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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DISTURBANCE ASSESSMENT AND MITIGATION OF GREAT BASIN RANGELAND

Location: Northwest Watershed Management Research

Title: Wolf-livestock interactions in the northern Rocky Mountains

Authors
item Clark, Patrick
item Johnson, Douglas - OSU
item Wilson, Kerry - EOU
item Larson, Larry - EOU
item Johnson, Michael - UCSB
item Pierson, Frederick

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: November 3, 2008
Publication Date: February 8, 2009
Citation: Clark, P., Johnson, D.E., Wilson, K.D., Larson, L.L., Johnson, M.D., Pierson Jr, F.B. 2009. Wolf-livestock interactions in the northern Rocky Mountains. Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts.

Interpretive Summary: Although rough tallies of livestock death/injury losses resulting from wolf predation in the northern Rocky Mountains are made each year, we know almost nothing about the indirect effects of wolf-livestock interactions on cattle production. We initiated research projects during 2004 in central Idaho (Pioneer/White Knob Mountains) and 2007 in western Idaho-eastern Oregon (Little Salmon River drainage and Wallowa Mountains) to evaluate habitat-use, activity-budget, and productivity responses of range cattle to increasing wolf predation pressure. Our preliminary results indicate GPS collared beef cows tended to reduce time spent in brushy riparian areas, increased occupation of open upland habitats, and spent more time traveling during periods of wolf presence than when wolves were absent. Although additional years of study are required, livestock grazing management plans for the northern Rockies should consider that the presence of re-introduced gray wolves may be influence cattle distribution and behavior and that these effects may continue for some time after wolves have left or have been removed from the grazing area.

Technical Abstract: Since reintroduction in 1995, gray wolf populations in the northern Rocky Mountains have increased dramatically. Although rough tallies of livestock death/injury losses resulting from wolf predation are made each year, we know almost nothing about the indirect effects of wolf-livestock interactions on cattle production. Research projects were initiated during 2004 in central Idaho (Pioneer/White Knob Mountains) and 2007 in western Idaho-eastern Oregon (Little Salmon River drainage and Wallowa Mountains) to evaluate habitat-use, activity-budget, and productivity responses of range cattle to increasing wolf predation pressure. GPS tracking collars were used to locate mature beef cows every 5 minutes throughout 3-6 month grazing seasons. Preliminary results indicated cattle, grazing as cow-calf pairs, tended to reduce their occupation times in brushy riparian areas and increased occupation of open upland habitats during wolf presence and for some time after wolves were absent. Cows exposed to wolf presence traveled a greater percentage of their time than during wolf absence. This travel response also seemed to carry over into periods of wolf absence. This ecological system is very complex involving numerous factors, consequently, it will require at least several more years of data collection before firm conclusions can begin to be drawn from these studies. When developing grazing plans, however, cattle producers and natural managers of the northern Rockies should consider that the presence of re-introduced gray wolves may be influence cattle distribution and behavior and these effects may continue for some time after wolves have left or have been removed from the grazing area.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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