Colorado Rancher Gets Help From Neighbors, Wildlife Officials To Put Up Fencing To Protect Cattle From Wolves

by Matthew Memrick
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A Colorado cattle rancher under attack from wolves is getting help from neighbors and wildlife officials with fencing and other deterrents.

According to the Fort Collins Coloradan, there’s been an increase of recent cow killings by wolves, and there’s been a team effort to protect cattle.

Earlier this week, the newspaper reported that Don Gittleson got some much-needed help. A dozen people, including neighbors and wildlife officials, put up 3 miles of fladry fencing in the snow. 

The thin electrical fencing with flags comes as a wolfpack roams the rancher’s land. Wolves killed a pregnant heifer and a calf over the past five weeks. Another wolf-injured cow needed euthanizing during that time. Colorado authorities confirmed those killings, in addition to another cow’s death on a nearby ranch.

Rancher: Fencing Efforts Seen As Futile Longterm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and neighbors helped put up the fence. The federal agency also brought four propane cannons that scare wolves at certain times during the day.

Many see the cow-protecting efforts as plugging up a breaking dam, but Gittleson liked the good-faith effort as Colorado deals with the wolf killings for the first time in decades. 

Gittleson said he hopes he can get 60 days of protection from the temporary fencing. He said, “it really depends on the wolves.”

The remote ranch is 13 miles away from the town of Walden. But wolves have found their way to the 11,000-acre land.

The newspaper said Gittleson is feeling the pressure of the wolves, the media, and the long hours of ranch work.

“Normally, I can go a week and get two to three calls,” the rancher told the newspaper. “Now I don’t go through a day without two, three, or many more phone calls.”

For now, he’s hoping to protect his herd of 180 Angus cows against a wolfpack of two adults and six pups. Though it’s been days since anyone’s seen the wolfpack, Gittleson said he expects the group back soon.

Government Helping Colorado Rancher Ward Off Wolves

Wolf experts think constant and regular human contact can break the wolves’ cow-killing habits. The rancher said USDA Wildlife Services wants to hire a range rider for protection. A “pro-wolf” individual also offered to ride his ranch.

One organization, the Defenders of Wildlife, donated a mile of fladry fence to help Gittleson. John Murtaugh, the group’s representative, said the rancher’s cow losses are above average.

Murtaugh often sees reactionary, unchanging attitudes over removing the wolves, but he knows that the best solutions come from a community-wide effort.

With calving season on the way, Gittleson’s concerned about the ranch’s safety. He’s hoping the community can get the wolves under control as his calves will likely graze beyond the area close to his house.

Gittleson said an area rancher already took some of his younger cows to his pasture to protect them from wolves

Outsider.com