USDA Wildlife Services in Idaho is asking ranchers to report all cattle deaths and leave the carcasses undisturbed in an effort to preserve evidence and help investigators confirm a wolf depredation.
Idaho State Director of USDA Wildlife Services Todd Grimm said last week during the Idaho Cattle Association's annual convention that ranchers who come across a dead cow with no outward signs of cause of death shouldn't assume the cause. The animal's death could have been caused by a wolf.
A wolf's teeth are blunt and not meant to rip, puncture or tear; they're meant to crush muscle. Because of their thick hides, a significant majority of adult cattle killed by wolves show no outward sign, Grimm said.
Wildlife services has confirmed 750 wolf depredations in cattle in the past 22 years, affecting 400 producers in 32 counties in Idaho. But Grimm said the science indicates for every wolf killing confirmed, there are probably six or seven more.
The agency has confirmed 70 wolf depredations of cattle in the region this year, compared to 32 in 2016, the Capital Press reported . The increase is not just from more wolf activity, but also from the agency paying more attention and ranchers calling the agency to look at every carcass, Grimm said.
The agency has found many of those mysterious deaths show signs of exertional myopathy, which could be caused by the stress of being chased by a wolf.
Increased depredations in chronic areas have led the agency to look at more animals it can confirm, and myopathy is playing a part, Grimm said.