Rancher trains cattle to form groups against wolf attacks

Herding dogs help keep cattle in groups. (Photo: Courtesy Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

From The Westerner Blog

Over the past six years, Mark Coats has been studying and implementing new ways of preventing cattle deaths by predators, including wolves, coyotes and mountain lions. He has been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on creating a predator awareness program he believes can successfully reduce or eliminate predation deaths.

“What they need is the individualized chase,” where a wolf or wolves isolate a cow or calf from the herd, then chase, immobilize and eat the animal, which is often still alive. “We’re trying to interrupt that. That is the key.”

The key, he believes, is training cattle to gather in herds when threatened by wolves or other potential killers.

Coats began researching wolf and cattle behavior six years ago when OR-7, then a lone male gray wolf that for several years was electronically tracked after it left the Imnaha Pack in northeast Oregon in 2007, passed through his lands near the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge along the Oregon-California state line. During his wanderings in Southern Oregon and Northern California, OR-7 eventually found a breeding female. The pack has grown and includes OR-7’s grandchildren.

“My phone was ringing off the hook, because I was the cattlemen’s president,” remembers Coats, who served as the Siskiyou County Cattlemen’s Association president for three years, of what spurred his interest. “I started doing a lot of research on what cattlemen can do.”

He said studies indicate wolves do not attack groups of livestock, choosing instead to chase individual animals. According to Coats, previous studies showed that wolves will leave if livestock remain still and in groups. While he is focused on cattle, he said the group-and-stand theory applies to other livestock.

“We always saw losses to coyotes, but since we’ve worked with this program we haven’t had any losses to mammals.” “Training can last several months or, if done intensely, seven to 10 days,” he said. “And it continually needs to be tuned up. The cow must understand it is its decision to return to the herd. A key is training them to stand and not run or flee.”..more


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