Kent Laudon, a wolf biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, said there’s more information for the public regarding the story of a recent wolf attack on a Plumas County calf.
Of course, Laudon, who’s been working with ranchers to protect their livestock from the apex predators, lamented the unfortunate loss of a 200-pound calf near Taylorsville earlier this month. The calf survived a wolf attack after a nearby rancher heard the calf bawling and apparently chased three apex predators away with a spotlight mounted on his vehicle, but the rancher euthanized the calf days later due to concerns over its injuries.
Laudon said he’s been working with the rancher who lost the calf “since the wolves first descended into the winter range there in and around the Indian Valley area.”
The rancher and the department have been working on different strategies to deter the wolves from attacking the livestock, and those measures were apparently working until the rancher moved the cattle to another pasture due to standing water at the protected site.
“We set up these fox lights that flash in different patterns that are supposed to simulate a flashlight waving around,” Laudon said. “We weren’t sure if those were working or not because the wolves were still coming around their cattle.”
In January, Laudon said the wolves were around the cattle nine times (the female wolf in the Lassen Pack is fitted with a radio collar), but they’re still trying to figure out how effective the solar powered lights are.
At “dark 30,” Laudon said someone reported the lights were not operating, and the cows sometimes knock them off the T-posts.
“They’re an interesting thing for the cattle,” he said.
One night, when the cattle were in a different pasture, the wolves were among them all night long, but they did not attack the livestock.
“It makes us nervous, of course,” Laudon said. “So we set up fladry, red flags on a rope.”
Fladry was used in hunting wolves in Europe, and the hunters would chase the wolves down a funnel with fladry on both sides, much like herding cattle or horses into a corral.
“It’s (fladry) been adopted over here for corral and pasture situations,” Laudon said. “Something about the red flags flapping in the wind makes the wolves a little bit buggered. Why that is, nobody really knows.”
In Idaho, ranchers and researchers are putting fladry on hot wires to keep the wolves away.
“We put that stuff out, and I can’t really report cause and effect, before and after,” Laudon said. “They were in their cattle on a fairly regular basis before, and once we set the fladry up, not at all.”
All those efforts were for naught when the rancher moved the cattle to another pasture without notifying CDFW, Laudon said.
“They needed to move them at some point,” Laudon said, “and unfortunately, we didn’t know about that, and that’s when the depredation occurred.”
According to Laudon, a team is headed for the area and the rancher moved the cattle back into the fladry, but with wet weather he had to move them out again.
“I think we just have a little bit of time before the wolves move back up into the mountains to have pups,” Laudon said. “Right now is when wolves are starting to whelp all across the Western U.S. At that point, I suspect they’ll no longer be in the valley. It’s all the open range folks who will be living with them then, and we’ll shift to working with those folks.”
The breeding pair in the Lassen Pack had four pups last year, and the whereabouts of one of those pups is unknown, Laudon said. He also said he didn’t expect the three pups would be mature enough to breed this year.
Another adult wolf has been associated with the pack, but the wolves have not accepted it. Its whereabouts also is unknown.
Laudon said the CDFW is committed to working with ranchers who want to work with them.
“We’re interested in working with the folks who are interested in working with us, and we continue to do so,” Laudon said. “Of course, I’ll do whatever I can do to help people figure this thing out, and those people have been great to work with, too. My thing is, we have a situation here, so let’s work on this together.”