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Protecting livestock against predators

Livestock guarding dogs

Livestock guarding dogs have been used for millennia to protect sheep flocks against wolves and bears. There are many traditional breeds, such as the Italian Maremma, Pyrenean Mountain dog, Polish Tatra Sheepdog, Slovak Čuvač, and Caucasian Shepherd. These dogs are not trained to attack, but instinctively protect, deterring predators by placing themselves between their charges and any intruder, also alerting nearby shepherds to any disturbance. A good guarding dog should be raised from an early age with the flock, and should be trustworthy, attentive and protective.

Livetsock guarding dogs with sheep - Photo R. Rigg

Electric fencing

An electric fence used to exclude predators should comprise at least five wires spaced at 20-30cm apart, with the lowest no more than 20cm from the ground and the highest at least 90-110cm above the ground. This prevents smaller predators passing under or between the wires, and larger predators from digging under or jumping over the fence. The fence, which has a charge of around 5,000 volts, should be highly visible so that predators learn to associate the electric shock with fences and avoid them. Some countries, like Finland, provide free electric fencing to farms in areas where wolves, bears and lynx are present.

Cattle with electric fence - Photo R. Morley

Fladry

Fladry is a traditional method of hunting wolves originating in Eastern Europe and Russia, consisting of coloured flags approximately 50cm x 10cm hanging from ropes forming a funnel into which the wolves are driven and then shot. For some reason wolves are unwilling to cross the flags, and the technique has been adapted to form a protective barrier around livestock. Several studies have reported encouraging results using fladry, which is cheap and highly mobile and therefore suitable for use where livestock is frequently moved.

Sheep with fladry - Photo Association for Nature "WOLF"

Other methods

Other non-lethal methods that can help reduce attacks on livestock include: bringing livestock into secure barns at night and during lambing; quick removal and proper disposal of dead animals, and where possible grazing livestock away from forest edges. More experimental protection methods include;

•   electronic devices that randomly emit lights and loud sounds to     scare away predators; the balloons and tin bath shown in this     photo from Russia are a cheaper version of this method, which     relies on predators’ natural wariness of unusual objects and     sounds;

•   the use of rubber bullets;

•   taste aversive conditioning, where dead livestock carcasses are      injected with a chemical that causes vomiting and teaches the      predator that livestock is not good to eat.

Testing balloons as protection for livestock - Photo V. Bologov