Friday, November 26, 2010

Sheep hating wolves

My terrier Gordon loves to chase the critters in the back yard. Lizards - yum; frogs - yes, sir. Sometimes he even likes to munch on a toad. Every time he does he drops the little guy and he starts to salivate and foam at the mouth. This is the toads way of training dogs to keep back.

Natural aversion therapy.

Aversion therapy is often used with dogs to convince them not to do this or go there. Really, all your shock collar is is aversion therapy. Can scientists use aversion therapy to convince wolves not to eat sheep?

It is being tried on the reintroduced Mexican wolves of the Southwest.

Reintroducing critically endangered Mexican gray wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) to the U.S. Southwest has never been easy. It hasn't helped that livestock owners hate the wolves. Every month livestock deaths that might have been caused by a wolf must be thoroughly investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS). If any wolves are found to be a problem, they must be caught and returned to captivity. With only a few dozen of the predators left in the wild, every animal counts, and these removals hurt the long-range hopes for the species.

But now two psychologists have an idea to ease that human–wolf conflict: teach Mexican wolves that eating sheep will make them sick, so they stop predating on livestock.

Lowell Nicolaus, a biology professor emeritus at Northern Illinois University, and Dan Moriarty, a psychology professor with the University of San Diego, tried their idea in September 2009 with several captive Mexican gray wolves. According to a report published in the November 2010 issue of Monitor of Psychology, the researchers laced ground mutton with a nausea-inducing chemical called tiabendazole. The chemical has no taste or smell, so the wolves were not able to detect it. But after eating the contaminated meat, the sickened animals later refused to eat more sheep flesh.

Read more here.

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