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Friday, December 02, 2022

Mysterious CATTLE DEATHS in Northwest Colorado Leaves Officials Baffled

During the past few months, dozens of cattle have been found dead without any signs of wolf attacks. There has been no confirmation of a disease so far. Colorado officials are perplexed at this point.

Over a dozen cattle in Colorado have been slaughtered over the past two months by an elusive predator that has left no tracks.

In October, 18 dead cows were found just outside the town of Meeker. Some looked as though they were killed by wolves, but officials with Colorado Parks and Wildlife found no wolf tracks or evidence of the predator in the area.

In the two months that local wildlife experts have searched for a culprit, at least 40 calves have died.

The rancher who lost those calves, Jerry Klinglesmith, wrote in 'The Fence Post' that what he thinks may have happened.

“The most likely scenario would be the following: An apparent canine attack may have triggered the onset of a still-inconclusive cause of death,” Klinglesmith wrote.

Klinglesmith, along with veterinaries, officials with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and other experts, continue to investigate the cause of the deaths. While the case largely remains a mystery, a new theory, unrelated to wolves, has emerged.

Both Klinglesmith and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northwest Region Manager Travis Black say the cows may have also been infected with black leg, a disease caused by the Clostridium bacteria, The Coloradoan reported.

Pathology results have not yet confirmed whether that was the cause of death.

In the two months that local wildlife experts have searched for a culprit, at least 40 calves have died.

After mentioning the possibility of it being caused by the disease during a Nov. 17 state Wildlife Commission meeting, Black said a “handful” of calves sustained injuries consistent with a wolf attack. Some had missing tails and marks consistent with canine teeth.

While cows can develop a variety of diseases, it remains unclear whether Klinglesmith’s cattle had been suffering any health issues. Being attacked by dogs or wolves would have exacerbated any health issues within the herd, according to Black.

Officials have utilized aerial flights, howling surveys, and game cameras to look for wolves and wolf tracks to no avail. There has been no confirmed wolf reports in the area, only unconfirmed sightings, leaving officials confused and desperate for an answer.

“We have zero evidence of wolves being in the area, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there,” Black said. “Right now, we don’t have a solid answer as to what happened.”



CPW finds no evidence of wolves near Meeker, where 40 cattle have been found dead inexplicably

Nov 27, 2022 - Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have little explanation for why as many as 40 cattle near Meeker have shown up dead in recent months in a situation described as “perplexing” to the agency’s governing board this month.

While wolves were an early target for blame, CPW’s Northwest Regional Director Travis Black said just “a handful,” of the dead cattle have any signs that could be consistent with a wolf attack, there was no sign of feeding and they haven’t found any evidence of wolves in the area.

“It’s perplexing; it’s confusing; it’s frustrating, trying to figure out exactly what occurred in this incident,” Black told the CPW Commission on Nov. 17. “We have no evidence of wolves in that area. That doesn’t mean they are not there.”

“We’re going to continue to work with the livestock producer to investigate this,” he continued. “In time, we may find other evidence to help support one way or another.”

The livestock deaths come as CPW has been working to craft a plan to reintroduce wolves in Colorado by the end of next year after voters narrowly approved bringing the killed-off carnivore back to the state in 2020. That plan will be presented to the CPW Commission on Dec. 9.

Initial reports from early October blamed wolves for the death of 18 calves on White River National Forest land where cattle were grazing, which, if confirmed, would have meant there was another wolf pack making a return to Colorado ahead of schedule.

But Black said trail cameras, howling surveys, and aerial flights haven’t located any trace of wolves — “We have no tracks.”

Rancher Lenny Klinglesmith told The Fence Post in October that all 18 of those calves had “trauma indicative of a wolf pack killing,” but Black said the investigation has only found “injuries, some contusions, some hemorrhaging that were somewhat consistent with wolf depredation,” on as many as five calves.

As more cattle were gathered from the range, Black said more were found dead, though few of the 40 showed signs of wolf killing and there was no sign of wolves feeding on any of the dead animals.

Black said they consulted with a veterinarian to see if there was a health component causing the deaths such as Clostridium bacteria, which he said can be exacerbated by the presence of wolves. But reviews by Colorado State University and Texas A&M University didn’t turn up much evidence for that either.

“We’re scratching our heads,” Black said.

This case differs from the wolf pack in North Park near Walden because that case had evidence of feeding, making it easy to jump to conclusions, Black said. That pack killed several cattle and attacked two dogs last winter, though CPW suspects three of those wolves were killed legally in Wyoming since.

“What we’re lacking (in the Meeker case), in my opinion, is that typical feeding behavior that we would see… typically wolves would come back and feed on a carcass,” Black said.

CPW hoped that more evidence of wolves near Meeker would have surfaced during hunting season, as there are more folks out in the woods, but that hasn’t been the case. There have been a handful of livestock predation reports in the area, but none of them appear to be wolves, Black said.

Black said they would continue to investigate, and admitted it can take time to find evidence of wolves.

“We’re trying not to jump to conclusions here,” Black said.

Several speakers in public comment pointed toward the Meeker case as to why any livestock reimbursement program established when wolves are officially reintroduced in Colorado needs to be broad, and account for cattle indirectly killed by wolves.

Reid DeWalt, CPW’s assistant director of aquatic, terrestrial, and natural resources, said issues like livestock compensation are addressed in the plan, which will be presented to the CPW Commission in a webinar on Dec. 9 at 8:30 a.m. That webinar will be live-streamed on YouTube, and the plan will be available to the public for comment.

As for North Park, DeWalt said CPW continues to see wolves in the area, though there are a lot of indications that three wolves killed in Wyoming were members of that pack. The wolves killed legally were all a year and a half old, black females without a tracking collar, DeWalt said.


NOTE: I'm going to keep an eye on this mystery. Unexplained cattle mutilations are well-known to occur in southern Colorado, though there has been no nefarious activity detected in this case. Lon

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