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HORSE PACKING AND PREDATORS

Meeting game animal on the trail You might meet a moose or a “big bear” that won’t get off the trail. Moose will occasionally run through a pack string. I have a friend who had a moose run through his experienced pack string and one of his pack animals panicked and it jumped off a cliff trail. Unfortunately the horse didn’t survive the fall.

Bees and Horses There is very little possibility of going near a bee hive on a well used trail. The danger of encountering bee hives is when you go cross country. When you are marking a trail to pack out an elk be very observant of bees in the area and the possibility of bee hives. While packing, if you ever encounter bees hives the only solution is to try and keep the pack string going quickly forward until you are out of the area. Expect to have broken break away strings and packs that need to be reloaded.

Bears on the Trail Most bears that hear you coming will quickly get off the trail. A friend told me he met a huge bear on the trail that wouldn’t leave. The bear probably around 7'. The bear stood his ground making pawing and waving motions toward the outfitter. The outfitter did not have a weapon and had to turn his pack string around and go on another longer trail to his camp. I always have a pistol or rifle when I’m in the back country. to protect my horses from predators.

Camping in Grizzly Country Clients of an Outfitter I know couldn’t sleep at night hearing the grizzlies outside their tent. The Outfitter's solution, set up an electric fence, powered by solar energy, around the perimeter of his camp. Thereafter, the grizzlies got shocked and didn’t enter the camp and the clients slept much better.

Wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming Wolves were released in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in 1996. The wolf population hasexploded. In 2002, as reported in a major Idaho newspaper, a hunter had three horses tied to his horse trailer at the trail head and wolves attacked the horses. One horse broke her back rearing to get away and the other 2 horses broke their lead ropes to escape. Both horses were never found and were probably eaten by wolves.

In 2003, and many times thereafter, I was bugling elk in the Wilderness and had wolves “howl” back at my bugle for the first seven days. An outfitter’s pack string was surrounded at night on the trail, near my camp, while making night pack trip. A friend of mine hunting alone in the Wilderness, 4 miles from my camp, had his camp surrounded by wolves at night. The wolves were howling and after his horses and mules. The horses were properly high lined and did not get loose. My friend returned to the trail head the next day to set up camp so his animals would be safer.

Fortunately, there were no horses or mules injured or killed from the wolf encounters, which happened in a 5-6 square mile area. I no longer ride my horses to my hunting areas and high line them. To me, putting my horses alone on a high line in the Wilderness would be inviting a wolf attack. I also have reservations about leaving my horses at my wilderness camp for fear of a wolf attack. If wolves ever get close to my horses – I know the wolves are there for only one reason, to eat my horses. And, I would kill every wolf I could for only one reason – to protect my horses. It should be noted that the USFWS will not reimburse for horses killed by wolves. My approach to predators, any predator that gets near my horses is short for this world, regardless of any regulation.

Wolves and Bells In Canada and Alaska where there is a high density of wolves some outfitters will put a cow bell on a horse's halter when leaving horses at camp by themselves. The sound of metal on metal helps keep the wolves from attacking the unattended horses. I don't know how effective the use of bells on horses is, but I now use bells because of the high density of wolves in Idaho.

Black Bears are the most common predators that spook horses. One time I was walking back to camp on a trail when I suddenly saw the butt of a bear in front of me on the trail. I was about 200 yards from camp and the bear was heading toward my camp. I got off a quick shot and started running up the trail. I got to the point where the bear had run into the brush. There was no sign of blood. And then I heard some loud heavy breathing that sounded way too close. Fortunately, this close encounter turned out ok.

Another time, I was returning to camp with 6 point antlers on my shoulders and my rifle slung across my shoulders when I saw a bear next to my tent. Antlers flew quickly and another quick shot, this time, no heavy breathing. Bears can spook horses just by their smell. And anytime you see a bear near a tent he is about to slice and dice your tent to make a new door.

Flashlights, Guns and Predators Always take a very good, powerful flashlight on pack trips. I prefer a 2 or 3 battery D cell Mag light which I can narrow the beam. Occasionally, you will have mountain lions, bears of wolves near camp at night. Your horses are like watch dogs and will alert you when a predator is near. Shine the light in all directions around your camp when you think a predator is nearby.

Predators don’t like the light and are night blinded if you are fortunate enough to shine the flashlight in their eyes. If the flashlight doesn’t scare the predators away the only other solution is to fire a shot in the air to scare the predators away.

One time my horses started acting very nervous and I was awakened about 3am at my trail head camp. I had the horses in an electric fence corral and by the time I got out of the tent the horses broke through the fence. Outfitter horses in the electric corral nearby were also spooked and several went though that electric fence. I found my horses 4 miles from camp at daylight. The outfitter thought the problem was a mountain lion since his horses regularly pack out bears. I had camped at the trail head for 10 years using an electric fence without problems. Now at the trail head I keep all my horse high lined at night in case I have more problems at night. In the Wilderness area I also keep all my horses high lined at night in case wolves come near camp because wolves will chase them down at night if the horses get loose.



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