A Shepherd's View: Loudest defenders of wolves don’t know much about them
Once again the wolf debate is raging, and the numbers game is being played. The statement that less livestock are being killed by predators than by disease, weather or dogs is accurate -- as far as it goes.
Once again the wolf debate is raging, and the numbers game is being played. The statement that less livestock are being killed by predators than by disease, weather or dogs is accurate - as far as it goes.
However, there is a caveat. If a wolf kills an animal considered a heritage breed, the loss of that one animal can significantly impact the breed. If the predator kills a ram, it can be a loss of up to 50 percent of a flock. Using numbers to bolster an argument implies all aspects of that number must be considered.
The statement that wolves take the old and the weak also is misleading. Wolves take the most vulnerable. This includes a cow or ewe giving birth. She can’t get up and run if she is in hard labor. The calf or lamb is eaten alive as it comes out and usually the cow or ewe is killed as well as she tries to defend her newborn. If this information is too rough for you then you need a reality check.
The wolf is a highly intelligent, efficient predator. It would much rather go after animals with no way to escape - including those fenced or penned in - than chase a white-tail deer through miles of swamp and forest.
Nonlethal means of protecting farm animals from wolves, as some urge, work for maybe two or three days. The wolf learns quickly that lights and noise are not dangers. My personal favorite nonlethal suggestion was painting our sheep green. Exactly what shade? And is the paint matte, semi-gloss or gloss? And how does one paint a sheep? So, it would look like a sheep, smell like a sheep, sound like a sheep, move like a sheep, but it’d be green so must not be a sheep? Really?
It appears the most vociferous defenders of wolves don’t know very much about them.
Do I hate wolves? No. But I do respect them. And I respectfully ask for the right to defend my flock against this predator, just as I defend them from disease, weather and dogs. That is my job as a shepherd.
I extend an invitation to those who want the wolf under federal protection. You are welcome to come to my farm and personally pick out which lambs and ewes you want the wolves to kill.
Liz Voelker of Chisholm runs MoonsShadow Farm with her husband. It is home to 53 ewes, two rams, 25 lambs that were born in February, and two guardian llamas that stay with the flock. The farm’s fields are fenced. The farm sells fleeces to hand-spinners.