How dogs can protect wolves and livestock alike.
She followed a white tailed deer just out of curiosity for she was never interested in bringing down such an unassuming prey. Her family and she routinely pursued more challenging species of ungulates – the elk – to feed themselves and their pups. She was aware of the fact that she was just outside her domain and wanted to get back soon.
Suddenly, she noticed a biped hidden in the bush with a strange long branch of wood like thing pointing at herself. Now she was not particularly afraid of the bipeds. She was aware that most of them, who are in the vicinity, are harmless to her and her family. Instead, they always seemed to be curious about her and as soon as they saw her, she could smell a feeling of joy in them.
The only negative experience she had was when she had noted a group of them at a distance that gave her a long thorn into her body that she could not pull out and that made her want to go to sleep very badly and that probably gave the ugly piece of extra load tied around her neck that she had now gotten used to. Even after this incident, she never felt threatened by the bipeds. In fact, she was accustomed to their presence and knew that they never meant her any harm.
So when she noted this particular biped in the bush, she was not afraid, but her sixth sense told her that she should get out of the area back to her home grounds quickly. She turned and looked at the partly hidden figure for a final glance. All of a sudden, she heard a loud bang as if the rutting season started for the wild sheep, followed by immense pain in her head for a fraction of time it usually took her to startle a herd of elk. And then she just didn’t feel anything at all. It was dark.
The hunters versus wolf conservation groups
I was dismayed to hear that a wolf frequently seen in and around Yellowstone National Park that went by many names — 832F by researchers, “rock star” by wildlife enthusiasts, “famous” by others — was killed in this manner. Although shot legally during hunting season, many like me were upset, and the Humane Society of the United States had even filed a lawsuit against the decision that allows wolf hunting in Wyoming.
According to the New York Times, Yellowstone wolf program project director Daniel Stahler had said this wolf rarely left the park. 832F was one of eight with the collars to be killed during the season, since wolves became legal for hunters in the state after being removed from the endangered species list last year.
Some conservation experts say that the wolf population in the area isn’t yet large enough to allow hunting. On the other hand, ranchers would argue thinning the pack protects livestock and other big game in the park.
I would like to advise that it is not the ranchers always, but hunters who usually argue that killing wolves is a right thing to do in order to protect game animals and livestock. Killing wolves in an unethical manner should not be an option. The extraordinary large number of collared wolves harvested in that season season shows that the wolves have been killed unethically. Hunters were using electronic signals emitted from the transmitters on the collars to pinpoint the location of the wolves.
Use right livestock guardian dogs and tools
There are ways to discourage wolf-human conflict, most of which emanates from some wolves or packs trying to hunt livestock for food. Farmers can employ livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) for protection of their sheep and calves. However, pro-hunt ranchers claim that this is not a viable option, because even their LGDs, mostly Great Pyrenees, get killed by wolves.
First of all, I believe one or two LGDs should not be expected to keep wolves at bay. In this situation, if a wolf pack moves into the territory, the best bet is to keep livestock and dogs within the confines of a fenced area, if that is economically viable. It should be ensured that LGDs do not roam alone over large areas, where they can be tackled by pack of wolves and killed. Although wolves are a beautiful animal and need to be protected for our future generation, they are after all wild animals and will kill a sheep or a dog to feast on it. They cannot and should not be demonized for this.
Also, not all LGDs are capable of challenging wolves. A combination of Great Pyrenees, Kuvaszok and Italian Maremmas employed by Mr. Dennis Loxton for protection of sheep and silvicultural workers against bears in British Columbia has yielded spectacular results (see references, bullet # 1). Note however, that he keeps 8 LGDs plus few herding kelpies per 1500 sheep to achieve success.
While these are great LGDs for predators like bears, cougars, and coyotes, their manner of defense is not adequate against a pack of wolves in the northern Rockies. To take on wolves, you need to have LGDs who are bigger and have greater canine prey and fight drives (see references, bullet # 2).
Cat Urbigkit and Jim Urbigkit have highlighted in their research paper on the topic (see references, bullet # 3) that farmers need to employ the services of right type of LGDs for protection against wolves.
If livestock is being grazed on public areas frequented by wolves then a confrontation between LGDs and them is highly likely. For this situation, Urbigkits recommend employing the services of canine aggressive LGDs like Central Asian Ovcharkas, Turkish / Kurdish Kangals, Portuguese Transmontano Mastiff, Bulgarian Karakachans or mixes thereof for protection against wolf predation.
If you have to be a wolf hunter then be ethical
Scottie Westfall of the Retrieverman Blog, voted one of the top 125 popular blogs on pets, Writes, "Let it be known that I’m not opposed to wolf hunting as a management tool. Wolves are much better off when they have a very healthy fear of people, and whenever wolf packs take to killing dogs or livestock , they need to be culled. But I don’t think we should go back to the days when wolves were shot, trapped, and poisoned for bounty money. We definitely shouldn’t go back to the days when people caught wolves and tortured them."(see references, bullet # 4).
This chase will discourage wolves from returning to the farm
As the wolf population increases in the protected areas like Yellowstone National Park, they will expand their range beyond the park’s protected boundaries and will come into a conflict with humans. No matter how the conservationist and animal rights activists feel, some wolves preying on livestock need to be chased and hunted, others chased and left alone. This is to send a message to wolves to fear humans. This fear will eventually result in their own safety as it has over the centuries till today.
However, I am of the strong view that breeding pair of wolves (the alpha male and female if you will) and the more experienced members of the pack should never be hunted. If they get hunted, their experience of chasing and killing their natural prey dies with them and never gets transferred to the younger members of the pack. It is these younger members without much experience that usually turn to livestock.
Finally, I believe if some of them have to be hunted, this is better done by professional and ethical hunters who have proven their credentials. Those hunters should not be sadist, technology dependent, trophy displaying show offs. An ideal hunter that comes to my mind is world renowned hunter of the British Raj, Jim Corbett, who preferred to hunt alone and on foot when pursuing dangerous game. He often hunted with this small dog named Robin, about whom he wrote in many adventures in his first book The Man-Eaters of Kumaon.
If given a chance, would Corbett have hunted wolf 832F? I believe not, for she was neither threatening livestock nor humans. He would have never hunted her. Instead, with Robin at his side, he would have observed her and admired her beauty.
- A Review: The Use of Livestock Protection Dogs in Association with Large Carnivores in the Rockies
Livestock protection dogs (LPDs) in the United States have helped to protect livestock herds from certain predators, but expanding large-carnivore populations pose new challenges...
- Prey and fight drives in dogs
Willingness to engage a foe in combat. A Combat Drive is invoked by the actions (or inactions) of a real or perceived foe.
- Livestock Guardian Dogs at Work – Another Side of The Great Pyrenees
Here are real life accounts of the Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog used as livestock guardian dogs in the protection of reforestation workers and shepherds in the interior of British Columbia.
- Are we ready to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies? The Retriever, Dog, & Wildlife Blog
The real question is whether wolf numbers in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming have actually reached a sustainable level. And the bulk of the science says no.