LISTEN TO THE AUDIO VERSION
By Anica Padilla
WALDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – A rancher in Jackson County who lost two cows in two days to wolf attacks is trying some temporary electric fencing to deter the pack from killing more of his cattle. But he says the fencing is expensive, blows down in the wind, and might not scare the wolves at all.
Gittleson Ranch game camera, Jan. 2022 (credit: Don Gittleson via Steamboat Radio News)
Don Gittleson raises cattle on a wide expanse of land close to the Colorado-Wyoming state line. On Jan. 18, Gittleson found a cow, still alive but bleeding badly after a wolf attack. He said he was forced to put it down. The very next day, he found another cow had been killed and partially eaten. Wildlife officials confirmed both were cases of wolf depredation.
Gittleson believes there are eight wolves in the pack in his area.
Gray wolves are protected in Colorado, meaning ranchers can only use non-lethal hazing techniques to deter attacks.
For Gittleson, that involved installing a poly wire electric fence around about 50 acres of his property.
About a dozen local ranchers and officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture helped him out, and he said it took them about six hours to set up about two miles of fencing. Also, he said the fencing is expensive — $4-5,000 per mile. The Defenders of Wildlife donated about one mile of the fencing, he said.
Unfortunately, sections of it blew down in the wind the next day.
“Between labor and cost and fact that it does not handle wind… if the fence is gonna blow onto the ground every time the wind blows, it’s very labor intensive,” Gittleson told CBS4.
The electric fencing has long, red ribbons space closely along it, that blow in the wind and are intended to scare the wolves. Gittleson isn’t confident it will be effective, noting his border collie and Jack Russell terrier aren’t bothered by it.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s not really scaring anything,” he said. “This is probably a very temporary thing.”
Protecting his dogs is another concern for Gittleson. Wolves killed one of his neighbor’s dogs and an injured another earlier this month.
“I don’t dare let the dogs out of my sight,” he said. “They can’t be out at night at all because the wolves actually come around the houses, they’re not afraid to come around the house.”
Gittleson said he expects deadly encounters between wolves and dogs to become more common in the future as packs expand in Colorado. He warned that anyone taking their dog into the backcountry should be aware of the danger.
“What you’re gonna see in the future, there are way more people in Colorado who enjoy the outdoors, people from the city like to go the backcountry with their pets, the wolves look at that as competition in their home — they kill coyotes too — the consider a dog a rival for their home range.”