Monday, October 19, 2015

Wolf kills not always obvious in livestock carcasses

This young cow was run to exhaustion and injured internally by wolves.
This summer Phil Davis lost several cattle to wolves, but they were not the typical victims of depredation. Instead of having obvious bite marks on them, he found extensive bruising under the skin. “If the animal is intact, most ranchers assume it died of something else (bloat, larkspur or disease) and don’t bother to skin it to discover bruising under the skin,” said Davis, who ranches near Cascade, Idaho. “Often the cattle killed in our area in late summer are left intact.” The bruising is from adult wolves that are teaching their pups how to kill. They chase cattle, running them to exhaustion, nipping at them and creating internal bruising. “These animals generally die, and people don’t know the reason. Ranchers don’t investigate whether it was a wolf kill,” Davis said. “I would have been able to collect compensation for more of my losses if I’d known what to look for.” A neighbor had 10 cows and 5 calves killed, and buried them, Davis said. He then dug up the last one to get it confirmed as a wolf kill. He wished he’d have known what to look for before he buried them, Davis said. In Idaho, compensation is paid for livestock killed by wolves, but it must be confirmed by USDA Wildlife Services. “If we can confirm it, then it qualifies for compensation,” said Todd Grimm, Idaho state director of USDA Wildlife Services in Boise. Some kills are obvious, with the animals ripped open and partly eaten, but others are more difficult to tell, especially if there are no outward marks of violence. Unless the animal is skinned to reveal bruising and bite marks under the skin, the rancher assumes the animal died of some other cause, he said. “With cattle, as many as one-third of the deaths from wolves that we’ve confirmed have died in this manner. They are not outwardly obvious. We see more of this problem in summer (when packs have pups) than winter,” Grimm said...Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said wolves do kill animals this way, but added that it’s not really related to the age of pups or time of year. “This is how wolves kill — with multiple bite trauma — chasing and biting and harassing the animal until it is exhausted, becomes weak or goes into shock, and is more easily killed,” he said. “If you are going to identify what happened when you find a dead animal, to know whether it was a wolf kill, skinning the carcass is very important. In Oregon, any time there is a carcass found, even if it has been mostly eaten, we try to skin what’s left,” Morgan said. “Wolves have relatively blunt teeth. They don’t always break the skin. You might not notice anything since cattle (or sheep) have long hair,” he said...more

From an article by Heather Smith Thomas for the Capital Press

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