometimes there are general limits to the determined economic value of an animal; however there is seldom a maximum amount a producer can be compensated for.
Most compensation programs will only provide financial aid to producers proven to practice preventative and responsible husbandry methods. Some of these programs will also help to cover costs associated with prevention measures. Others will refund any veterinary costs associated with wolf- livestock conflicts.
It is imperative to determine whether a depredation event is due to predation or scavenging and this will be verified by the compensators at some level. Most provinces have science-based guidelines to help determine whether dead livestock has been killed or scavenged upon, and producers should learn to distinguish the differences themselves in order to protect the evidence needed to support a compensation claim.
Methods to reduce risk of livestock depredation
The risk of depredation will vary between locations. Depending upon the location and individual situation of the producer, it will usually be necessary to change anti-predation devices and methods frequently as wolves and other predators might become habituated to one single method.
The key is to prevent wolves from being ATTRACTED to a livestock operation.
Surveillance and Monitoring: shepherds, herders, and range riders.
Shepherding a flock or herd of any domestic species is an age old tradition used around the globe where predators and livestock share habitat. It is one of the simplest and oldest methods for deterring predators. Human presence can help detect, determine, and alter behaviour patterns of wolves in an area.
The overall approach might involve the following elements:
- Shepherds: individuals used to constantly monitor and care for domestics (typically sheep and goat). The approach is very effective against wolves as mere human presence deters most
- Herders: individuals that work to keep the flock or herd together so they are easier to monitor and directed to appropriate
- Range riders: individuals hired specifically for the summer-fall grazing season (typically cattle and horses).
- Individuals in all cases will patrol the areas frequented by livestock at dawn and dusk when wolves are most
- Increase effectiveness by using dogs to send alert and cover more land
- Count stock regularly when Especially in rugged terrain where dead livestock may go unnoticed.
- Monitor for the health of
- Ensure that deterrents are
- Monitor stock agitation as well as presence of
- Lone mother (may be searching for lost calf)
- Tight bag
- Begin record keeping to identify patterns (problem areas, time of year, )
Surveillance of livestock herds is the most common traditional non-lethal method used by livestock producers in many European countries. However, it is labor-intensive which can be expensive if the producer employs staff to watch over livestock (Musiani, Muhly, Callaghan, & Gates, 2004).
Two possible options to help offset costs if extra labour is employed are:
- Establish cooperatives in which sheep and other livestock can be grouped in bigger single herds to dilute the risk of predation by wolves on individuals (i.e. Communal husbandry) (Musiani et al. 2004)
- Increase surveillance only during times of known higher risk (eg. Calving and branding seasons; See section on Seasonal Patterns).
Poor surveillance is a large factor associated with livestock losses.
The keen senses of wolves enable them to recognize when otherwise healthy prey becomes disadvantaged, for example in deep snow. By noting past record keeping, monitoring your herd, and knowing what conditions might increase risk, patrol efforts may be increased during these times.
Management of Attractants
Remove carcasses immediately.
Managing attractants such as carcasses is critical to avoid attracting predators to an area. Failure to do so has been shown to increase chances of future depredations (Watersheds Messenger Newsletter, Vol. XVII, No. 2, Wood River Wolf Project Workshop 2013). Predators learn where they have received food rewards in the past and are more likely to return to that area. If wolves become conditioned to livestock killing in one area all neighbouring farms may be at risk. Working together to ensure the larger area is attractant free is critical.
Carcass removal programs were more prevalent in western Canada prior to the 2003 outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, otherwise known as mad cow disease. In some parts of North America, government Fish and Wildlife Agencies will donate the truck and fuel costs.Often funds for these programs are generated through rancher donations, conservation group donations, local taxes, and grants
- Haul away, burn, or bury body, body parts or bodily
- Carcass removal programs can be operated by government or private group (rendering facility/commercial landfill).
- A carcass pit dug on one`s own property may initially attract predators, but can be effective if not providing a reward (completely enclosed or electric fenced)
- Successful carcass pits are: :
- Located away from stock
- At least 8 feet deep
- Regularly burned or carcasses regularly buried
- Surrounded with fencing to provide more of a barrier
Creating Barriers: Fencing and Fladry
Constructing a Predator Resistant Fence
In many areas fencing techniques are used effectively to deter predators such as wolves and bears. Electric fences, or combinations of wire mesh and electric fences have proven to be particularly effective (Musiani et al. 2004). However, permanent predator- proof fencing is of limited use when livestock are kept in large enclosures because such fences are costly to build and maintain (Musiani et al. 2004). In such circumstances, or when livestock is semi-nomadic, producers may consider portable electric fencing which can be set up temporarily and powered by solar energy. Another alternative to offset fencing costs would be to combine night penning, which would require only a portion of the pasture to be fenced.
One thing that should be considered when constructing a fence of any type is that it should be visible to wildlife and livestock. Wolves are most active at night and should see the fence before they try to pass through in order to associate the barrier with a visual cue. The visibility can be increased by increasing the thickness of the wire or adding flagging tape.
The bottom of the fence should be less than six inches from the ground. Woven fence can be buried, but it may be just as efficient to ensure that the ground is level. Holes should be filled in. Fences should be checked on a regular basis, because winter ground freezing and thawing can push the posts out of the ground increasing the space between fencing. Electric fencing needs to be maintained to be effective. .
Wolves have been known to jump heights of 5 feet, and thus require a minimum fence height of 1.3 meters.
Simple Electric Fence
Wolves and cougars are jumpers so require a higher fence than bears to be kept out. Combining fladry with electric fencing will help to slow down a wolf to ensure they get a charge (see section on Fladry).
Today there are portable electric fences that can be set up to work within 2 hours, and solar-powered systems that can be installed anywhere there is enough daylight to charge the batteries. Once properly installed, a permanent electric fence can be used for many years. Portable electric fences can be set up quickly and are useful when temporary protection is required, such as during lambing or calving season.
- Use chargers for predators, NOT for livestock; 15,000 volts or more are required if also preventing bears (eg. “Super Energizer 4” 1900 volts, 50 mile range)
- If the charge is not high enough a predator will go through the fence (nose shock is best learning experience).
- A plug-in unit has more power than a solar
- A unit must be grounded (want wet earth) in order to deliver the needed voltage and shock.
- Less charge is transferred to an offender if the earth around the grounder is dry and Maintain moisture around the ground to increase the shock value (eg. placing directly under roof drip line can increase voltage by few thousand. Can also sprinkle water).
- Permanent fencing usually needs less maintenance and can handle harsh weather conditions (eg. snow-load) better than portable
- Anything coming into contact with wires can create a closed circuit, making the electric fence powerless, fallen branches or trees, therefore walk the fence line every day to ensure circuit is kept open and maintained (tight wires).
- Grass and vegetation growing up to touch bottom wire lessen the voltage; keep grass cut low, cover or remove vegetation from beneath.
- Check daily that the fence charger is on (place in convenient spot) and that batteries are charged if using
- Check voltage weekly with voltmeter.
- Keep battery and fence charger dry and corrosion-free.
Human safety is not an issue as long as a fence charger is used. This allows for a pulsating charge which allows a person to let go of the wire. This will not do any permanent damage to pets, people, or wildlife but it is unpleasant. You may put up warning signs to alert people that the fence is electric.
Fences will act as a barrier to other wildlife such as deer or elk.
Vegetation must be kept down under electric fences. Vegetation touching the bottom wire will help the wire lose its charge.
Set up electric fence before livestock enters the pasture. This gives wolves time to approach the fence and learn that it is electric, before the desire to penetrate the fence is established.
When fencing on slopes, one will need to consider a loss of height if an animal is approaching a pasture from upslope. Objects such as rocks and fallen logs should be removed from the fence because animals can use these as stepping stones to get over the fence.
Fladry is a simple, inexpensive yet effective method for deterring wolves from entering a pasture. It is a line of flags hung outside a pasture to deter wolves from crossing it and entering the area. Originally, fladry was designed and used to capture wolves. Wolves were funneled into an area and did not want to pass through the visual barrier of the hanging flags.
Fladry fences are easy to produce, cheap and moveable, while being effective for reducing livestock predation on a local and short-term basis. Fladry was found to be effective in deterring captive and wild wolves for up to 60 days (Musiani, et al., 2003). This research was done in smaller areas < 25 ha and humans were patrolling the fence every few days which may have increased its effectiveness.
- Plastic flags measure 50 X 10 cm.
- Attach every 50 cm on a 2 cm diameter nylon rope, suspended 50 cm above ground tied to rebar posts that are installed at 30 m intervals
- Fladry must be maintained and/or replaced if it gets warn (i.e. the removal/loss of just one flag was enough to allow wolf crossing in captivity)
- May be placed 2 m outside conventional fence to prevent cattle from damaging or eating flags
- Set up only AFTER a wolf denning site has moved outside of area
- Fladry can be set up around an existing fence.
- Most effective as a short term
- Most useful for temporary prevention when livestock is kept in small pastures (calving, lambing, overnight holding, rotational grazing).
- Inexpensive, easily moved, quickly installed over a large area
Turbofladry combines an electric fence with fladry, and can be powered by solar energy. Although more expensive, this type of set up has proven very effective at keeping wolves out of a given area. Initial costs may appear high, but the effectiveness and longevity for preventing depredations should be considered. This is best suited for small pastures.
In the USA turbofladry successfully prevented any livestock losses within one month where 1,000 sheep were in close proximity to denning wolves (Wood River Wolf Project Workshop, 2013).
- Set up fladry as described earlier in this section in combination with an electric
- Suggested use for nighttime enclosures – small night corrals; stock will head there come evening once they get into a rountine
- Some USA producers are successfully using electric night pens
Livestock Guardian Animals
This is one of the oldest methods used to protect livestock. It has been used in Eurasia for centuries and in some places documented to be used for thousands of years. Livestock guardian dogs have been used for centuries to deter wolves in countries around the world.
Livestock Guarding Dogs
Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) must socialize with livestock and bond from a young age (6-8 week pups put in with stock, older than 8-10 weeks passed primary socialization stage The dogs must bond with livestock and not people.
These breeds of dogs are all working dogs. They should be treated with respect and watched cautiously with children and strangers. Training should all be done at a young age with a loving, determined, consistent, and encouraging approach from a dominant leader. They should not be family pets as they may prefer the family over the livestock. These dogs do not herd, only guard livestock. The following breeds are well-known guard dogs though they slightly differ in temperament which is an important factor in considering the best suited dog for your situation. Komondors have been known to bite more people than Pyrenees, Akbash, or Anatolians and Pyrenees have injured less livestock then Komondors, Akbash, or Anatolians (Green & Woodruff, 1988).
Process of Training Livestock Guarding Dogs
The goal of training for a livestock guardian dog is for it to learn that its place is with its flock. Instinct will basically do the rest. Most of the information available about livestock dogs pertains to sheep.
Pups are integrated into the flock usually between 2-3 months. They can be kept in kennels or stalls next to the sheep when left unattended for the first while. Under supervision when the dog is loose amongst its flock, reinforcing the dog to stay with the flock and correcting any negative play behaviour is all of the training needed. This bonding time and the intensity of the bond will be dependent upon the situation. For a full time guard dog a tight bond needing early socialization is necessary. Limited contact with people is also important to keep the dog bonded to the sheep so the dogs are not inclined to bond with humans.
These dogs must be treated like a working dog not a pet. Once the dog is trusted with its flock it can be left alone unsupervised to do its job. This is usually by 6-8 months once the dog reaches maturity.
Livestock numbers – A guard dog can protect anywhere from 20-200 sheep in a flock,( i.e. use 3 – 5 dogs per herd as recommended by the Wood River Wolf Project, USA 2013).
The size of a pasture, number of paddocks, and the distances apart and how dispersed the animals are should be taken into account. Most dogs are used for small pasture rather than large range operations although producers grazing open ranges have also recommended dogs.
- Reduced predation
- Reduced labour (in cases of needing to confine livestock at night)
- Pastures can be further utilized (livestock will roam further with protection)
- Larger area available for use leading to larger flock size
- Dog is alarm bell for disturbances on property
- Protection of family members and farm property
- Increased independence in predator management
Other potential concerns
- Dogs are not a guaranteed investment
- If not monitored for behavioural problems dogs may turn on the sheep; usually starts as a play behaviour
- Dog may be excessively aggressive towards other people
- Dog may harass other animals
- Time investment in first year training and supervision
- Cost of veterinary in cases of injury or illness
- May cause initial stress to livestock
- Timing: do not use LGD’s in Dogs can be an attractant to wolves at this time of year, as wolves may defensively attack them if pups or a den-site are nearby (Wood River Wolf Project workshop 2013).
Factors affecting success
- Number of dogs per head
- Dog Training
- Proximity of bedding ground to forest
- Presence/Absence of shepherds
Other Guardian Animals Used: Donkeys and llamas
Donkeys and llamas have a natural hate of canines. However, they can be susceptible to cougar attacks. They have shown to be effective in guarding livestock in some situations. It depends upon the predator species and temperament of the individual donkey or llama. There is not much work done on effectiveness against wolves. They should be placed in stalls beside their flock at first; especially during lambing so the lambs are not stepped on. With donkeys stallions are the most aggressive and may not be suitable as they could become aggressive towards the ewes/cows. Mares and geldings are recommended. Only a couple of donkeys/llamas should be used because they may herd by themselves ignoring the flock. One per flock recommended. Mostly used with small flocks of sheep.
- No training is required
- Around one week for integration; 4-6 weeks for bonding
- Can be introduced to a herd or flock at any age (the younger the better)
Seasonal Attractants; Calving, Branding and Other “Attractive” Times Calves and other newly born livestock are more susceptible to depredation. Afterbirth can be a strong attractant during the calving or lambing season further increasing risk.
Livestock producers can plan timing, location, and ensure a human presence during birthing. During the calving/lambing season livestock herds are often more dense being kept in close proximity during these times, so when wolf depredations do occur more livestock may be killed at one time.
Many ranchers will calve heifer groups separately from the main herd. These animals are inexperienced as yearlings and more likely to abandon calves, which are likely vulnerable to wolves. Keep cows and heifers together.
Some ranchers have reported success by keeping some bulls as part of the calving herd or introducing other animals with aggressive tendencies such as donkeys or other guardian animals.
METHODS: Seasonal Timing of Calving
Delay the release of newborns onto spring pastures until you can ensure surveillance is provided.
Schedule and manage for a condensed calving season so that human surveillance is easier to accomplish.
Monitor livestock more closely at this time to recognize livestock in vulnerable situations. Increasing human presence will also deter predators.
Remove any biological waste immediately.
Age and Type of Livestock
Some ranchers believe that yearlings are at a higher risk for depredations. , and There may indeed be behavioural characteristics of yearlings that make them less experienced and more vulnerable to wolves and other predators. Therefore, combining generations may possibly improve herd dynamic defenses.
Some domestic livestock breeds are more aggressive towards predators and have stronger maternal tendencies which leads a more defensive behaviour , leading to a more defensive response. More aggressive breeds will mingle with the rest of the animals and can defend, teach, and toughen up the herd.
- Some ranchers will include a few longhorn steers, especially with Aggressive breeds include Corrientes and Brahman.
Herefords have favourable characteristics and could be introduced into a herd to get a blend of aggression to predators, mothering skills, heartiness, beef value and reproductive success.
Mixing It Up
Some promising research shows that bonding sheep to cattle may decrease sheep predation (Breitenmoser, Angst, Landry, Breitenmoser- Wursten, Linnell, & Weber, 2005). This practice is most relevant for open range situations. It can also minimize stress during the weaning of sheep, and can help to control the spatial distribution of sheep without fencing.
Understanding seasonal patterns can help improve planning and management, and potentially alleviate conflicts. By monitoring these patterns livestock producers will be more prepared to predict risks and plan for increased prevention and investment of resources if required.
Seasonal patterns reflect livestock calving and grazing practices, as well as seasonal variation in wolf pack energy requirements (Musiani, Muhly, Gates, & Callaghan, 2005). Most wolf-livestock conflict will occur at certain times of the year. For example, occurrences often increase around February to March during wolf breeding season. Some evidence suggests an increase in depredations between April-May when wolf pups are born and energy requirements increase (MacKay, 2005). July-August is another time when wolf-livestock interactions may increase, when pup growth results in more energy demand for the pack, and pups are learning to hunt (MacKay 2005). Biologist Dr. Marco Musiani identified a 3 season pattern in Canada (Alberta ).
Unless these patterns are taken into account, re- occurrences of depredation is likely to continue to occur regardless of wolf culling.
Being able to predict seasonal occurrences will help plan prevention techniques so they can be used efficiently and effectively
- Wolf pups are born in April-May which increases wolf energy
- Depredations peak in May in Minnesota which corresponds with newborn calves (Harper et al 2008).
- During late summer wolves also have high energy requirements due to nurturing larger pups and packs before their numbers are reduced by fall and winter Pups are also learning to hunt at this time.
- In AB during late winter-early spring cold temperatures and deep snow often lead to supplementary feeding of livestock and this is also when most calving Snow accumulation in winter can add a disadvantage to healthy stock, which is picked up on by predators.
Property Risk Assessment
It is possible to identify and determine high risk areas on a property and where prevention measures could be focused on (Muhly, Gates, Callaghan, & Musiani, 2010). Knowing and understanding the surrounding terrain also helps to recognize patterns of predation. For example, wolves and cougars often hunt from forested edges. On large properties there may be some areas that pose more of a risk than others being influenced by factors such as distance to a forest edge or slope.
The relative importance of each factor in order to predicting depredation from highest to lowest:
- Wild ungulate density
- Distance to cover
* Note that in the study done in Alberta (Muhly et al. 2010), ranches that practiced wolf culling and/or had yearling cattle herds also had had higher rates of depredations.
Relocation of Livestock
- Diversionary feeding: Defenders of Wildlife (USA) reimbursed ranchers in the Northern Rockies for hay to lure cattle away from wolf den (limited as wolves habituate)
- Funding for alternative pastures may be included in government stewardship or environmental incentive programs
- Design livestock watering system that draws cattle away from denning pack and forest
- Relocation of livestock is usually a last resort, can be temporary or permanent
- Volunteer program: volunteers (wolf conservationists and cattlemen) serve as “wolf guardians” to help track wolf pack movements, install fladry and fencing, watch over livestock
- Cooperatively work and plan as a team with other livestock producers to share costs and efforts (a written agreement of expectations of roles and responsibilities recommended)
- Cracker shells and other noise makers are limited as wolves habituate to them, but
initially may be useful at discouraging wolves from remaining in an area.
- Bean-bag shells and rubber bullets, paintballs (learn how to use properly or serious injuries can occur)
- Predator lights or motion activated noise makers are also available and can be successful for a short amount of time
- Rag boxes are activated by radio-collared wolves that come close; the box emits sounds and
- Can be very effective, mostly as temporary deterrent
- Most effective for small pastures (60 acres or less), especially when lambing or calving
- Works to deter wolves and alert range rider/herder
- Limited use to radio-collared wolves
Removal of Problem Wolves
The risk of depredation is influenced by many factors such as landscape and husbandry practices. Lethal control is a common reaction to a depredation event. However, removing the target individual is difficult and it is unlikely that targeted individuals will be selectively removed even by experts.
Treves (Treves, 2009) states that “even if the culprits are targeted selectively, property damage may increase if hunting disrupts carnivore social organization and promotes new individuals or new denser populations of different species of carnivores that, in turn, may have greater impacts on property”.
Minnesota research indicated that the total number of wolves removed did not appear to affect the re- depredation rate (Harper, William, Mech, & Weisberg, 2008).
Finally, because wolves are opportunistic hunters they may try to kill livestock whenever the chance presents itself (eg. separated young animal, sick or injured animal, deep snow, etc). For this reason, prevention is key even after a “problem wolf” has been removed from the landscape.
Culling Wolves to Manage for Depredation
Killing wolves to help decrease livestock depredation rates is corrective, not preventative, (Musiani, Muhly, Gates, & Callaghan, 2005). In other words, people kill wolves as a reaction to depredation, but wolves do not kill less livestock in areas or times when they are hunted down.
No evidence exists to show that indiscriminately killing wolves works as a long-term solution; depredations still occur in areas that have been practicing lethal control for decades.
In fact, in certain parts of North America, killing wolves indiscriminately through trapping may have lead to increased depredation rates on livestock the next year (Harper et al. 2008).
Neighbouring packs or dispersing wolves will recolonize the area that wolves were removed from. Killing an individual wolf may help reduce severe cases where the individual or pack offend repeatedly, as this may help rid genetic or behavioural traits conducive to depredation (Musiani et al 2005). However, this will not reduce the rate of occurrence if husbandry and environmental conditions are not changed.
There was no evidence found during 20 years of research to indicate that removal of wolves by trapping decreased the rate of depredation the next year at state or local levels in Minnesota for cattle and sheep (Harper et al 2008).
- Researching the correlations between trapping and depredations in the following years for all periods, areas, and livestock at both the individual scale and at a combined level showed either more depredations the next year or non- significant changes when wolves were killed by trapping (Harper et al 2008).
- Unsuccessful trapping reduced the rate of recurrence more than successful trapping or no trapping, indicating that human presence may have been the best deterrent with the possible exception of removing the breeding adult male (Harper et al 2008).
- Harper et al. (2008) showed that “as more wolves were killed one year, the depredations increased the following year”.
- There may be more wolves present in these areas or possibly wolves avoiding traps had learned to prey on livestock, and become more dependent as their pack mates were removed (killed off).
- This study suggests that daily visits simulating trapping activities (human presence, foreign scents and objects) may be more cost-effective than trapping and killing wolves, especially where ranches are far from control personnel
Coyote bounties in the past have led to rodent problems. Reducing wolves or exploiting a population can lead to an increase in coyotes and ungulates, a decrease in beavers, and cascade effects from disrupting the ecological role of an apex predator and keystone species – (eg. Yellowstone National Park, Banff National Park).
Suppliers and Resources:
Electric Fence Suppliers:
Margo Supplies Ltd. – High River, Alberta Website:www.margosupplies.com
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 403-652-1932
Kane Veterinary Supplies – Edmonton, Alberta Website: www.kanevet.com
Score Construction Ltd. – Revelstoke, BC Website: www.scorefencing.com
Gallagher Animal Management Systems Inc. – Owen Sound, Ontario
Fladry General Contract Sewers:
Jonco Industries, USA
Website: joncoind.com/sew.html Email: email@example.com
Address: 2501 West Hampton Ave. Milwaukee, Wisconsin USA 53209
Livestock Guardian Dog Breeders:
Louise Liebenberg and Erik Verstappen Grazerie Farms – High Prairie, Alberta Website: www.grazerie.com
Reports on different breeds of livestock guarding dogs:
Working Dog Web:
A lot of information on guarding dogs with links to other web-pages
Margo Supplies Ltd. – High River, Alberta Website: www.margosupplies.com
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 403-652-1932
Kodiak Security Products – Website: www.kodiakcanada.com
Useful Website Resources:
Canadian Certified Predator-Friendly Ranchers Louise Liebenberg and Erik Verstappen of Grazerie Farms – High Prairie, Alberta Website: www.grazerie.com
Defenders’ of Wildlife is a USA-based group that has come up with an organized and comprehensive program to reduce livestock losses to wolves by working with various sectors. Defenders’ has published a guide to non-lethal tools and methods to reduce conflicts through addressing root causes: www.defenders.org/resources/publications/program s_and_policy/wildlife_conservation/solutions/livest ock_and_wolves.pdf
More information and links available at www.defenders.org/programs_and_policy/wildlife_ conservation/solutions/coexisting_with_carnivores/ on_your_ranch/index.php
Defenders has also helped reduce tension between Canadian ranchers and wolves. http://www.defenders.org/programs_and_policy/wil dlife_conservation/imperiled_species/wolves/wolf_r ecovery_efforts/canada_wolves/in_the_field.php
An international accredited organization www.predatorfriendly.com
A Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe: http://www.lcie.org/
Carnivore Damage Prevention News http://www.kora.unibe.ch/en/proj/cdpnews/
Flock & Family Guardian Network www.flockguard.org
Social Factors Various sectors and individuals must work to recognize wolves as an important part of an
ecosystem, not something to be liked or disliked. This is essential in order for people to improve their tolerance of wolves.
Note that a deep-rooted social identity often influences tolerances more than actual encounters with wolves and other predators. Many people also view large carnivores as a threat to private property rights and a symbol of government interference.
Perceived risk can be as important as actual experience in shaping attitudes….therefore education is critical for creating a foundation for coexistence. Misperceptions about wolves are not uncommon.
The USA is currently striving to be proactive towards fostering coexistence among livestock producers and wild predators such as wolves by forming partnerships between Defenders of Wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Research Centre, Native American tribes, community conservation groups, and the Livestock Producers Advisory Group.
Cost Comparison for Wolf Bounty in Big Lakes 2010 – 2012 with Prevention
The following cost comparisons have been made using information gathered by John A Shivik of the US Department of Agriculture in his journal article in BioScience, March 2006 (“Tools for the Edge: What’s New for Conserving Carnivores?”), and through personal communication with wolf biologists, ranchers, and individuals providing electric fence workshops
Cost Comparisons at $87,000 spent in 3 years on Alberta Wolf Bounty
Livestock Guardian Dogs: Cost estimate $300 – $1000 initial cost, then $500 per year. Could purchase 108 guardian dogs (at $800 each). Duration of effectiveness is approximately the lifespan of guard animal, typically years.
Carcass Removal Programs: Cost estimate 9¢/lb for ruminants where programs occur, with a minimum $75 charge. If the average calf weighs 525 pounds at weaning 1160 calves could have been removed (at $75). If the average cow weighs 1800 lbs, then 537 cows could have been removed. In some parts of North America Fish and Wildlife will donate the truck and fuel costs.
Fladry: Cost estimate $781/km. Could purchase 111.4 km. Duration 60 days
Electric Fencing: Cost estimate -$250 for Super Energizer IV voltmeter- 50 mile range (if off grid $450)
– Grounding plates $17 or rods (rebar)
-rebar posts every 10-12 feet ($600 to $700 per ton)
-stucco wire roll 100 feet $80, or ¼ mile tensile steel $25
Could purchase -348 voltmeters or 5118 grounding plates or 134 tons of rebar posts or 108,750 feet of stucco wire or 870 miles of tensile steel.
Duration of effectiveness would be unlimited as long as fence was properly constructed and maintained.
Turbofladry: Cost estimate $2,303 for the 1st km, then $2,032/km. Could purchase 40 km. Duration of effectiveness is unlimited as long as fence was properly constructed and maintained.
Range Riders: Cost estimate $110/day for 2 months/year is $6,600. In some parts of the US tourists are paying for the opportunity to do this. Could provide range riders for 13 ranches. Duration of effectiveness is ongoing.
NOTE: As of August 2013, a total of 378 wolves have been killed and turned in to the regional district of Big Lakes, costing local taxpayers a total of $113,400.
Breitenmoser, U., Angst, C., Landry, J. M., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Linnell, D. C., & Weber, J. M. (2005). Non-lethal techniques for reducing depredation. In R. Woodroffe, S. Thirgood, & A. Rabinowitz (Eds.), People and Wildlife, Conflict or Coexistence? The Zoological Society of London: Cambridge University Press.
Dorrance, M. J., & Bourne, J. (1980). An evaluation of anti-coyote electric fencing. Journal of Range Management (33), 385-387.
Fritts, S. H.-3. (2003). Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation. University of Chicago Press.
Green, J. S., & Woodruff, R. A. (1988). Breed Comparisons and characteristics of use of livestock guarding dogs. Journal of Range Management , 249-251.
Harper, E., William, P. J., Mech, L. D., & Weisberg, S. (2008). Effectiveness of Lethal, Directed Wolf-Depredation Control in Minnesota. . The Journal of Wildlife Management , 72 (3), 778-783.
Lance, N. J., Breck, S. W., Sime, C., Callahan, P., & Shivik, J. A. (2010). Biological, technical, and social aspects of applying electrified fladry for livestock protection from wolves (Canis lupus). Wildlife Research , 37, 708-714.
MacKay, A. (2005). Mitigating Cattle Losses Caused by Wild Predators in British Columbia, A Field Guide for Ranchers. . Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, [British Columbia Cattleman’s Association], British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture & Lands.
Mech, L.D. and L. Boitani, (Eds.) (2003). Wolves; Behaviour, Ecology, and Conservation. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press
Muhly, T., & Musiani, M. (2009). Livestock depredation by wolves and the ranching economy in the Northwestern US. Ecological Economics .
Muhly, T., Gates, C. C., Callaghan, C., & Musiani, M. (2010). In Musiani, Boitani, & Paquet (Eds.), The World of Wolves: new perspectives on ecology, behaviour and management. (pp. 242-273). Calgary: University of Calgary Press.
Musiani, M., Boitani, L., & Paquet, P. (Eds.). (2009). A New Era for Wolves and People. Wolf Recovery, Human Attitudes, and Policy. Calgary: University of Calgary Press.
Musiani, M., Mamo, C., Boitani, L., Callaghan, C., Cormack, G., Mattei, L., et al. (2003). Wolf Depredation Trends and the Use of Fladry Barriers to Protect Livestock in Western North America. Conservation Biology , 1538-1547.
Musiani, M., Muhly, T., Callaghan, C., & Gates, C. (2004). Recovery, conservation, conflicts and legal status of wolves in western North America. in N. Fascione. In A. Delach, & M. Smith (Eds.), Predators and People: From Conflict to Conservation (pp. 51-75). Washington, D.C., USA: Island Press.
Musiani, M., Muhly, T., Gates, C. C., & Callaghan, C. (2005). Seasonality and reoccurrence of depredation and wolf control in western North America. Wildlife Society Bulletin , 33 (3), 876-887.
Shivik, J. A. (2006). “Tools for the Edge: What’s New for Conserving Carnivores?”. BioScience .
Treves, A. (2009). Hunting for large carnivore conservation. Journal of Applied Ecology , 46, 1350-1356.
Wallach A.D., E. R. (2009). More than Mere Numbers: The Impact of Lethal Control on the Social Stability of a Top-Order Predator. PloS ONE , 4 (9): 1-7.