Born to be Wild: Predator

A 3 year-old post has resurfaced in the livestock guardian dog circles across the internet recently. Normally, this is something I don’t even notice, much less give a second thought to. Who cares if something that happened a few years ago is being brought up? It’s probably still relevant… right?

Not always. So you can read it for yourself, here is the original, unedited post:

April 8, 2016
And then there was 1. Sadly on the night of March 25th the female great pyr and 4 of her puppies were caught out in the open by evil. I do believe it was a wolf from the tracks. They were about a quarter mile from the house where thry had been hunting bunnies in some gated pipe.
I walked out the door Sat morning to be greeted by momma dog (shelly) who had obviously been in a terrible fight. She was muddy and bloody.
I called the vet and we got her in right away. Dr Dawson started an IV and wanted her to stabilize to do surgery later that day. She had a tear in her neck and muliple bite wounds on her back legs. One bite wound went through the upper leg in the back.
Dr Dawson did surgery and was saddened by the amount of damage to her neck and abdomen that was not immediately visible. This dog had not fought with a coyote or even another dog…. this was wolf damage. A lion would have done different damage as would a bear. These wounds were from her trying to save her pups.
She did not save 4. Two were found scattered across the meadow…one with no externsl marks probably shook by the wolf. The second had canine punctures through both chest walls. The other 2 I have not found yet.
One pup was home in the stackyard. Maybe she ran or was the only one Shelly was able to save? Maybe she didnt go on that excursion ghat night.
Shelly lived a week at the vet hospital and died of trauma. Her body was healing well from the wounds but too much serum and blood had been lost. The tissues were so bruised and damaged from the jaws of death.
I am saddened that these thugs(wolves) come on private property and cause death and destruction. I know that Shelly would not have died if it was not that she was trying to save her puppies.
I am saddened that canine behavior causes them to kill puppies. Thats why dogs are so protective of their pups.
I miss the pups snd so do all the people who were going to be pucking up their new dogs over the next week or so. I feel awful they were killed.
This is the reality of living with wolves. Its been a sad couple of weeks.

Short version: In Wyoming, a Great Pyrenees bitch had 6 pups, took them out to hunt bunnies 1/4 mile away from her humans/stock, got ambushed and only one pup survived. The mom and other 5 died either that day or later from their injuries. The owner thinks it was a wolf who is an evil thug trespassing on her private property. It’s all the wolf’s fault.

As you can see, this was an emotionally charged post. Totally understandable after finding that kind of scene and losing so much potential in a single blow. I have lost dogs,  and it is devastating; however, wild animals are not people.  Assigning anthropomorphic characteristics to animals can be amusing in other applications, but doing so to deflect human feelings of guilt is not responsible. Ultimate accountability for the untimely death of any domestic animal is solely on the owner of said animal. Wolves are neither good nor evil. Likewise, an animal cannot be a “thug” nor comprehend the concept of a human’s unscented private property.

So what are they, then?

Wolves are:
Opportunistic: op·por·tun·is·tic
exploiting chances offered by immediate circumstances without reference to a general plan or moral principle.

Wolves understand risk vs. reward and will not take an unfavorable risk unless desperate (starving, ill, or otherwise compromised).
-It is worth noting than a single adult dog and 6 pups is a relatively low risk, high reward situation- because any territory they might claim, along with the food and resources in it, would be easily overtaken when the single adult is too busy worrying about her pups, rather than herself. This was not a random act of violence/evil- it was strategic instinct with no moral component.

Territorial:  ter·ri·to·ri·al
relating to the ownership of an area of land or sea.
“territorial disputes”
(of an animal or species) defending a territory.

Wolves mark their territory boundaries with scent (rubbing and marking) and verbal communication (howling). (The same way LGDs communicate their territory – which is why they are so effective against canine predators. Same language.)
-Other canines who ignore the territorial boundaries (whether established or newly expanding) are driven out. Those who refuse to leave will be handled aggressively (like in this story).

These two primary factors dictate how wolves (and most predators, really) behave. They do not sneak up on a dog and kill it to inflict emotional pain on their owner. Wolves don’t kill sheep to cost us money or cause hardship to producers. There is no malice involved. Beyond inborn instincts, wolves are not motivated to do anything. They don’t behave or process like we do, and it is up to us to remember that they just simply aren’t people.

So how do we capitalize on the opportunistic and territorial traits of wild predators to mitigate losses? Next post coming soon – Born to be Wild: Solutions