Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wolves kill cow, steer at Spider Lake, WI

Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
An Aug. 26 incident in which a Holstein steer was maimed by gray wolves on a town of Spider Lake farm appears to have been an isolated attack in the area.

Because of its injuries, the 700-pound steer had to be put down by its owners, Dale, Ted and Vivian Pederson. The wolf attack was verified from claw marks on the steer’s side.

Dale Pederson said the steer had been placed with “dry cows” in a pasture lot away from the farm buildings. When it came back with the herd on Aug. 26, its rear end had been mauled.

“This animal was perfectly healthy (when attacked),” Dale said. “I had to shoot it; it wasn’t even dead yet. “

The Pedersons believe that wolves also killed a pregnant registered Holstein cow on their property about a week before the steer was attacked. The cow had been “dried up,” that is, not milked during its gestation period. She was put into the dry cow lot and was about a month away from giving birth.
“I noticed a couple days later she wasn’t coming up with the rest of the herd, was missing,” Dale said.

“I went down there and found her dead; its whole rear end was eaten out. We had no way to prove that the wolves did that… (The injuries) weren’t caught soon enough; the ravens were on it, and the maggots were just ferocious, taking a toll on it. So we buried it, and after we buried it, then the steer got it.

“I just know it was a wolf that took her (cow) down,” Dale added. “We’ve been seeing other wolf tracks around, but they’re not easy to catch.”

After notifying the Department of Natural Resources, the Pedersons received a permit to shoot up to five wolves if caught attacking livestock on their land. Any wolf shot would have to be turned over to the DNR.

Also, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services trapper set traps on the farm property. As of Friday, Sept. 6, he had trapped nine wolves and buried them as required by law, the Pedersons said. On Friday, the trapper pulled his traps.

The Pedersons have applied for compensation for their lost livestock under the state’s wildlife damage program. Dale Pederson said the lost steer would have brought $1.12 per pound when marketed at 775 pounds. The dead registered cow and its unborn calf were valued at $2,050.

The Pedersons have operated a dairy farm for more than 60 years in the town of Spider Lake not far from the Birkie Trail. They say they haven’t verified wolf depredation on their livestock prior to this year.

“We never had this happen in the past,” Dale said. “We’ve had some (cattle) come up missing, but we thought they just went off and died someplace, but you don’t know, because there’s no evidence.”
The USDA trapper looked at the mauled steer and “ruled out a bear, because a bear would have ripped the rib cage open and clawed it, and they ruled out a mountain lion (cougar) because it would have went for the neck,” Dale said.

“The claw marks were a lot smaller than a bear’s,” Vivian said.

Ted said, “We see wolf tracks regularly. Whenever we’ve seen wolves, it’s just been one or two, not a pack. Whether there’s more, I don’t know.”

“We don’t want to lose any more animals,” Vivian Pederson said.

A check by the Record of area farmers indicates they haven’t experienced wolf depredations recently. Some farmers have taken measures to prevent wolves from attacking their livestock, such as increased fencing, keeping animals close to barns and keeping a “guard donkey” in the pasture with their livestock.

Tweed Shuman, co-owner of SMBA Stock Farm a short distance northwest of Hayward, said, “We have seen them (wolves) encroaching on our fields, but have never confirmed a kill by wolves” of their registered Red Angus cattle. “We have seen them around our cattle, but we ran them off,” Shuman added.

Also, “We have had to move our cattle, bring them closer to the buildings because we’re afraid of depredation,” he added. “It’s always a concern with us,” said Shuman, who is a board member of the Northern Wisconsin Beef Producers Association.

Jim Henchel, who has sheep and goats on his property on Twin Lake Road east of Round Lake, said Sept. 5 that “wolves are not a problem right now” and he is “not missing any” of his livestock. They are kept close to buildings and are protected by a high fence, he said.

Wolves “move around,” Henchel said. “The coyotes come here and so the wolves are gone. Coyotes and wolves don’t mix.” But “they will be back.” There are “a lot of deer out there,” he added.

Another landowner on Twin Lake Road, Dennis Meyer, said he’s seen wolves on his trail cameras when he was bear baiting on property he owns with Claudia Burgan.

“Years ago we had a male wolf that spooked our daughter’s horse when she was riding it. The horse bucked her off and took off running back to the barn,” Meyer said. “But (wolves) haven’t attacked any of our livestock.

“There’s plenty of coyotes out there, that’s for sure,” Meyer added. He has drawn a permit for the state wolf season, which begins Oct. 15.

Ed Metcalf, who has cattle, a couple of sheep and horses on his property on Moose Lake Road east of Highway A, said he hasn’t had wolf problems for several years. Wolves have moved out of the area and have a different den site, he said.

Metcalf said he installed a four-foot-high woven wire fence around his property 10 to 12 years ago to keep wolves out and hasn’t had problems with wolves since then.

At North Star Homestead Farm on Fullington Road, off the Moose Lake Road, livestock manager Kara Berlage said they have never had depredation from wolves since they moved onto the farm in the year 2000.

“But we do a lot to prevent that,” she said. The farm has mostly sheep, and also hogs and poultry. The area has a “lot of wolves” passing through and tracks have been seen as close as their barnyard.
Seven years ago, the Berlages purchased a full-sized guard donkey named “Belle” from a local woman and put the donkey with their flock of sheep in the fields.

Belle, who now is 13 years old, “is in great condition and has made a big difference,” Kara said. Deer hunters in the area have seen wolf tracks come up to the edge of the North Star property, then split up and go around it (to avoid the donkey), she indicated.

Donkeys “instinctively hate canines,” but “seem to understand the difference between a farm dog and a predator,” Kara added.

The sheep are brought from their pasture into barns each night for protection, Kara said.

An isolated case

A forest wildlife specialist and former wolf biologist for the Department of Natural Resources, Adrian Wydeven, told the Record this week that he no longer heads up this program, “but from my casual view, it looks like the Pederson farm is the main farm in this area with wolf depredations this summer.”

DNR records indicate that there are several depredation reports from Sawyer County so far this year: a steer attacked by a coyote in January; 30 beef calves threatened by wolves in April; a “verified health and safety concern and threat to livestock” in April; and an unconfirmed complaint regarding a beef calf in May.

Wydeven said that typically, abatement includes cleaning up of carcasses, more carefully monitoring livestock and opening land for wolf hunting and-or trapping.

The Pedersons said they are required to allow wolf hunters and trappers on their land when the state season starts on Oct. 15. Hunters and trappers who draw a permit can kill a wolf until the state quota for a particular geographic zone is reached.

A brochure titled “Wolves in Farm Country” is published by the Wisconsin DNR, USDA Wildlife Services and the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association. It indicates that wolf depredations are “relatively frequent, but have increased as the wolf population has grown.” Depredations can “cause significant economic loss, as well as handling problems, stress-related injury and disease and increased time spent monitoring cattle.”

Predators also include black bears, coyotes and free-ranging dogs, the pamphlet adds. “It is very important to have depredations investigated by a qualified specialist.”
The Wisconsin annual wolf damage to livestock payment summary shows that $139,174 has been paid to owners so far in 2013, and $213,794 was paid in 2012.