The good news: in Europe, once-declining gray wolf populations are rebounding, thanks in part to protection laws in many countries. Unfortunately, some wolves are celebrating their recovery by indulging in mutton—sheep attacks are on the rise. How can we keep the sheep safe without killing the wolves? Just wire up the flocks to let them call for help—literally.
Swiss biologists are developing a sheep collar that will sense when a wolf is on the prowl and send a warning text message to the shepherd’s phone. To test their idea, the scientists put heart monitors on 12 sheep collars and then placed the flock in a pen with two muzzled wolfdogs. While the dogs walked around the pen, the sheep’s heart rates held steady between 60 and 80 beats per minute. But when the dogs lunged to “attack,” the woolly animals freaked out, and their hearts rates shot up to 225 beats per minute. The proposed collar would sense this spike and automatically send a wolf-alert message to the shepherd’s cell phone. At the same time, it could repel the wolf, at least temporarily, by emitting a sound or spray.
No word yet on whether this technique will still work if the wolf goes on the prowl in sheep’s clothing…
[via Wired Science]
Image courtesy of Retron / Wikimedia Commons