Predator management

We strongly believe to be able to run sheep or other livestock in regions where predators live, one needs to have a predator management strategy in place. Too often, one hears of sheep farmers quitting the sheep business due to the high losses from predators.

Hunting alone will not stop predation, and often by hunting can create larger problems. An integrated predator management approach works the best. Not one system keeps working due to habituation, by combining various methods, predation can be managed. We believe that every flock or herd needs a couple of good dogs as the first line of defense against predators!

Here are some other guidelines:

  • Know who you are dealing with. Ask the local Fish and Wildlife Officers which, and how many predators are found in your area.
  • Understand predator habitat. Cougars like high places like rocky outcrops and trees, wolves like forest and dense bush. Grazing goats next to dense bush could result in more losses. Some areas are not cougar habitat, so the chances of cougars predating on you stock will be low.
  • Learn about predators and their behavior; try to think what makes an area (or flock) more interesting to be hunted, than other areas or flocks. For example wolves prefer bigger flocks to hunt from, than smaller groups.
  • Fencing is always a good strategy. Good fences make good neighbors, keep wandering guardian dogs home and close to the stock, they deter other wildlife and keep your animals where you want them. Fences need to be well maintained to be effective
  • Electric fencing is another good alternative to use as temporary fences. The biggest problem is that it needs a good power source and it not easy to use in bush or rough areas.
  • Sound deterrents, this can be controversial as your neighbors may not appreciate the noise. Most animals habituate really quickly to regular sounds so this method is only good to use on some occasions and as a new surprise tactic on your part. A radio near the corral on a talk station will have an effect as long as it is not on all day and night.
  • Lights, a well-lit area will deter most predators.
  • Guardian animals such as dogs, donkeys and llamas add to the whole protective sphere.

Hunting, research shows that random hunting does not necessary solve the problem. By hunting an area out, new predators will move in to fill this gap in the territory. If you have non problematic predators and you shoot them new problem animals might move in. With cougars, a dominant cougar will keep other cougars out of its area, by killing the resident cougar 5 or 6 may move in to fill this void; dominance will still need to be established before one can claim the territory. From having only 1 big predator, you now have 5 or 6. Hunting out certain members of a wolf pack can result in the one pack splitting up and forming 2-3 smaller packs. A dominant boar (male bear) has a similar influence as the cougar and does keep other bears out of its range! Selective hunting of a confirmed stock killer may be the only solution in some cases.

Corralling livestock. In touchy areas move the livestock back to corrals or fields closer to home at night.

Human activity, go for a walk or ride around your place. You will also leave your scent around, predators do become weary of this.

Remove dead animals. Don’t encourage wildlife to come and feed on your place. Try burying or composting dead animals. If you cannot because of other factors (ground frozen), drag dead animals as far away as possible from your livestock. Don’t leave dead animals in the fields where your livestock graze/live. Also not for the guardian dogs to eat, feed the dogs appropriately and avoid luring predators to your fields for an easy meal.

Coyotes have all day to study YOUR behavior, patterns and routines. Change them; go check your stock at odd times, change habits and patterns.

If you have a high number of losses from predators, then go to a traditional way of working. Shepherd your sheep. Stay with them while grazing. A ewe needs about 7-8 hours of grazing per day. Shepherd 4 hours in the morning and 3-4 in the afternoon/evening, corral in a barn, add more guardian dogs.

Other less known system to prevent predation are the use of fladry and in some experiments the use of Taste Aversion Practices (not really successful).

Changing of a husbandry system can change predation patterns. Move to an indoor lambing in the winter is a husbandry system to consider as a spring lambing also coincides with the predators having young which increases the food intake of a female and teaching pups to hunt.

By implementing some of these systems, one can also reduce hay predation of deer in feed yards and keep TB infected deer away from stock. A total management strategy, implemented before predation sets in is the best way to ensure that your stock stays safe.

Predator Management plan