Protect Your Livestock, Poultry, and Pets from Predators
A predator attack causes a range of emotions, from frustration to great anger. There can be real grief for animals’ lives that were your responsibility. There can be a threat to the economic security of your entire farm and all who live there. Most of all, there is an immediate need to protect your other animals and possibly your family.
Much of this stress can be reduced if you plan and practice good prevention techniques rather than just respond to situations as they occur. Lethal responses to predation are generally not effective unless they are highly selective and targeted. Lethal methods — shooting, hunting with dogs, trapping, snaring, aerial hunting, baited cyanide injectors, and livestock protection collars — are all regulated, restricted, or prohibited differently in states, provinces, and local areas. Check with your local department of natural resources and state agriculture authorities, as well as local government, to determine your specific situation.
Nonlethal approaches to predator control include secure fencing and housing, good husbandry and management, and disruptive and aversive stimuli.
The most successful and effective predator protection programs combine various techniques in a flexible plan suited to different times of year and grazing areas.
Choose the elements that best suit your predator threats, the changing predator pressures during the year, your location, your terrain, and your stock. Predators can become habituated to some techniques, necessitating moving or changing your methods.
Digging deeper into the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) predator data for cattle and sheep, we can learn a great deal about the current favored nonlethal control methods, where they are working, and what needs to be done. To date, sheep owners have developed and adopted most of the nonlethal control methods, and results are positive. More than half of sheep operations now use one or more non- lethal methods of predator control. The use of these methods has doubled since 2004, and both sheep and lamb predator loss is now less than in any study year in the past 20 years.
The specific strategies that have more than doubled in use include fencing, livestock guardian dogs (LGDs), donkeys, lamb shedding, active herding, night penning, fright tactics, bedding changes, and frequent checks. The use of guardian llamas has decreased. Owners of fewer than 25 sheep use fencing, LGDs, night penning, and lambing sheds in that order. Operations with more than 1,000 sheep, often on a range or in large grazing areas, use LGDs, more frequent checking, culling older animals, changing bedding, and fencing, in that order.
Nonlethal predator control methods on cattle operations have been far less utilized, although that practice is also increasing. In 2000, only 5.4 percent of cattle raisers used at least one method; by 2010, 12.4 percent had adopted some techniques. The use of guardian animals, fencing, and carcass removal nearly tripled. The most commonly used strategies included guardian animals, frequent checking, fencing, and culling.
Work remains to be done on increased and improved use of nonlethal techniques. To that goal, specialists from the USDA National Wildlife Research Center’s Predator Research Facility are engaged in long-term research projects to place, support, and evaluate the use of LGDs with sheep and cattle producers in the western states. In Texas, experts from Texas A&M University have also instituted an expanded research project center around the use of LGDs with goat producers. As with the USDA researchers, the goals are to place LGDs with ranchers who have not used them previously on their large pastures and to provide training and support for the users. Elsewhere research continues on other methods of nonlethal protection.
The following techniques not only protect your animals but also fit the guidelines of the Wildlife Friendly Network
•Time pasture use with periods of low predator pressure.
•Time calving and lambing to avoid periods of high predator pressure.
•Use secure birthing areas, such as fenced pastures or paddocks and birthing sheds.
•Use LGDs, guardian llamas, or donkeys with appropriate care and welfare.
•Fence night pens, feeding areas, and bee yards.
•Secure all grain or other nonforage feedstuff.
•Mix smaller and larger animals together.
•Implement electric fencing, fladry, and radio-activated guard boxes (RAG).
•Practice appropriate harassment techniques.
•Closely monitor stock, with herders, range riders, and other frequent human appearances.
•Carefully evaluate and respond to any depredations.
•Record conflicts or depredations.
•Limit the use of wildlife exclusion fencing except during times of vulnerability, high predation, or for small stock or poultry.
•Use lethal control only with prior authorization, except in the case of an active attack (but not in the case of scavenging by predators).
•Remember that hunting of predators or other recognized key species is prohibited.