TLH - Newsletter (englisch)
Used courtesy of Dickinson Cattle Co. USA

Used courtesy of Dickinson Cattle Co. USA

Defining The Predator -- Human, Government, or Other

DCC Ranch e-News #207 - 3-03-20

by Darol Dickinson


Our family had an early grade A dairy, milking about 20 cows. I was age 8. We would return from some local trip and find cows all over the yard with fences in disrepair. Cattle would be mixed together that weren't supposed to be. It wasn't just the destroyed fences.  Several times a year, we'd find cows cut and gashed from barbed wire -- some with udders so damaged they couldn't be milked. (Picture a dairy cow racing through barbed wire:  what part hangs down?) Time would pass, then in a month, the dairy cows would stampede, with more udder damage, sometimes during the night, sometimes the day. Dad was mad at the ring-leader cow who was organizing this riot, over and over. His first suspect was the bull -- yet, no, he was too lazy.

Dad was mad, even at the family dog, "Amber." He thought if neighbor dogs were chasing cows, Amber should wake her lazy self up, get off the porch, and make some herd-protection effort.

Back in those days, we had dogs, but no one knew their pedigrees. Amber was an old mossy-faced, fat, yellow dog. Dad called her an "air-plain dog," part Airedale and part just plain dog. She was very fertile and had pups every few months. Local assortments of male dogs came and said hello frequently. Her current family of 6 was about 7 months old.

Dad suspected the neighbor dogs were chasing the cows, maybe coyotes.  Even us kids talked about "Big Foot" or the big bad wolf that chased Little Red Riding Hood.

We came home from church one Sunday.  My sister and I were fighting in the back seat and the wind was really blowing when Dad suddenly stomped on the brakes. To his surprise, ol' Amber and her 6 pups were having a cow-run party. Cattle were all over our front yard and road. Dad got 100% mad at about the same speed as he jammed on the brakes. He shouted for Mom to take us into the house. I heard 6 or more loud shots from his old double-barrel 12 gauge. When we were allowed to go back outside, we saw a little hair and hide. Amber, the old, friendly, highly fertile dog, had cost Dad a lot of money -- but never again.

Jump forward 70 years. Recently here in Ohio, we found a huge section of fence destroyed and dozens of cattle miles south of headquarters. A week later, a north-section fence was demolished. Then, a third time, at first light, we found a roan-speckled cow was right up as close to the corrals as she could get. She had been battling a dog pack most of the night. Finally exhausted, she had collapsed and the dogs ate their prize -- her udder. She was a tough-hided Longhorn, so her udder was the tender part to tear into. She had lost a lot of blood and was very weak. Of course, if she survives, she will never produce milk again.

The dog pack ate all this cow's udder.
The dog pack ate all this cow's udder.

Domestic dogs are normally fed well. When a dog pack goes on a fun-hunt, they are normally not hungry, just having a sporting attitude. But for wild dogs, coyotes, wolves, lions -- to them it is life or death. When they conquer an animal, there is an eating feast until every part is consumed. At times not even a bone will remain at the kill site.

The USA pet owners survey publishes that there are 89,700,000 dogs -- an increase up 20,000,000 since the year 2000. That is a fourth as many mouths to feed as people, not counting coyotes, wolves, and lions, all who like warm, fresh meat.

To suggest that this increase should not be of concern to livestock producers is preposterous.

To some, this situation strikes home more than others. Jerry Mackay (Burns Lake, BC, Canada, right north of Seattle) runs hundreds of cattle in lush mountain grasslands at the end of Ament Rd. Last fall he was herding his cows down from the summer mountain pastures to the winter meadows. One of his older herd sires was somewhat "used" and during the several-mile drive kept dropping to the back. Jerry decided instead of pushing the old fellow, he'd just let him take it easy and move the herd on ahead without him. The old bull would follow the scent of the herd and come dragging in later. Not so! When the bull didn't show up after two days, Jerry found mountain lions had consumed him with only a few unappreciated parts strewn about. The local lions not only savored cattle in a weakened state: if they were hungry, then cats, dogs, and even children were not considered safe.

To a predator the battle is life or death. They must kill to live.
To a predator the battle is life or death. They must kill to live.

First noticed in the 1940s, a migration of largely nocturnal carnivores has relocated from the western USA to the large cities of the east. Coyotes are a smaller relative of the gray wolf, a canine native to North America. Today, thousands of coyotes reside far away from ranchers with guns. They now enjoy the safety and comforts of large cities.

President Trump acquired a major New York City garbage dump, reclaimed, and restored it into an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Design golf course. Although it was valued at nearly $400,000,000, coyotes found it a wonderful habitat. Many golfers are entertained when coyotes scamper across the greens, but their digging of dens has been a continual maintenance problem. Some cities fear the multiplication of free-range animals. Others support their contribution of killing and eating the large rat population in New York city alleys. Either plus or minus, coyotes multiply profusely in nearly every large city.

Although the "government is here to help us," few ranchers favor costly plans to bring back original species to their homes of 200 years ago. As the government introduces coyotes, lions, bobcats, and wolves, ranchers shudder at the thought of "What are they thinking?"

Such a process is commonly known as predator reintroduction. The tactic has become popularized within the “Rewilding Movement,” an arm of environmentalism interested in restoring and protecting historical processes in ecosystems. While some conservationists believe that reintroducing large predators can promote biopersity, others consider the tactic to be environmentally dangerous, arguing that ecosystems may have re-adapted to synchronicity during the species’ absence. Regardless of who argues what, ranchers are not getting a voice when the government pumps predators into private properties. The "Rewilding Movement" is not without costly livestock problems.

Reintroducing predators is largely justified in order to increase the number of species within an environment and to restore natural process of the distant past.

Reintroducing predators is largely justified in order to increase the number of species within an environment and to restore natural process of the distant past. As populations have increased by many millions of people, it is hard for a level-headed person to want coyotes, lions, and bobcats sneaking around private property after a government reintroduction.

The Department of Natural Resources has determined when, in its opinion, the deer population is too high, they introduce bobcats who feed on fawns as a prize meal. It works. The deer population quickly drops, and wild turkeys also disappear. Bobcats are a protected species in Ohio with electronic chips implanted. Never, ever, to be on the thrifty side, however, the Federales could instead increase deer licenses issued and increase the bag limit.

In Australia, for example, the New South Wales government is set to reintroduce up to 10 species in a project costing tax payers over $40 million. Many other projects on other continents seem to have high levels of funding despite strong public resistance. Human control of nature is not cheap.

As "rewilding" projects increase, selected species are protected. Normally it makes no sense why certain dangerous predators are protected. In Colorado, for example, hunting rattlesnakes is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a $50 fine and some hunting license suspension points. The law bites a little --if you are attacked by a rattler in Colorado, only under certain qualifications can you legally dispose of one. Obviously bureaucrats who have never been struck by a rattler make these laws.
While it is easy to know the government, for a fact, is costing livestock producers big losses, on the other hand they are still here to help. Local wildlife officers, humane societies, and dog wardens are a growing part of a branch of law enforcement. Millions of dogs that people think are being "relocated" are in fact quickly killed, using comfortable government words like "dispatched."

In Ohio, the local government trapper Eric Householder has become a good friend. He can legally set up game cameras and snares where predators are working. Although a neighbor may swear on a stack of shock collars that their dog never leaves the mobile home porch, a game camera photo is conclusive.

When dog packs start to work on livestock, fences may be destroyed, cuts and scars will be seen, tails may be bit off, and fang marks slash legs and heels. Packs don't go for a big fat cow. Instead, they select one that may be in poor health, weakened, and easy to take down. Predators like to attack small cattle rather than an easily offended adult Texas Longhorn.

Dog Wardens seem knowledgeable and ready to protect livestock. A call to 911 will get them quickly to the scene of a livestock event.

Some states have laws about "dispatching" of a neighbor's vicious predator dog. There are "pet rights" that may entail jail time and fines if protective measures are not done by the law -- same as killing a rattler.

This cow is being trained that dogs, coyotes, and wolves are safe for her calf.
This cow is being trained that dogs, coyotes, and wolves are safe for her calf.

Texas Longhorn cattle are probably the best at defending the herd. But even they can be fooled, because cows can be trained to lose their natural protective instincts. Cows don't know the difference between a dog, a wolf, or a coyote. If the ranch has friendly dogs around the cattle, they learn not to fear a dog. Also, some coyotes move innocently around the cattle, cleaning up afterbirth and doing what they do. These apparently harmless dogs or coyotes fool cows into thinking there is no reason to fear. Then when a marauding dog pack arrives, the cattle are not on their natural guard. The natural protective instinct has been neutralized.

Tip: We have heard, if a government-protected predator is causing livestock loss, quickly dispatch it with no witnesses. Keep in mind, some of these predators have electronic chips and are being watched -- so do not bury them in your back yard. Probably best to toss the resolved problem into the ditch by a public road, quite a ways away.

When our recent domestic-dog pack attacks started, the neighbors with cattle were alerted. All of them indicated they didn't know anything -- interesting! Maybe they went by my Dad's old policy of "SSS." That is, shoot, shovel, and shut-up.

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Dickinson Cattle Co., Inc.; 35000 Muskrat Rd.; Barnesville, OH 43713; 740 758-5050