A perilous food source
Humans and wolves have a long, complicated history and, like other top predators, they often compete for resources. Wolves living within Yellowstone National Park hunt the abundant wild prey found there. But since wolves don't recognize park boundaries, they sometimes cross over into the Greater Yellowstone Area where they may encounter fat, slow, domestic livestock.
Animals such as sheep or cattle, left unguarded, are obviously much easier prey to kill than fleet, dangerous elk and bison. However, preying on livestock is actually one of the most dangerous things a wolf can do! While ranchers are reimbursed by the U.S. government for livestock losses, they don't take kindly to predation of their animals. Wolves that habitually prey on livestock don't survive very long. People are allowed to hunt and trap wolves outside the park. Once wolves leave the park, humans are the number one cause of death.
In WolfQuest, we wanted to recognize that wolves do sometimes prey on livestock and the wolf-human relationship can be competitive. So we included a cattle ranch side mission in single player mode. Because there are no actual ranches in the places where WolfQuest is set, the cattle ranch mission is a mythical place but accessed through the Slough Creek map. The gameplay is meant to be challenging and not very rewarding, in terms of food. It is difficult to creep around the ranch without alerting the rancher (and getting shot) and only the calves are prey. The cattle ranch side mission is meant to educate players that domestic livestock are not the easy meal they may appear to be and wolves that hunt on ranches often pay with their lives.
Humans vs. wolves
Competition for resources and fear cause many humans to dislike wolves and led to their extirpation from the Yellowstone ecosystem. Wolf reintroduction was and still is a hotly debated issue in the United States.
Wolves are protected within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. However, trapping and hunting wolves is legal outside of the park, according to ever-changing regulations that vary state by state. Currently, the gray wolf is not considered an endangered species in the United States.
Livestock depredation is a complex issue, often pitting ranchers, hunters, conservationists, nature lovers, and scientists against each other. Ranchers can get compensated for livestock losses but living with another apex predator is not easy.
Some ranchers are finding ways to co-exist with wolves by using non-lethal wolf management techniques such as guard dogs/people, hazing/scaring devices, fencing/pens including bio-fencing (wolf scat/urine to mark territory), and removal of attractants (ailing/dead livestock).
Not an easy meal
The cattle ranch is currently only available in WolfQuest 2.7. It is coming soon to WolfQuest: Anniversary Edition.
Cattle can only be found on the cattle ranch during the “night mission” in Slough Creek during which wolves might be shot by the rancher protecting the cattle.
The adult cattle in the ranch cannot be hunted or chased. Cattle will chase you from the fenced area of the ranch if you get too close.
Calves are vulnerable prey. But is it worth it?