U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tests using drones to scare wolves away from cattle

Wolves have been a thorn in the side of cattle producers for years. As drones find more use in agriculture, wildlife officials in Oregon are putting the technology to good use.

The problem has been so bad in the Beaver State, last year USDA authorized $100,000 for fencing and surveillance technology. Officials now are testing the use of drones to scare wolves away from grazing cattle.

Paul Wolf with USDA’s Wildlife Service says he was not sure what to expect at first, and the tactic ended up taking an unexpected turn.

“Low and behold, the first wolf that we encountered, the pilot flew the drone over to the wolf and the wolf started to play bow and want to jump at the drone and play with it. Right away, the pilot, he calls me and says, “Hey Paul, this is not going to work. This gave us the opportunity to realize that it doesn’t work. We put the speaker on it, and flew that drone back over to that same animal and, of course, it was ready and waiting and wanted to play. And the minute the pilot spoke across the loudspeakers and said, hey wolf get out of here,” that animal turned and ran. He’s like, “I think we got something.”

Officials say while scaring the wolves away is a great first step, drones have a lot to offer especially when it comes to tracking and alerting producers of approaching danger.

“They would be able to see, okay we got a heat signature coming out of the pasture to investigate the cattle. And then the drone would drop down and get a better view and, sometimes it’s a bear, sometimes it’s a cougar, sometimes it’s a wolf, you know. And so, the team right now is like, I can’t operate without having a drone, you know! It would be fantastic to have a drone being able to detect a wolf and go, hey that’s a wolf, and then notify the rancher so he can go out and check on his animals or, you know, interrupt it. And so, it’s neat for where we are right now and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Wolf calls the use of drones a win-win for both man and animal.