Identifying Predator Attacks
March 31, 2005
By Ron Daines
March/April 2005 -- Predation investigators rely on Western livestock producers to identify predatory animals. Many producers do an excellent job of documenting livestock death scenes, but that's not always the case.
"What we often get is a patch of wool, a blood spot and a pile of crap," said Kraig Glazier, district supervisor for the Montana Wildlife Services.
Glazier, who has 10 years experience investigating predation from wolves, coyotes, mountain lions and bears, urged producers who suspect a kill to protect the evidence. For example, cover tracks with a coffee can or cover the carcass with a tarp.
He described some tell-tale predator signs:
- Wolves. Everything about wolves is big, he said, noting that in one wolf's belly he found calf, elk and antelope hair as well as an entire tongue. Wolf tracks are longer than they are wide, compared with a dog's tracks, which are more square. A wolf's skull is about as big as a black bear's and its canine spacing is about two inches. The wolf, which has massive crushing power, typically attacks the rear, eating about 20 pounds in one sitting. In Montana, he said, 41 wolves were removed last year.
- Coyotes. "If you haven't had coyote problems, you probably haven't been in this business very long," said Glazier. Canine spacing for coyotes is between 1-1/8 and 1-1/4 inches, and their attack point is typically on the throat.
- Mountain lions. These animals now roam throughout the West. Their tracks show no toenails and the hind pad has lobes. Mountain lion canine spacing is 1-3/4 inches and the bite location is usually at the back of the neck. Lions are neat feeders that like to cache their kills.
- Bears. Black bears have big ears, slender snouts and no hump. Grizzlies have smaller ears, a disk face and a hump. Canine spacing is around two inches for black bears and 2-1/4 to 2-3/4 for grizzlies. Bear attacks can occur all over the body. Grizzlies tend to crush skulls, and they love to eat the sternum and udder.