Written By: Adam Bocskei, Emma Ross, Jesse Beauchamp & Madison Penton
To construct the most effective management plan, there are some important points to first consider. These include the size and topography of pasture, the intensity of predation, the number and species of livestock, the farmer’s willingness to invest financially, and the public’s perception of the strategy. In all instances however, it is clear that not doing anything will continue to result in loss, and that potential attractants should be removed regardless of which management strategy is used. The two best options for management are guardian donkeys and guardian dogs. These strategies and their implementation will be explained below. The livestock owner should select the one that best suits his or her situation.
The introduction of the LPD’s is a non-lethal management solution, therefore no legal permits need to be addressed or purchased to introduce this plan. A piece of legislation that may need to be consulted is the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act under the protection of property section, it states that one may harass, capture or kill the wildlife for the purpose of deterring it from damaging the one’s property. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act is a provincial legislation, but depending on the municipality there may be specific by laws pertaining to the introduction and number of livestock protection dogs that someone may have on their property.
ESTABLISHING GUARDIAN DONKEYS
Smith et al (2000) detail the most effective way for a guardian donkey to be implemented by a farmer. The use of livestock guarding donkeys should be implemented only when guarding sheep in smaller (< 240 ha), open pastures containing no more than 200 head of sheep or goat. If this is the case, a donkey will be the easiest and most effective management strategy. The donkey should be selected from medium to large stock, be female or a gelded male, and should be raised alongside the sheep from an early age. It should also be isolated from other donkeys, mules and horses as well dogs. A donkey’s effectiveness can be tested by gauging its reaction to a domestic dog introduced by a farmer. Donkeys that do not appear to be effective should be removed and replaced. As mentioned previously, a donkey is also less of a financial risk than a dog, with an average purchase price of $144, maintenance cost of $66, a life expectancy of 10-20 years, and no training required (Smith et al, 2000).
POTENTIAL CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
As with any management strategy there is always the potential for issues. Some of the issues that can happen when using donkeys as livestock guardians are getting a donkey that is not aggressive towards canids. There is a possibility of getting a non-aggressive donkey, so make sure that when you are selecting a donkey, which you know for a fact that it is bred to be a guardian or has a history of aggression towards canids (Andelt, 2004). Never get more than one donkey because they just want to stay together and lose interest in protecting the livestock. Donkeys work best in situations where there are few or just one threat at a time since they are unable to fend off multiple attackers (Andelt, 2004). Donkeys should be removed during lambing because they can disrupt the bonding between ewe and lamb. (Andelt, 2004).
ESTABLISHING GUARDIAN DOGS
According to VerCauteren et. al. (2012), before a dog can be implemented, it must first be trained. Training should begin with the process of bonding the dog to the livestock by creating a close association between the two. This bonding phase should begin when the pup is between 3 and 12 weeks of age. Human interaction with the dogs should be limited to training only. Dogs should be spayed at 6 months of age or neutered at 9 months of age to avoid the desire to roam and to reduce the risk of unplanned pups. A guardian dog is significantly more expensive than a donkey, costing between $850 – $1040 per year, with the initial purchase price of the dog varying by breed (VerCauteren et. al., 2012). This method relies on the use of living animals, and is therefore susceptible to problems (see table 2).
POTENTIAL CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
As with any management strategy there is always the potential for issues. Some of the issues that could be seen are dogs roaming outside of their range, aggression towards the livestock or towards humans or the dog does not guard the sheep (Smith et al 2000). A more detailed list of these issues and solutions can be seen in Table 2 (below) in order for this method to be successful one must dedicate substantial amounts of time and energy into the training of the dogs to try to stop any negative behaviors from occurring. If you are not able to do the training yourself the option of hiring a dog trainer would be the most effective option (VerCauteren, et al, 2012)
Table 2: Potential issues with livestock protecting dogs (adapted from VerCauteren et. al., 2012).
|Roaming||· Excessive human contact
· Dog was not spayed or neutered
· Weakly bonded to livestock
· Greater interest in hunting wildlife than protecting livestock
· Spay and Neuter
· Replace breed or individual
|· Minimal attention to the dog
· Raise dog with an already effective LPD
· Spay and Neuter
|Aggression toward livestock||· Lack of discipline
|· Reprimand bad behavior
· Shock collar
· Replace breed
· Temporary removal
· Raise with effective LPD
· Minimize potential for boredom
|Insufficient protection against offending species||· Breed characteristics
· Female in heat
· Too few dogs
|· Replace breed that is more aggressive
· Regular health care
· Alternative prevention tools
· Electrified fence
|· Use breed
· Rear in area with offending species
· Monitor health
· Supply with alternative prevention tools
· Employ more dogs
|Lack of obedience and ability to handle||· Insufficient training
· Fearful temperament
|· Increase frequency of training
· maintain regular contact until the dog is adult
· avoid fearful pups
|· Early and consistent training|
|Lack of attentiveness toward livestock||· Insufficient or bonding too late
· Female in heat
· Old dogs
|· Replace with effective dog
· Medical checkup
|· Follow recommended bonding procedures
· Monitor health
|Insufficient patrolling of area to be protected||· Too large of area
· Lack of encouragement
|· Disperse resources: food, water, and shelter
· Provide encouragement
· Replace with more territorial breed
|· Conduct routine walks with dog within area to be protected|
Livestock Guardian Dogs and Donkeys are the most effective and ethical management strategy for mitigating predation of Coyotes on livestock . Both of these are the best methods because they do not involve killing, trapping, or removing Coyotes therefore they do not require any legal documentation or permits to be implemented. Guardian dogs are effective when you have multiple threats and large herds of sheep to guard because they act as a pack to create a territory around the herd. This exclusion method works since other dog species like coyotes will not want to enter their territory and if they do the dogs will defend it. Guardian Donkeys are most effective for smaller herds with only a few or one major threat at a time because they are naturally aggressive towards canids and are very territorial. The best kind of management plan when it comes to native species like the Coyote is one that satisfies the needs of all groups involved which is exactly what the option of Livestock Guardian Dogs and Donkeys do.
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