Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cows witnessing wolf attacks suffer PTSD-like symptoms, research shows

Cows that have witnessed wolf attacks display physical signs associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a new study by Oregon State University. PTSD is a psychological disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, frightening or dangerous event. This is the first study of its kind to reveal PTSD biomarkers in cattle. The findings are published in the Journal of Animal Science. “Wolf attacks create bad memories in the herd and cause a stress response known to result in decreased pregnancy rates, lighter calves and a greater likelihood of getting sick,” said Reinaldo Cooke, an animal scientist in OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences who led the study. After they were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the last two decades, gray wolves have dispersed through the West and have hunted in livestock grazing areas. Oregon’s wolf population has grown steadily since wolves migrated to northeast Oregon. The state visually documented 112 wolves at the end of 2016. Wolves west of U.S. 395, U.S. 95 and Oregon Route 78 are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act. OSU researchers have heard anecdotes from ranchers that cows that have come in contact with wolves eat less and are more aggressive and sickly. In this study, cows at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns were exposed to a simulated wolf encounter and their brain and blood were analyzed for biomarkers, in this case, expression of genes, associated with stress-related psychological disorders, including PTSD. The research builds on a 2014 study led by Cooke, showing that cows that had been exposed to wolves showed more fearful behavior even when they had not been attacked. The latest findings confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis: The cows’ stress response was expressed in certain biomarkers in their blood and brain cells linked to PTSD in humans and other mammals. Similar research has been conducted with rodents exposed to potential predators...more

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