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Colorado Rancher Gets Help Installing Electric Fence To Protect Cattle From Wolves

WALDEN, Colo. (CBS4) - A rancher in Jackson County who lost two cows in two days to wolf attacks is trying some temporary electric fencing to deter the pack from killing more of his cattle. But he says the fencing is expensive, blows down in the wind, and might not scare the wolves at all.

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Gittleson Ranch game camera, Jan. 2022 (credit: Don Gittleson via Steamboat Radio News)

Don Gittleson raises cattle on a wide expanse of land close to the Colorado-Wyoming state line. On Jan. 18, Gittleson found a cow, still alive but bleeding badly after a wolf attack. He said he was forced to put it down. The very next day, he found another cow had been killed and partially eaten. Wildlife officials confirmed both were cases of wolf depredation.

Wolves Gittleson Ranch camera
(credit: Don Gittleson)

Gittleson believes there are eight wolves in the pack in his area.

Gray wolves are protected in Colorado, meaning ranchers can only use non-lethal hazing techniques to deter attacks.

(credit: CBS)

For Gittleson, that involved installing a poly wire electric fence around about 50 acres of his property.

fencing to protect cattle from wolves credit don gittleson 3
(credit: Don Gittleson)

About a dozen local ranchers and officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture helped him out, and he said it took them about six hours to set up about two miles of fencing. Also, he said the fencing is expensive -- $4-5,000 per mile. The Defenders of Wildlife donated about one mile of the fencing, he said.

Unfortunately, sections of it blew down in the wind the next day.

"Between labor and cost and fact that it does not handle wind... if the fence is gonna blow onto the ground every time the wind blows, it's very labor intensive," Gittleson told CBS4.

Wolves in North Park near Walden Colorado
WALDEN, COLORADO - JANUARY 25: Don Gittleston gives one of his heifers medication for an abscess on its side on January 25, 2022 near Walden, Colorado. Gittleston, who has lost three cows to wolves, said he is concerned for the heifer because he worries if it is sick or injured it maybe an easy target for wolves that hvemoved into the area. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The electric fencing has long, red ribbons space closely along it, that blow in the wind and are intended to scare the wolves. Gittleson isn't confident it will be effective, noting his border collie and Jack Russell terrier aren't bothered by it.

"From what I've seen, it's not really scaring anything," he said. "This is probably a very temporary thing."

Protecting his dogs is another concern for Gittleson. Wolves killed one of his neighbor's dogs and an injured another earlier this month.

Wolves in North Park near Walden Colorado
WALDEN, COLORADO - JANUARY 24: Carlos Atencio pets one of his ranch work dogs in the back of his truck on January 24, 2022 in Walden, Colorado. Atencio"u2019s dog, Izzy, is recovering after she was attacked by a wolf earlier in January. The rancher had another of his work dogs killed by a wolf he said. Wildlife officials used GPS tracking on a wolf to confirm the wolf attack said Atencio. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

RELATED: Wolf Kills One Dog, Injures Another In Jackson County

"I don't dare let the dogs out of my sight," he said. "They can't be out at night at all because the wolves actually come around the houses, they're not afraid to come around the house."

Gittleson said he expects deadly encounters between wolves and dogs to become more common in the future as packs expand in Colorado. He warned that anyone taking their dog into the backcountry should be aware of the danger.

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Gittleson Ranch game camera, Jan. 2022 (credit: Don Gittleson via Steamboat Radio News)

"What you're gonna see in the future, there are way more people in Colorado who enjoy the outdoors, people from the city like to go the backcountry with their pets, the wolves look at that as competition in their home -- they kill coyotes too -- the consider a dog a rival for their home range."

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