Anatolian Shepherds, Ethanol Extraction, and Other News Items

The news items reported in this ongoing feature include the use of Anatolian shepherds to protect livestock from mountain lions and an improved ethanol extraction process.

| April/May 1994

The following news items originated from multiple sources. 

Anatolian Shepherds Save the Herd

For many years my family lived just outside Durango, Colorado, surely one of the most beautiful places in the United States to set up a household and raise children. Armed with years of experience tending a cattle farm, we became a ranching family and gambled on deriving all the household income from raising beef cattle.

I was on my way to the mailbox one winter morning a few years after we moved in, when I saw my first set of mountain lion tracks. I was thrilled, eager to catch sight of this "rare" and "shy" predator that I'd heard so much about from the news and public television. How naive I was. Just a few weeks after seeing those tracks in the snow, I lost my first head of cattle—its 2,000 lb of bone and muscle crisscrossed with the claw marks and jagged bite wounds of the mountain lion.

In the months that followed, we lost thousands of dollars in exotic livestock and on several occasions came very close to being attacked ourselves. The lions that hunted our property showed no fear of humans whatsoever. They walked up our driveway in broad daylight, attacked our animals and pets at random, and ignored our shouts, our sticks, and our dogs as we futilely tried to drive them away. Late one fall afternoon, a house guest of ours pulled into our driveway only to have a lion jump onto the car roof and paw at the windows.

We were not the only family experiencing problems. After getting a few neighbors together to discuss our cattle losses, I learned that my family was lucky. Our closest neighbor, who raises Red Angus cattle, was so plagued by lion kills that they were compelled to move their yearlings into an enclosed pen next to their house, and to illuminate the pen with floodlights all night long. Less than a week after using the pen, they awakened to find every one of the animals in the pen killed or badly maimed by lions. Last, an acquaintance who lived some miles away told of her husband being attacked as he bent down to open the water spigot in his field. It was difficult to imagine that this man posed a threat to, or cornered the lion in any way, while he was standing in the middle of his field.

I don't intend to wage war against the mountain lion. In their natural habitat, they are magnificent creatures. And their reasons for a newly expressed aggression against humans and cattle are clear; loss of natural territory to man, combined with protection from hunting, have made the once dwindling lion and cougar a more pronounced presence both in the wild as well as the `burbs. But we had to find a way to protect our property and children.

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