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Livestock cattle guard dog

I do not feel that the reader was properly informed by the (Oct. 15) guest column by Maximilian Werner.

He questions the leadership of Wildlife Services. Werner makes the case that the lethal removal of a pack of seven wolves near the Centennial Valley was not reasonable. He states this was done because the wolves killed a longtime sheep herder’s livestock guard dog and suggests the rancher did not take proper care of his dog. I disagree with his assessment of Wildlife Services and the situation. Unfortunately, Werner didn’t tell the whole story.

Between early June and mid August it was confirmed by two separate WS agents that this pack of seven wolves killed two guard dogs, five calves and one cow. They also injured a third guard dog that was taken to the vet, spent the remainder of the summer recuperating and may not be usable as a guard dog again. At this point WS lethally removed the whole pack.

Guard dogs are an effective means of non-lethal control of predators. The guard dogs live with the livestock and are often in a harmful situation. They are loyal to the cattle or sheep and not necessarily to people. This makes them much more effective in protecting the livestock since they are with the livestock day and night. The herder or rancher feeds the dogs and keep them among the livestock. This is not a case of poor animal husbandry. Wildlife Services properly and legally removed a pack of wolves that were too habituated to livestock and people.

I have worked with wildlife services on many occasions, participating in their non-lethal seminars, and have asked them to lethally remove wolves at times. They have always acted professionally when performing a difficult job. They often get scrutinized by the rancher and preservationist because of too little or too much lethal control.

Wildlife Services has always supported non-lethal measures such as range riders, guard dogs and carcass removal. The management of wolves is done by using all the tools in the toolbox. Some of those tools are various means of non-lethal control, hunting, trapping and sometimes the lethal removal by Wildlife Services. There is no lack of leadership; just a lack of facts.

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Dean Peterson is a fourth-generation rancher and lives in the Bighole Valley.

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