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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Assessment, Conservation and Management of Rangelands in Transition

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: Effects of wolf presence on daily travel distance of range cattle

Author
item Clark, Patrick - Pat
item Johnson, Douglas
item Larson, Larry
item Louhaichi, Mounir
item Roland, Tyanne
item Williams, John

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/21/2017
Publication Date: 8/10/2017
Citation: Clark, P., Johnson, D., Larson, L., Louhaichi, M., Roland, T., Williams, J. 2017. Effects of wolf presence on daily travel distance of range cattle. Rangeland Ecology and Management. doi: 10.10.1016/j.rama.2017.06.010.

Interpretive Summary: While fairly extensive knowledge exists for the direct effects of wolf predation threat (e.g., cattle death and injury losses, elevated stress), our understanding of wolf-caused changes in cattle behavior and the associated cascade of potential indirect effects on cattle resource selection, diet quality, activity budgets, and energetic relationships is still largely in its infancy. We investigated whether wolf presence affected the daily travel distance of GPS-collared cattle under a replicated, impact-control study conducted in western Idaho and northeastern Oregon during 2008-2012. Cattle in three Control (Oregon) study areas, where wolf presence was consistently low, traveled farther per day (15.4 ± 0.393 SE km day-1) than those in three Impact (Idaho) study areas (12.3 ± 0.390 SE km day-1) with moderate to high wolf presence. This observational study provides evidence that cattle in mountainous grazing areas alter their spatial behavior in response to gray wolf presence and these behavioral changes could potentially impact cattle productivity and ranch economics.

Technical Abstract: The presence of gray wolves (Canis lupus) can directly and indirectly affect beef cattle (Bos taurus) production on rangelands of the Northern Rocky Mountains. While fairly extensive knowledge exists for the direct effects of wolf predation threat (e.g., cattle death and injury losses, elevated stress), our understanding of wolf-caused changes in cattle behavior and the associated cascade of potential indirect effects on cattle resource selection, diet quality, activity budgets, and energetic relationships is still largely in its infancy. We investigated whether wolf presence affected the daily travel distance of GPS-collared cattle under a replicated, impact-control study conducted in western Idaho and northeastern Oregon during 2008-2012. Cattle in three Control (Oregon) study areas, where wolf presence was consistently low, traveled farther per day (15.4 ± 0.393 SE km day-1) than those in three Impact (Idaho) study areas (12.3 ± 0.390 SE km day-1) with moderate to high wolf presence. Variability in daily travel distance was also observed among study years and months within years and this was likely to due to broad variations in climate and associated forage production and quality changes. This observational study provides evidence that cattle in mountainous grazing areas alter their spatial behavior in response to gray wolf presence. These behavioral changes could potentially impact cattle productivity and ranch economics. Additional research into the activity budget and resource selection responses of these collared cattle is required to better understand the specific mechanisms behind these daily travel distance results.

Last Modified: 09/23/2017
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