Imported guard dogs deployed as part of US wolf-sheep
BOISE, Idaho - AP
A Turkish Kangal dog is seen at the Hutterite Rockport Colony near Pendroy, Mont.
Nearly 120 dogs from three large breeds perfected over centuries in Europe and Asia to be gentle around sheep and children but vicious when confronting wolves recently underwent a study to see how they'd react to their old nemesis on a new continent.
The dogs were gathered as puppies in Portugal, Bulgaria and Turkey and sent to the American West, where they spent four years guarding sheep, ABC news has reported.
"When we were first looking at doing this, a lot of people wanted to know: What dog do I use in dealing with wolves and grizzly bears?" said Julie Young, a Utah-based research biologist with the U.S. Agriculture Department's National Wildlife Research Center.
The department looked to areas where dog breeds developed to guard sheep against wolves and brown bears. Then scientists supplied Cao de Gado Transmontanos, a large though lean and agile dog developed in a mountainous region of Portugal; Karakachans, developed by nomadic sheepherders in a mountainous area of Bulgaria; and Kangals, another powerful breed with an instinct for guarding, this one originating in Turkey.
Dogs from all three breeds can weigh up to 64 kilograms, about the size of a wolf. The dogs were sent to guard 65 herds in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon.
Scientists are still analyzing information from notes, remote cameras and GPS collars, Young said, with four or five scientific papers expected in the next year. But overall, she said, the dogs did well keeping away wolves and better than traditional guard dogs at deterring coyotes.
For decades, most U.S. sheep producers have used large white dogs such as Great Pyrenees, Akbash or Maremma Sheepdogs. Light brown Anatolian Shepherds are also used.
But the reintroduction of wolves in the American West in the 1990s has led to questions about whether those breeds are up to the task. Since wolves returned to Idaho in 1995, the Agriculture Department's Wildlife Services says, wolves have killed 50 guard dogs through the end of last year and injured nearly 40 others in the state. Federal officials in 2017 killed 56 wolves in Idaho due to attacks on livestock.