Colorado Parks and Wildlife has confirmed another wolf depredation of a cow in Jackson County near North Park, less than 10 miles from Don Gittleson’s ranch where three heads were killed in December and January. Adam VanValkenburg, president of the North Park Stockgrowers Association, said it appears wolves are teaching puppies to hunt and have killed or belittled elk, deer and cattle.
The cow that was attacked on March 15 was bred and was due to calve this spring. The rancher who owned the cow said he and other ranchers are frustrated that they cannot stop the wolf attacks and that they are the ones who not only lose livestock and are forced to deal with the effects on surviving livestock , but are also the ones who have to shoot the injured cows.
Travis Duncan of Colorado Parks and Wildlife told Steamboat Radio that these attacks are not the result of introduced wolves, but naturally migrating wolves from Wyoming. The cow’s injuries were consistent with a wolf attack, traces were found in the immediate area and once the cow was euthanized, an autopsy confirmed it was a wolf attack. Duncan said CPW will work with the rancher to reimburse a portion of the cow’s value under the current game damage process.
Duncan said a report of six elk killed in the same county is likely wolf predation, but that has yet to be confirmed. He said CPW will work with area ranchers to implement approved hazing methods, including carcass management, barriers, guard animals, visual and auditory scaring tactics and increased human presence. .
USING GUARD BURROS
According to a statement from CPW, wild burros were donated to Don Gittleson by CPW to help protect area livestock from wolf attacks.
According to the release, CPW wildlife officers delivered six wild burros (two gelded jacks and four jennies) to Gittleson in an effort to reduce wolf depredation on his property. After acclimatizing to the climate and altitude, the donkeys will be introduced to Gittleson’s cow herd.
“The idea is for the donkeys to become part of the cattle herd until they start to protect or consider the cattle as part of their family,” said the wildlife manager of the CPW, Zach Weaver, of Walden. “Don will start introducing the burros to some members of the herd in small increments.
“He took out the burros with a small group of calves on his ranch. They’re still in a corral with access to heat, but he’s starting to acclimatize them…Don watches the animals. He pays attention to how much they go inside to warm up. They will gain more hair as they need it.
Gittleson experienced three wolf depredation events in December and January. After the latest event, Gittleson and Weaver met with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to discuss potential methods of preventing further depredation.
Weaver said he learned that in addition to approved hazing methods like fladry and noisemakers, there was evidence wild burros could help prevent wolf depredation.
“APHIS told us that burros were effective in stopping predation in Oregon,” Weaver said. “We’ve learned that wild burros are more efficient because they’ve been in the wild where they’ve had to defend themselves and their herd from predation by animals like mountain lions and coyotes.”
During the last week of January, Weaver located potential wild burros for adoption in Utah who had just moved out of the Nevada high country. Weaver said that was a big factor.
“We didn’t want to bring an animal that had been at lower elevations, say like Southern California, where it hadn’t been in sub-zero temperatures or seen snow. put on [Gittleson] and I wanted animals that had been at a higher altitude so they would be acclimatized and developed hair for the cold. You’re talking about 5,000 feet there versus 8,000 at our lowest level. We also wanted adult animals that had been in the landscape and would know how to defend themselves.
Although this is not a service CPW will be able to offer to all ranchers in Colorado, it could provide important information about the effectiveness of wild burros in preventing wolf depredations and Weaver said he has told breeders who contacted him to investigate the possibility of adopting burros.
“A lot of our oversight will be based on Don’s feedback for this pilot program,” Weaver said. “He will tell us if he sees as many wolves as he has in the past, or if they are still crossing his property at as high a frequency as before.”