Sheep need big open spaces to graze and raising sheep is a big business worldwide. The problem is that those big open spaces full of helpless sheep are an enticing meal for wolves. One of the biggest challenges facing sheep herders is predation from wolves.
In an effort to control predation, European scientists are developing a collar that sheep will wear to monitor their heart rate. If the heart rate speeds up for a prolonged period of time, that could mean a wolf attack. Should this occur, the collar will then send a text-message to the shepherd on duty.
Swiss shepards are among those Europeans who fear that an increasing wolf population will damage their herds. The Swiss have already experimented with the collar technology, which is similar to that used to monitor the pulse or blood pressure of elderly people living on their own.
Tests were conducted on sheep above Les Diablerets in the Bernese Alps last week. Ten sheep were equipped with a heart monitor and then the animals were approached by muzzled Czechoslovakian wolfdogs. Normally a sheep’s pulse is between 60 to 80 beats per minute. When scared by the wolfdogs, their heart rate jumped to 225 beats per minute. The text message was effectively sent when the elevated heart rate occurred.
“It’s the first time that such a system has been tried outdoors,” said wolf scientist Dr. Jean-Marc Landry, who developed the text-message-based warning system.
The collars are still being developed and may not see production until next year. Dr. Landry is considering a number of alternatives such as collars that release a wolf-repellent chemical spray or ones that make a noise to scare the wolves off.
Aside from their intended use to benefit shepherds, it’s possible that such an item could be used to help protect threatened game species in the United States from wolf predation. The Outdoor Hub staff has yet to learn of any investigations into such uses, however.