HOWL Colorado

Wolves account for very low numbers of livestock deaths

HOWLColorado : Wolf Facts The National Agricultural Statistics Service doesn’t publish their statistics for livestock deaths too often, however, the most recent statistics available (2005) show that natural predation of livestock is relatively rare, and wolves account for a very small percentage of those deaths.

Deaths, in this case, are obviously of the unplanned kind. Diseases, medical problems, issues with giving birth, in addition to predation, are all taken in to account.

If you have the desire to crunch the numbers for yourself, you may do so by clicking here and viewing the figures from the NASS site.

A very large percentage of cattle deaths, for example, are attributable to non-predation causes, such as disease.

The Facts:

Percentage of unexpected cattle deaths (2005) from predators: less than 5%
Percentage of those predatory kills attributed to wolves: 2.3% 
Total percentage of unexpected cattle deaths (2005) attributed to wolves: 0.11%

For every 1,000 cattle killed unexpectedly in 2005, wolves were attributed with the deaths of 1.

For the purposes of comparison, using the same analysis, coyotes — the most active predators, and often confused with wolves, which often gets wolves blamed for something they didn’t do — killed approximately 22 for each 1,000 cattle killed. Dogs killed 5. And 5 were, of all things, stolen by human criminals.     

Actual numbers 

AH, you critics say, what about sheep! They are killed much more often by predators!

Not by much, actually. Whereas 190,000 cattle died to predators in 2005, 224,000 sheep and goat died to predation in the same year. However, the number of non-predation deaths were also much lower, which means the percentage of sheep and goat deaths in 2005 attributed to predation is about 37%, which is much higher than for cattle.

That must mean that wolves kill more sheep than they kill cattle, right?

Well, in short, no. So small is the number of kills attributed to wolves that they are classified as “other predators.”

The Facts:

Predators accounted for 37% of all unexpected sheep and goat deaths in 2005
Coyotes and dogs accounted for over 70% of all predation deaths.
“Other predators,” which includes wolves, accounted for about 2.7% of all sheep and goat deaths in 2005, which adds up to approximately 7% of all predation deaths.

Since we never know what percentage of “other predator” deaths are attributed specifically to wolves, we must assume wolves did kill sheep, but in some amount which is less than the total attributed to “other predators.”

Actual Numbers

Conclussions:

Oddly, they list Colorado as being a state with wolves, which is, at best, dubious. There is evidence to suggest that occasional wolves have come south into Colorado, but the number of livestock deaths attributed to “other predators” certainly excludes wolves in our state.

Wolves kill livestock, and any lose of livestock is painful for the ranchers or farmers who lose them. Our goal is to make it so that livestock predation is reduced to as low a percentage as possible through humane, non-lethal means in the hopes of promoting the ability to co-exist with all these predators.

However, the amount of livestock deaths attributed directly to wolves is VERY low, and is certainly low enough, according to the government’s own numbers, to challenge the assumptions of many, especially the aggressive ranchers and livestock owners in states such as Idaho and Montana.

Despite these low numbers, Defenders of Wildlife have a program which offers livestock owners compensation for wolf predation.

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