Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wolf attacks are an act of terror on cattle herds

by Harry L. Smith

...Following are a couple of examples of a cow herd’s reaction to wolves and the panic that ensues.

The Squaw Butte Experiment Station in Harney County operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Oregon State University conducted a demonstration to show the difference in behavior between cattle from wolf areas versus those unfamiliar with wolves.

About a dozen cows from each background were put in identical wooden feedlot type pens side by side. These pens had feed bunks along one end that was accessed by an alleyway for feed delivery.  A sound system was set up in the area and nonaggressive German Shepherds were put in the alleyway. After the cows were fed, the sound system began playing recorded wolf howls. After a period of time, a picture was taken from above to show the different reactions.

The cows unfamiliar with wolves had eaten all their hay and were resting back in the pen chewing their cud.

The cows experienced with wolves had left their feed uneaten and were in a tight group in the middle of the pen in a very defensive mode.

A letter written by Mack Birkmaier and published on March 18, 2015, in the Wallowa County Chieftain aptly illustrates the act of terror that occurred when wolves attacked and stampeded 250 head of very pregnant cows. 

The herd split into three groups during the attack. About 70 cows went east, running in total panic and obliterated several barb wire fences. After a 13-mile run on various county roads, these cows were found wet from the condensation of cold air on their overheated bodies and their tongues out, gasping for air.

Another bunch went north through several fences — about four miles and then back — and were still running in a large circle when they were stopped. The cattle could not be fed for two days. The cows were so traumatized that they ran away from hay and the pickup trying to feed them. Some ended up with barbed wire cuts but, fortunately, there were not more serious injuries at the time.

As the rancher feared, calves were aborted by stressed-out mothers and there were numerous complications with birth that threatened the lives of both cow and calf and sometimes required costly assistance from a veterinarian. Out of the first 50 to calve, 20 percent needed assistance. 

It undoubtedly took a long time for this herd to recover and many of the cows probably did not rebreed last summer. It is certain that the damage from this terrorist attack on the herd was long-term. It is unlikely that any compensation was received as a result of this incident.

No comments: