Another wolf depredation and a CPW burro trial
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 head were killed in December and January. Adam VanValkenburg, president of the North Park Stockgrowers Association, said it appears the wolves are teaching the pups to hunt and have killed or depredated elk, deer and cattle.
The cow that was attacked on March 15 was bred and due to calve this spring. The rancher who owned the cow, said he and other ranchers are frustrated that they’re unable to stop the wolf attacks and they are the ones who not only lose cattle and are forced to deal with the effects on the surviving cattle, but are also the ones who have to shoot the injured cows.
Travis Duncan with Colorado Parks and Wildlife told Steamboat Radio these attacks are a result not of introduced wolves, but naturally migrating wolves from Wyoming. The cow’s injuries were consistent with a wolf attack, tracks were found in the immediate area, and once the cow was euthanized, a necropsy confirmed it as a wolf attack. Duncan said CPW will work with the rancher to reimburse a portion of the value of the cow 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 not yet been confirmed. He said CPW will work with area ranchers to implement approved hazing methods, including carcass management, barriers, guard animals, visual and auditory scare tactics, and increased human presence.
USING GUARD BURROS
According to a CPW release, wild burros have been donated to Don Gittleson by CPW to help protect cattle in the area from wolf attacks.
According to the release, CPW wildlife officers delivered six wild burros (two gelded jacks and four jennies) to Gittleson in an attempt to decrease wolf depredations on his property. After becoming acclimated to the climate and altitude, the burros will be introduced to Gittleson’s cow herd.
“The idea is to make the burros become a part of the cattle herd to where they will start to protect or consider the cattle as a member of its family,” said CPW Wildlife Officer Zach Weaver, of Walden. “Don will start to introduce the burros to certain members of the herd in small increments.
“He has put the burros out with a small group of calves on his ranch. They’re still in a corral with access to heat, but he’s beginning to acclimate them… Don is monitoring the animals. He’s paying attention to how much they’re going inside to warm up. They’ll gain more hair as they need it.”
Gittleson experienced three depredation events due to wolves in December and January. After the last event, Gittleson and Weaver met with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to discuss potential methods of preventing further depredation.
Weaver said they learned that in addition to approved hazing methods like fladry and noisemakers, there was some evidence that wild burros could help prevent wolf depredations.
“APHIS told us that burros were effective at stopping predation in Oregon,” Weaver said. “We learned that wild burros are more effective because they’ve been in the wild where they’ve had to defend themselves and their herd from predation from animals like mountain lions and coyotes.”
During the last week of January, Weaver located potential wild burros for adoption in Utah that had just come off the high country in Nevada. Weaver said this was an important factor.
“We didn’t want to bring an animal that had been at low elevation, say like southern California, where they had not been in negative temperatures or seen snow. Don [Gittleson] and I wanted animals that had been at a higher elevation so they were acclimated and had developed hair for the cold. You’re talking 5,000 feet there as opposed to 8,000 at our lowest. We also wanted mature animals that had been on the landscape and would know how to defend themselves.”
Although it’s not a service CPW will be able to offer every rancher in Colorado, it could yield important information about how effective wild burros can be at preventing wolf depredations and Weaver said he’s been telling ranchers who reach out to him to look into the possibility of adopting burros.
“A lot of our monitoring will be based on feedback from Don for this pilot program,” Weaver said. “He’ll tell us if he’s seeing as many wolves as he has in the past, or if they’re still coming through his property at as high a frequency as they were.”
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