Colorado Parks & Wildlife Has a Creative Idea to Prevent Wolf Depredations: Burros

by Amy Myers
(Photo by David Silverman/Newsmakers)

Colorado Parks & Wildlife decided to try an innovative approach to their wolf issue. In order to help prevent wolf attacks on livestock, officials are adding burros to the equation.

Recently, Colorado has struggled to find the balance between protecting wolves and protecting rancher’s livestock. The problem is becoming increasingly alarming, as both sides of the dilemma are equally important to our country’s agriculture and wildlife. But now, it seems that they’ve found a potential solution.

A part of the donkey family, burros are a smaller breed that is innately a pack animal. When properly introduced to a herd of cattle, the burro recognizes itself as a part of the herd and provides round-the-clock protection for fellow animals. These hooved guardians also have impressive eyesight and hearing, helping them detect prowling wolves that may be nearby. They will also kick, chase and stomp any threat they see.

“The idea is to make the burros become a part of the cattle herd to where they will start to protect or consider the cattle as a member of its family,” said CPW officer Zach Weaver in a press release. “We learned that wild burros are more effective because they’ve been in the wild where they’ve had to defend themselves and their herd from predation from animals like mountain lions and coyotes.”

Colorado Parks & Wildlife Donates Six Burros to Local Rancher

Just last week, there was another report of a pack of wolves attacking a cow outside of Walden. The rancher, Don Gittleson, has lost three cows within the past few months. And he’s hoping that these carefully-selected burros will help prevent any more casualties on his property.

“Gittleson and I wanted animals that had been at a higher elevation so they were acclimated and had developed hair for the cold,” said Weaver. “We also wanted mature animals that had been on the landscape and would know how to defend themselves.”

Given the horrid attack that Gittleson’s staff witnessed last week, it’s not surprising that Colorado rancher is willing to bring in the new members to his herd.

“[It was] horrible. She was in bad shape,” said Ben Zak, State Line Ranch cowboy. “[The cow] was really tore up on the back end.”

By the time the ranch staff reached the cow, she was in too much distress. They had to put her down.

Along with the new burros, Gittleson and CPW have also incorporated electric fences with flags to deter wolves from entering the property. So far, they haven’t had any new attacks.

“A lot of our monitoring will be based on feedback from Gittleson for this pilot program,” Weaver said. “He’ll tell us if he’s seeing as many wolves as he has in the past, or if they’re still coming through his property at as high a frequency as they were.”