Date of this Version
Univ. of Calif., Davis. 2018. Pp. 85-89.
Ranch management has become more complex since wolves were reintroduced into Idaho and Wyoming in 1996. In wolf areas, livestock have experienced increased death loss and greater stress. Increased livestock aggressiveness has been observed, especially toward working dogs, making handling livestock more difficult. Additionally ranchers have reported a loss of body condition, lower conception rates, increased time and expense for management. Our study was designed to investigate the effect of wolf presence on cattle behavior, landscape use patterns, and resource selection by comparing high wolf density areas against low wolf density areas. This study also generated baseline information on cattle spatial behavior before wolves were on the landscape. A Before-After/Control-Impact Paired (BACIP) experimental design was used. Control study areas in Idaho (3) have high wolf presence while Impact study areas in Oregon (3) started with no wolf presence, and are shifting to elevated wolf presence. Paired Idaho and Oregon areas have similar topography, vegetation composition, wild ungulate prey bases, and livestock management. Cows are tracked at 5-minute intervals using GPS collars (10 per area) throughout the grazing season. Wolf presence is monitored by GPS, trail cameras, and scat surveys. Ten GPS-collared cattle in an Idaho study area encountered a GPS-collared wolf 783 times at less than 500 meters during 137 days in the 2009 grazing season. At 100 meters there were 53 encounters; 52 at night. Tests of naïve and experienced cattle exposed to a simulated wolf encounter found increased excitability and fear-related physiological stress responses in cows previously exposed to wolves. This was shown through increased cortisol levels, body temperature, and temperament scores. Cattle presence near occupied houses doesn’t offer protection from wolves. Data shows wolves within 500m of occupied houses 588 times during 198 days of tracking. Many confirmed depredations on this site were also close to houses.