Monday, July 12, 2010
Transferring Old World traditions
As some of you will recall, husband Jim and I just had a paper published in the Sheep & Goat Research Journal in which we summarized the problems western livestock producers are having in dealing with expanding and increasing populations of large carnivores, including grizzly bears and gray wolves in our area. The livestock protection dogs (LPDs) we’ve been using have worked wonderfully against smaller and medium-sized predators, especially coyotes, but when it comes to larger carnivores, our dogs have been taking a beating – too many of our dogs have been killed while guarding their herds. That prompted Jim and I to go back through the published literature and take a fresh look at those regions of the world that have all of the following components: bears, wolves, domestic sheep, and livestock guardian dogs. We found that there are LPD breeds more suited to facing wolves than most LPDs used in the Northern Rockies today.
I’m thrilled to be able to report that the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board has decided to support our research project on what makes Old World livestock protection dog/ agricultural systems sustainable in large carnivore country. With funding from the ADMB and sponsorship from the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, Jim and I will travel to Europe and Central Asia in October to interview livestock producers who use livestock protection dogs in areas of dense wolf and bear populations to learn what they are doing there that might be of assistance to producers in similar situations here in Wyoming. This knowledge transfer will be the beginning of our work, with the eventual goal of establishing a program to distribute LPDs more suited to facing wolves onto western ranches, directly from working lineages in their countries of origin. We’ll also meet with non-government organization representatives, government officials, and dog breeders in those countries who sell into the countryside.
Our short list of breeds includes Transmontano Mastiff of Portugal, Central Asian Ovcharka, Karakachan of Bulgaria, Shars of Macedonia, and Turkish Kangal. At this point, our travel plans call for us to visit Portugal, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, and Turkey. We would welcome the opportunity to see other LPDs not on our short list while we are in those countries, so we aren’t limited to just the breeds listed (for instance, we want to see Romania’s Bokuvina, Carpathian & Mioritic shepherds, and the Kars dogs in Turkey. Our general criteria is the breed must be canine aggressive, but not human aggressive, and must originate from areas of large carnivore occupancy.
We will need to hire English-speaking guides/interpreters everywhere we travel, and would prefer to hire local people who can drive us into areas where we can see LPDs at work with sheep or cattle, and interview their owners. Of course, we are not opposed to hiring professionals either, but we would like to help rural economies if possible.
In addition to seeing the dogs at work, we need to learn about the traditions and animal husbandry practices used in these regions, and of course we want to learn all the specifics about those spiked anti-wolf collars used in certain regions, as well as bring some of those collars home with us.
I don’t want to take up too much space on the blog, but wanted everyone to know what we are planning. If there is something you think we should try find out about in terms of LPDs in these regions, hit us up about it. Right now our questionnaire hits on about 30 topics, so it is fairly comprehensive. We have an intensive information dissemination campaign planned upon our return, and I’ll be blogging and posting photos while we travel. We feel so fortunate to be given the opportunity to do this research.
We are excited about the possibilities for this project to be beneficial to livestock producers in the United States who are continuing to struggle with wolf and bear issues in their livestock operations. We sincerely welcome input, contact suggestions, and advice from those interested in assisting our efforts. Comment here, or private emails to catu2 at macdotcom.