August 17, 2012 -
A new livestock application of biometrics promises a way to protect sheep from big bad wolves.
Swiss biologists have developed a biometric sheep collar that registers changes in the heart rate of sheep to indicate wolf attacks. The device will be ultimately be designed to alerts shepherds about attacks via smartphone text message and fend off wolf attacks by releasing a repellent.
The research team, which includes highly-regarded Swiss biologist Jean-Marc Landry, put high-tech collars, similar to those used by runners, on 12 sheep and then encircled them in an enclosure with muzzled Czechoslovakian wolf dogs. The wolf dogs circled the sheep before attempting to attack. Collar readings indicated a substantial rise in the sheep’s heart rate.
The team plans on testing a new version of the device this autumn. The next version of the collar will include a built-in wolf-repelling device, in the form of a non-lethal spray or a sound repellant, which will activate when a sheep’s heart rate reaches over 200 beats per minute. The regular heart rate for sheep is between 60 and 80 beats per minute.
Landry and other scientists have outlined both their invention and intentions in a research paper. The device is designed to protect livestock, thereby reducing the protection costs and providing producers with a more high tech means of protection than sheep dogs. The collar will ultimately be in use to protect sheep in France, Switzerland and Norway in 2013.