Feeding Feeding during calving season holds one of the highest potential predation risk areas. Wolves are keen on recognizing vulnerability in potential prey, and quickly learn to take advantage of any patterns in livestock management that create a window for increased prey or cattle vulnerability. For example, when feeding hay during calving season, wolves will listen for the tractor in anticipation of the cows leaving their bedded down calves to follow the tractor and feed. The cows are checked-out often for hours while feeding, leaving their calves behind and vulnerable to wolves coming in. Here are some basic ways to minimize this risk.
Have a rider present: have a rider (or someone on foot) pick up the calves behind the cows to ensure they stay together and go with their mothers. This alone will reduce vulnerably to predation significantly
Feed in evening: Once cows are done feeding, they will more likely bed down together in a group vs scattering. With their calves already nearby, this further encourages the herd to remain tighter during the night.
The combination of having a rider pick up the calves and evening feeding has proven to be a very successful strategy in reducing potential for conflict.
Pasture/Lot Rotation Simply changing the scene can help reduce wolf predation during calving season. Wolves will associate a place with hunting success and/or potential for food gain if vulnerability in prey is higher than the risk to the wolves (by their perception). Changing up the scene by rotating calving pastures or moving calving pastures 1-2 miles can reduce potential for conflict.
Fencing If a regular/permanent annual pasture for calving is used, installing multi-strand high tensile wire fencing (HOT!) around the perimeter of the calving pasture has shown to be nearly 100% successful in keeping wolves out. This is an expensive option to install initially, but long-term, can reduce potential for predation significantly as well as need for continued human presence other than what is part of your normal practice in terms of day/ night calvers and feeding.
Terrain Wolves learn to take advantage of terrain features. Many predations occur in narrow draws, steep-sided creeks, bogs, downfall, wooded areas, and fringe territory. In addition, they may utilize wire and other fencing to run their prey up against. A pasture located in more easily defensible open terrain with minimal characteristics that wolves can take advantage of will help in reducing potential for conflict. This is often easier said than is realistic, however being aware of the landscape and taking into consideration what features may increase vulnerability in both the cows and calves will help you create a calving strategy that works to manage potential for risk.
Human Presence Having human presence, whether in the form of day and/or night calvers or simply a watch set up can be an effective strategy during calving season. Changing up the location of human presence or work pattern/schedule may increase effectiveness – wolves will learn patterns and times of human activity and take advantage of that awareness. Lights that can be flashed (flashlight or other) may help to enhance effectiveness of human presence at night. HAZING: Hazing that does not have the potential to harm a wolf (non-injurious) is currently allowed Colorado. Using airhorns or other noisemakers and lights may be effective in deterring a potential threat. Any hazing should be done ONLY if wolves are in the cattle OR if stopped just outside the fence line and eyeing the cattle. If wolves are simply passing by, leave them alone. For hazing to be effective, wolves must associate the mental discomfort directly with the cattle. Once the wolves start to move out and away from the cattle, any hazing pressure should be released.
Tools Turbo Fladry, Foxlights, and RAG boxes (if available) may provide effective though short- term protections. And in larger pastures some of these tools may not be reasonable to use due to costs, terrain, and/or miles needed to be covered.
Turbo Fladry has shown to be the most effective of these tools. Fladry wire needs to be HOT (you want to provide more than a minor sting) in order to be fully effective and to help ensure longer duration of effectiveness.
Foxlights have also shown to be effective in multiple settings and may be more reasonable to use on larger calving lots. On light per ¾ mile of fencing is recommended—mounted just outside the fencing at 24” using a sturdy t-post. The solar powered model is lighter and easier to handle.
A combination of tools and switching things up e.g. moving the location of Foxlights every week or so, generally has better results. For grazing season in open range, strategies based in herd management and grazing practices combined with stockmanship techniques and understanding of wolf biology and behavior have demonstrated sustainable and long-term success for landowners in not only reducing vulnerability in cattle to predation, but in increasing ranch economic viability and resiliency. There is no bullet proof solution to reducing wolf-livestock conflict, however, strategies have evolved, been discovered, and come a long way especially over the last 15 years. Being pro-active in working to prevent conflict vs. working reactively after a conflict has occurred is by far the smarter and more effective approach. Feel free to reach out with any questions or for more information on support and resources available. We are here 24/7/360.