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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #358185

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

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: Wolves -- A primer for ranchers

Author
item Williams, John - Oregon State University
item Johnson, Douglas - Oregon State University
item Clark, Pat
item Larson, Larry - Oregon State University
item Roland, Tyanne - University Of Idaho

Submitted to: Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/5/2018
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Ranch management has become more complex since wolves were reintroduced into Idaho and Wyoming in 1996. 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. 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 long-term study is still on-going but promises to greatly enhance our understanding of wolf-cattle relations and aid in quantifying wolf impacts on range cattle production systems in the mountainous West.

Technical Abstract: 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.