Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos/Creative Commons
Cattle ranchers throughout North America have, for many years, suspected that wolves near grazing herds make cow meat a substantial part of their diets. Now, new GPS research has shown that in southwestern Alberta, this is indeed the case.
However, it is not simply a matter of wolves preying on rancher's herds as it may at first seem.Using GPS transmitters and radio collars, researchers tracked wolves from three different packs in the region. They found that in the summer months, cattle made up to 45 percent of the diet of these wolves.
When the data was mapped, it corresponded with 50 incidents in which cows were killed.
However, the data also revealed that during this period a full 85 percent of wolves' scavenged prey came from "bone yards," areas where ranchers dispose of dead cattle. These bone yards—which have also been known to attract other predators like grizzly bears and cougars—were often located within close proximity to grazing cattle.
The obvious conclusion is that smarter management of ranch land is needed to limit the contact between wolves and cattle.