I had plenty of material to mull on during my two-hour drive home. The intersection between domestic and wild lives isn’t always harmonious. In the years that I’ve been ranching, I’ve seen depredations by wolves, bears and coyotes. Raising domestic livestock has given me a picture of what happens in the wild. I don’t want to see the picked-clean, nose-less skull of a calf still wedged in a cow’s birth canal, her vulva eaten away as she struggled to give birth. Yet I can image a cow elk or moose in the same situation. I haven’t had to shoot a domestic cow in this condition yet, but my husband has. I can only assume the end result for a wild animal mother is far less humane.
It’s easy to valorize nature as the efficient machine that only takes what she needs to survive. But nature is not merciful. In addition to killing for survival, nature kills without conscience or remorse. Nature tortures, maims, and leaves the wounded. When we choose to ranch on a wild landscape, that’s part of the risk we take. While we plan for a certain percentage of death loss to predators, it doesn’t make it easier to find the aftermath of an attack.