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Trends and Management of Wolf-Livestock Conflicts in Minnesota

Role of Animal Husbandry

On the basis of data and observations from 1975 to 80, the development and perpetuation of depredation problems in Minnesota was found to be related to three animal husbandry or farm management practices (Fritts 1982). Leaving livestock carcasses near farmyards or in pastures during winter and spring centered wolf activity there at calving time. Allowing calving on pastureland also drew wolves to easy prey. And allowing livestock access to large wooded areas prevented them from being easily monitored. Data collection on these issues was not extended beyond that taken for the earlier report, so any further conclusions are subjective. The additional years of observations strongly reinforced the conclusion that each of these three practices is important in fostering wolf-livestock conflicts.

We alerted farmers to these problems through mailings and public presentations, by informing County Extension Agents, and by direct contact when investigating complaints. Either through our efforts or on their own, some farmers recognized the relation between these practices and depredations and took steps to alleviate them. For example, one cattle producer stopped calving in a large wooded pasture and began calving in a fenced, nonforested pasture near the barn and farmhouse after several consecutive years of calf losses in spring. Thereafter, fewer calves were thought lost to wolves in late spring and early summer. This husbandry change allowed the producer to recognize barren cows, birth-related mortality, and natural mortality of calves during the first few weeks after birth, which helped eliminate some potential reasons for calves missing from his herd.

Changes in farm management practices to elude wolf predation will not be taken in Minnesota unless they are economically feasible. Some modifications, such as removing carcasses from the vicinity of a farmyard, can be accomplished with little effort. Others, such as removing the trees and brush from large summer pastures, are less practical for livestock producers.

Similar husbandry or management problems have been recognized in the western Canadian provinces, and improved animal husbandry has been called for there (Gunson 1983; Stardom 1983; Tompa 1983a, 1983b; Bjorge and Gunson 1983, 1985). In British Columbia, wolf control is denied and improved husbandry recommended if faulty husbandry practices are directly responsible for wolf conflicts (Tompa 1983a, 1983b).

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