AI image produced by Bing

Bob West: Facing the reality of wolves, Colorado ranchers need to be prepared

Reposted with permission 

By Bob West, Colorado rancher and author of Twenty Miles of Fence; Blueprint of a Cowboy

The Fencepost

‘A wolf in sheep’s clothing’

I really have nothing against wolves, they are beautiful, majestic animals, whose eerie nighttime howls from the packs, echo across the American west. Their calls are heard in the rural “wild” spaces, not the urban cities where the voters of Colorado gathered enough votes, by a slim margin, to overturn the overwhelming will of the rest of Colorado. Old news, brings the reality of the wolf introduction recently, applauded by many and dreaded by ranchers like me that soon will be on the front lines of the impending “wolf conflict.”

Recently this very publication, The Fence Post, was accused of fear mongering, when a journalist called foul, rooted in excellent truthful reporting based on solid research, as the government once again lied to people who’ll be most affected by their actions. The government promising concerned cattle ranchers that “problem” Oregon wolves with cattle depredation criminal backgrounds would not be trapped and brought into the state. As it turns out nine out of 10 of the introduced wolves have great howling voices, but unfortunately like steak for dinner. According to wolf behavioral experts, once they try the easy prey of a cow’s calf and the delectable taste of “veal,” they likely won’t go back to battling a pissed off mother moose or elk with those nasty horns. (On a side note, I predict, based on data from other states, that within a decade all of the moose that have repopulated in Colorado will be wiped out! The Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the public have worked relentlessly over the last 40 years to bring the moose population back to its recent stability. Moose with moose calves are reported as one of the most favorite roadside encounters for tourists in Rocky Mountain National Park, located in Grand County where a recent wolf release occurred).

Not one to wallow in my impending reality, I like to think outside the box. My ranch is home to a magnificent herd of Highland cattle, called a ‘fold” in their native Scotland. These beautiful hairy, horned beasts were bred to live in the tough, rugged landscape of the mountainous Highlands of Scotland, pretty much unsupervised in their remote world. Many oil paintings of a famous 19th century Scottish painter, William Watson, recorded their valiant battles with packs of wolves. Extremely protective mother cows, utilizing their saber like horns, they would shish kabob an attacking wolf and throw it in the air. After a few encounters the wolves would learn from their near-death encounter with a Highland to decide to find easier prey, but I will not bet my calves on that.

Not that I don’t appreciate all of the great ideas that the wolf commission and CPW promote to us cattle ranchers, like, miles of fences with little red ribbons tied to them and big fans with long extension cords, if the wind isn’t blowing. Cannons, that I’m certain ruin the tranquility and nerves of the neighbors let alone sound like we are back on a battlefield in the Civil War. Night range riders, who will never be at the right place at the right time, and that I can’t afford, or even if I could, find anyone to work the graveyard shift. And then when these lame ideas don’t work, comes their best idea, just let “them kill your cattle and we’ll compensate them for ya!”

Misty, my family’s Colorado Mountain Dog, a 130-pound livestock guard dog (LGD), might just have saved the day. As she put her big white head on my lap looking for a pat, sitting on the ranch porch on her ninth birthday, caused me to think back on my eight-year experience. The first two years were hell, as she had a 10-mile diameter in her instinctual daily and sometimes nightly perimeter patrols, unfortunately leaving our ranch and crossing onto others, she had no concept of private property, roads, or fences. She was fiercely independent, not like other working dogs I had known, incessantly barking at every strange noise, day or night. Once picking up the scent of a nearby mountain lion through the laundry room door and breaking through the door’s glass pane to get out and protect. We live on a river with all kinds of creatures passing through to acres of wild rugged uninhabited land nearby. My neighbors with a “guard” lama have lost many domestic animals over the years to local predators, coyotes and cougars, their domestic animals suffering sometimes hard to witness. We have lost none… with wolves soon to arrive at our doorstep, as I will not stand by and let my Highland calves be killed by wolves in an urban dweller’s environmental experiment, I have decided to upgrade my defenses, bringing in imported help that works for food, doesn’t mind the graveyard shift, and can weigh up to 160 pounds, and can run at 35 mph. Fitted with a spiked collar, to protect their necks, I hear two of these guys are a wolf pack’s worst nightmare — “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” — ranchers need to introduce the Kangal Guard Dog, known as the “lion” of Turkey to those criminal Oregon wolves.

See the editorial on The Fencepost

Subscribe to RANGE magazine

Call 1-800-RANGE-4-U

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *