Elk (Cervus canadensis) – Management Strategy

Written by: Justyna Van Poucke-Choquette, Christopher Reinhart, Ashley McNeill and Cassie Luff


Management Plan: This plan provides details regarding the implementation and maintenance to managing Ontario’s Elk populations by using fencing as a method of keeping them out of pasture lands. With government agencies turning to non-lethal management method for protection of farmer’s crop and pasture lands, methods such as fencing will become increasingly important.  While there are multiple options for creating fences, the most effective option is a 3-D fence made of different heights and distances apart. (Johnson et. al., 2014). The fencing option is the most viable because it is a one time installment with slight maintenance of the fence afterwards. The cost of this type of fence is relatively minimal because all it requires is multiple, single wired fences spaced out. However, compared to the cost of not doing anything and letting the Elk continue on their feeding of pastures and stored crops would be exponentially higher and unfeasible for both the farmers and the government.  Another viable option for farms that currently have an existing fence could simply add more fences of different heights onto the original. Ideally a height of 6 to 8 feet will keep Elk out of the pastures, however by having multiple heights and distances it becomes harder for the Elk to jump over and navigate due to their poor depth perception. Farmers could even add an electrical component onto the 3-D fences to make them that much more effective. However, in Alberta, the success rate of the simple single wired multi fence method proved to have extremely high success at a rate of 75% effectiveness and therefore the addition of the electrical fence is unnecessary (Blair, 2016; Johnson and Burton, 2015). [JF3] , (Paige, 2015).  Once the Elk encounter this fence and try to get around it, they get stuck and tripped up in the fence, eventually getting frustrated and giving up (Knight, 2014; Blair, 2015). Through the introduction of this specifc fence type, optimal foraging will play a key role in persuading the Elk to not use their energy, in attempts to obtain a small quantity of food. By introducing a fence around pastures, it will eliminate Elk from being able to move into the pastures and consume the vegetation that is necessary for the survival of livestock. This is crucial because it is the simplest option for a problem that causes farmers massive losses in [JF4] pasture crops as well as stored crops. In a study done by the Peace River Forage Association of British Columbia, they calculated how much it would cost to create 3D fences for different areas including grain bag yard, hay stockyard, winter feeding and swath grazing. The winter feeding grounds and the swath grazing are the more relevant for this specific topic because the concern and problems are due to Elk entering the pasture area. The total construction costs of a 20 acre winter feeding area was $2140 and the total construction costs of a 160 acre swath grazing area was $5700 acres, which breaks down to $1140 per year. The same study also determined that the financial benefits of creating a 3D fence surrounding the swath grazing area would be $30,500 a year, $101 per cow. Comparing the savings, $30,500 to the costs of maintaining the fences each year of $1140, the benefits strongly outweigh the costs.  Information gathered from Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs deemed that the Haliburton area has a total of 290 hectares of tame or seeded pastures and 1480 hectares for natural land used for pastures. This is a total of 1770 hectares for the Haliburton area, which also has the highest population of Elk in Ontario. This issue of crop destruction from Elk needs to be addressed, stored crops such as hay bales and silage bags, are not covered under the Ontario Crop Insurance Program and therefore cannot be covered by the government thus making the farmers pay for the losses out of their own pocket. Past historical management methods of Elk turned out to be devastating for the population. By the late 1800’s they were completely extirpated from Ontario (Hamr, et. al., 2016). Therefore we need to manage Elk that were recently introduced in a non-lethal way to ensure that this does not happen again.

Potential Challenges and Solutions: One concern with fencing large areas of land is reducing wildlife passage. If animals are not free to move through the property, for example in the case of a migration route, they are much more likely to attempt to breach the fence, and damage to the fence is the likely result. This can also result in the elk getting tangled in the fencing. For this reason, it is recommended that the fences are not built around any area larger than 640 acres (Knight, 2014). By limiting each side of the fence to one and a half kilometers or less, elk will be able to circumvent the fence without problem.  Another issue to be considered is that elk may be able to find weak spots in the fencing which can allow them to gain access to the pasture. To prevent this, simply maintaining the fencing will ensure that there are minimal weak spots.

Legal Factors: The use of fencing is a non-lethal management method, and therefore does not require any type of legal permits of any source. While farmers still need to apply for permits from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act to remove Elk by lethal means from their farms, they are not listed as any type of species at risk. The process of this application process can be long and challenging [JF8] [S9] and therefore the easiest methods would be to create a fence system that would eliminate the ability for Elk to enter into pastures. The only potential for this to require a type of permit is if the fence crosses a stream and somehow hinders the flow or has a post placed into the river itself. This could potentially require permits from the municipal level, and provincial level, as well as receiving permits [JF10] from the local Conservation Authority. The federal fisheries act is a long and powerful piece of legislation used to protect fish and fish habitats, and in the case of creating the fences this act will be taken into account. The provincial equivalent are the Fish Protection Act and the Riparian Areas Regulations. All of which provide protection for rivers and the riparian zones. These acts and regulations are often enforced by the county, township, etc.  This could entail inspection and studies to be done to determine if the creation of the fence would cause any significant harm to the river or riparian ecosystem. With all that said, it would be very easy to avoid placing any permanent structure into the river system by simple placing them on either bank and allowing the fence to stretch to either post.


Conclusion: The fence-extension is a viable option because it’s relatively low-cost to implement, depending on the circumstances. Since the Elk can jump 6-feet, they typically won’t do so just to get to an area to graze. The 3-D fencing is also a viable option, and can be very cost-effective. The options of installing a fence extension or a 3-D fence is humane and doesn’t require any Elk to get injured or killed for the benefit of humans. Because of this, there are no permits required to install these types of fences.



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Knight, J. (2014, March). Modifying Fences to Protect High-Value Pastures from Deer and Elk. Retrieved January 27, 2017, from Montana State University,             http://animalrange.montana.edu/documents/extension/modifiedfencesmg.pdf


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Yott, A., Rosatta, R., Schaefer J., Hamr, A., Fryxell, J. (2011) Movement and Spread of a Founding Population of Reintroduced Elk (Cervus elaphus) in Ontario, Canada. The Journal of the Society for Ecological Restoration International.


English Ivy (Hedera helix), Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis), Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) and Periwinkle (Vinca minor)- Controlled Burn Management Strategy

By: Christopher Aultman, Dylan Henry, Charlotte Leivo

Controlled Burn Management Plan

The following plan designed to research the potential effects controlled burns has on areas overgrow by common invasive ground covers, including Periwinkle and Goutweed. At the moment, there is little research done on how fire can be used to manage these two plants (Stone, 2009). During a controlled burn, the emerging foliage section of the plants will easily be burnt and destroyed. The question that needs to be researched is, can fire destroy the underground root systems of the plants, and at what temperature does the fire need to be to do so. Due to Periwinkle and Goutweed having an aggressive reproductive strategy of underground runners, even if the above ground portion is burnt, the plants can re-establish and recolonize the area. The intensity of the fire influences the species composition that re-establishes after the fire disturbs the area. As the intensity of the fire increases, the number of species decreases (Heydari, Faramarzi, Pothier, 2016). A study on Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustrisin) showed that high intensity fires that heat the ground to 50℃ and above, have a negative effect on the seeds and cells of the vegetation in the soil, (Gagnon, Passmore, Slocum, Myers, Harms, Platt, Paine, 2015). Fire is a natural disturbance on grassland ecosystems, recreating this disturbance through controlled burns is beneficial. These benefits including increasing nutrient availability, decreasing biomass, controlling insects and diseases, and fire is necessary for some specie’s seeds to germinate (MNRF 2016). The following paragraphs will cover the legal factors, the necessary steps to carry out the plan, and any challenges and the solutions.Controlled_Burn

Photo Credit To: Haunani Thunell

Legal Factors

For this management plan, the Forest Fire Prevention Act is important for controlled burns. Sections 1, 2, 4, and 12 cover when fires can be started, restrictions and permissions when starting a fire, and exceptions for clearing land in a forest area. Small scale fires, small area of grass less than 1 ha, are covered under the Forest Fire Prevention Act Outdoor Fires Reg. 207/96 and are not considered prescribed burns; therefore not needing to be approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF 2016). However on a large scale, greater than 1 ha, a complexity application is needed to be filed out and submitted to the local  Forest Fire and Emergency Services (AFFES) office within 6 months of the burn. After approval, a burn plan will need to be submitted 60 days before the planned burn date (MNRF 2016).

Carrying out the plan

The first step for this management plan is to determine the study areas. EDDMaps can be used to narrow down the area and then field observation can locate the key areas. The study area will then need to be measured to determine whether the burn will be considered a small outdoor fire or a prescribed burn (MNRF 2016). After that has been determined a data collection plan can be established and the necessary permits and applications can be acquired. Before the burn can be done, a burn plan must be created for the different fire intensities and a timeline must be created for observing if the populations of Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) re-establish. A final report with the results of the burns can be made for future management plans.

A proper controlled burn has fireguards. Fireguards are the boundaries of the burn area, and prevent the spread of a fire under control. Fireguard can include waterways bluffs, bare soil, and mowed vegetation that is wet. Large woody vegetation should be placed away from the fireguards in the middle of the area, because they burn hotter, longer and create sparks. The day before the burn gather weather information, low winds makes the fire unpredictable and very high winds make controlling the fire more difficult. A mild constant wind around 8-24 km/hour in one direction is optimal. The local fire department should also be contacted the day before the fire to inform them about the burn (Porter, 2000).

Challenges and solutions

The main challenge for this plan is safety. Fires can be dangerous and spread very easily, which can threaten lives and cause damages to third parties. To combat these issues, being prepared with proper staff and equipment is necessary. All legal requirements can be found in Forest Fire Prevention Act Outdoor Fires Reg. 207/96 sections 1, 2, 4, and 12. A responsible person must be present at all times until the fire is extinguished, and fire extinguishers are necessary. Another challenge of this management plan is length and preparation time for burns that the MNRF consider to be prescribed burns. From the start of the approval process, there is a minimum time of 8 months before the burn date is scheduled (MNRF 2016). This time line cannot be avoided but having a detailed and organized plan set up ahead of time will cut back on any further issues from happening. Another challenge for controlled burns is proximity to homes and other buildings. The solution for this challenge is knowing the municipal bylaw for open air fires/controlled burns, of the area that you will be burning. For example, the City of Mississauga By-Law #49-03 Part II, 7. (1)(b) stats that the permit holder shall not set or maintain an open air fire in a distance less than 50 meters form a building, structure, property line, roadway etc.  Individual municipal bylaws may vary and should be checked before the burn.


The use of fire as a management strategy for invasive ground cover, focusing on Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria), is a work in progress. The data collected in this plan will be beneficial to future projects and will be a foundation to other management plans. By following the Forest Fire Prevention Act, applying for permits, and creating a burn plan, fire can be a useful and affective management strategy when implemented on the right species; that is why research on Periwinkle and Goutweed is important.

City of Mississauga, (2003) By-Law Number 49-03, A by-law to regulate the setting of open air fires and to repeal By-law 60-96, retrieved on March 30, 2017, from http://www.mississauga.ca/file/COM/Open_Air_Burning.PDF
Forest Fires Prevention Act, Outdoor Fires Reg. 207/96 (2016) e-Laws, sections (1)(2)(4)(12) Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/960207
Gagnon, P. R., Passmore, H. A., Slocum, M., Myers, J. A., Harms, K. E., Platt, W. J., & Paine, C.T. (2015). Fuels and fires influence vegetation via above- and belowground pathways in a high-diversity plant community. Journal Of Ecology103(4), 1009-1019. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12421
Heydari, M., Faramarzi, M., & Pothier, D. (2016). Post-fire recovery of herbaceous species composition and diversity, and soil quality indicators one year after wildfire in a semi-arid oak woodland. Ecological Engineering, 94688-697. doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2016.05.032
MNRF (2016) Prescribed burn, Government of Ontario, Retrieved on March 17, 2017, from https://www.ontario.ca/page/prescribed-burn#section-2
Porter M., (2000) How to Conduct a Prescribed Burn, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Retrieved on March 17, 2017, from https://www.noble.org/news/publications/ag-news-and-views/2000/february/how-to-conduct-a-prescribed-burn/
Stone, Katharine R. 2009. Vinca major, V. minor. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [2017, February 10].

Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) – Management Strategy

By Reanna Moore, Kayla Berger, Ashtyn Dokuchie & Rhiannon Lace

Management Options

Over time, many management practices have taken place around the world, and few have had any lasting effect, especially when wild boar are not confined to islands. Among these options are:  shooting parties, culls and poisonings, government incentives, bounties, and using dogs (Oliver & Leus, 2008; Krull et al., 2016). While there have been marginal success stories with the extirpation of wild boar around the world, they have yet to occur in North America.

Killing wild boar (using whatever methods), has proven to be successful in removing the species only when they are completely eradicated; otherwise the species is able to bounce back, as history as demonstrated in Europe and Asia (Oliver & Leus, 2008). The total eradication of this species would be very difficult in North America, as they are incredibly adaptive and do not depend on a single food source or climate, and there is considerably more continuous land than in Europe. Furthermore, following the extirpation of the boar, there are consistent incidences of escape from farms, serving to potentially restore the population.

In several of the Southern United States, there is a bounty paid for killing wild boar, and they can also be found in restaurants as a main course. Despite years with these measures in place; the population persists. This fact would indicate that wild boar cannot be moderately controlled; if they are present at all in good conditions, then they will begin to thrive since they are ingenious at dispersing over large distances and repopulating.

The main reason to control wild boar is their tendency to destroy crops and to spread disease (as mentioned above). Since the environment (agricultural, rural) that promotes their survival cannot be controlled or kept from the wild boar, then it must be the other way around. Hence an important strategy for Ontario is to prevent wild boar from becoming an issue in the first place, and avoiding the heavy cost of destruction and difficulty of removing them entirely.

Management Matrix

           Considering that very few control strategies have found any degree of success alone, it seems that a combination of tactics would be most effective, some of which have been utilized, as well as some experimental and preventative measures to be explored as well.

Management Methods Cost Benefit Effectiveness
Shooting parties and poisonings – monetary

– time spent hunting for participants

– cost of poison

– personal danger involved

– killed boar can be used as food or sold

– less local destruction to agriculture

– although thousands of animals were eradicated this way, it had very little lasting effect
Bounties and use as food/trophies – monetary cost to government

– personal danger involved

– killed boar can be used as food or sold

– less local destruction to agriculture

– numbers were greatly reduced although not eradicated, likely due to the habitat restriction imposed by small islands
Eliminate the farming of wild boar, encourage hunting – monetary cost hiring researchers

– personal danger involved

– boar will be deterred from agricultural areas and pushed into the forest – numbers are reduced
This report will explore integrated monitoring and management techniques. – time and money for inventory

– cost to those profiting from game farms

– price of tagging

– boar will not become a problem

– avoids potentially millions of dollars of crop destruction

– if done well, there is a high likelihood for success

– program is adaptable based on conditions

– preventative rather than prescriptive

                          Historically, there have not been a wide variety of strategies employed to control wild boar populations, or adequate study to prove a significant level of effectiveness. As well, there are many seemingly contradictory situations in which boar are farmed (and escape), and hunters are encouraged to kill wild boar, while farmers continue to replace their stock, demonstrates a communicative disparity. Essentially, wild boar populations are maintained by human beings, and their desirability is dependent on their side of the fence.

           Management Plan

                      This plan provides details about managing wild boar populations under conditions specific to Ontario, and will discuss a combination of tactics and preventative measures to ensure that wild boars do not become a local issue. Damage to agriculture in the United States alone is estimated at 1.5 billion dollars annually, and this number is considered conservative, due to the difficulty of quantifying other negative impacts caused by wild boar, namely water contamination and interference with domestic pig populations (Tanger et al., 2015). In this case, preventative measures are much less expensive than a lack of action, which means allowing a local wild boar population to establish and dealing with the consequences.

                          In Ontario, there is no consistent population of wild boar, and historically sightings are only reported following incidences of escape from game farms, followed by several years without any record of wild boar. For this reason, measures will be outlined for preventing the initial establishment of a wild population, either from population immigration or game farm escapees, followed by methods to mitigate hypothetical growing populations under the failure of prevention.

                          The first method of control is to complete an inventory of Ontario’s game farms and boar populations. This could be instigated by a private organization or volunteers using an online database, to which the farmers have access. The inventory will include the number of boar, gender ratio, ages (mature versus juvenile) and location. As a further precaution, pigs could microchipped with a unique identification number. In case of an escape, the specific farm (with the distance from starting location) and the individual’s record could be recorded and taken into consideration for further decision making. It would be wise to collect data on farms outside of Ontario as well, in neighbouring states and provinces, since wild boar can disperse fairly quickly over large distances.

                          Due to recent data (shown below in Table 2.), as the number of farms using wild boar as alternative livestock has been declining in recent years, a cap on the number of farms may not be necessary, as long as there are regulations for containing, transporting and monitoring wild boar. The number of wild boar processed in registered meat plants (Table 3.) has remained consistent through the past five years, and as such the risk associated with wild boar escapes appears to remain constant, rather than growing.

Table 2. Census of Agriculture, selected livestock and poultry data, Canada and provinces, every 5 years (number) (Statistics Canada, 2012).
Ontario 2001 2006 2011
Wild boars Number of farms reporting 58 38 14
Number of animals 1,499 1,006 473
Average number of animals 26 26 34
Table 3. Number of Alternative Livestock and Gamebirds Processed for Meat in Ontario in Provincial and Federal Registered Plants Years: 2015 – 2011 (Tapscott, 2016).
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
Wild Boar 487 536 561 392 396

           In continuation, it is advised to devise regulations applied to every farm containing wild boar in order to prevent escapes. There are currently no relevant regulations, as hunting wild boar on game farms (private hunting ground) does not require permits or game tags, and is neither covered by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, nor the Game and Fish Act. The protocol could include acceptable types of fencing to be used on farms and limits on the number of male boar within a given population. A penalty system for incidences of wild boar escape could be put in place to provide additional motivation to properly contain the species, starting with fines escalating in price (based on severity), before the right to possess wild boar entirely is removed.

            On the occasion that a wild population does become established, it would become necessary to ban the import of the species and implement limits (or prohibition) on breeding captive populations. There is already an authorization in effect from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, which allows for the killing of feral pigs under the authority of a small-game license. Each region could employ local groups of hunters or animal control units, to be deployed in case of a wild boar escape. This would involve determining the source of the escaped animal (by contacting nearby farms), and tracking the wild boar until captured or killed. An animal that has escaped once is more likely to attempt further escapes, and it may be necessary to kill the animal rather than returning it to captivity.

Furthermore, the MNRF has already requested that any sightings be reported immediately, and this fact could be publicized throughout social media and news bulletins in affected areas. If wild boar become an issue in Ontario, game farms and the possession of captive boar will be increasing regulated and if necessary, eliminated completely.

Legal Considerations

                      Laws relevant to the control of wild boar fall, for the most part, under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, although the act does not apply to farmed animals (Government of Ontario, 2017). The use of poison is prohibited under the FWCA, and keeping game wildlife requires a license under this act[JF16] . In acknowledgment of the negative potential of escaped wild boar, it would be advisable to offer a limited number of licenses to possess the animals within game farms in Ontario. The Trespass to Property Act is also important to consider if hunting or tracking of wild boar is to occur.

Wild boar sightings and killings must be must be reported to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Legal Information, 2016). Wild boar are allowed to be hunted under the small games hunting act, this in under the fish and wildlife conservation act under section 54 (5). More information about sighting or reporting incidents can be reported to Mary Dillion, who is a management biologist with the MNRF.


           Potential Challenges and Solutions

                      The logistics of completing an inventory of game farms, and any other captive wild boar in Ontario and the surrounding area, may come to depend on the willingness of farmers and locals to participate. One source of motivation from their perspective, is that the prevention of wild boar escapees or an established wild population means that locals can keep their captive populations and businesses with less interference and regulation. Creating a centralized, online database would serve to make the inventory accessible and current, while ministry employees, volunteers or local animal control units could be employed to carry out the inventory, as well as randomized annual visits to ensure accuracy and compliance.

                          In the event of a wild population becoming established, a prominent idea to motivate hunters is to create a bounty for the killed animals. If this is done, it must be done with consideration that this may promote the breeding and subsequent release of animals, in order to attract the monetary incentive. A possible solution is that the bounty, in partnership with the tagging (with a unique identification number or barcode) of each animal, may serve to track the original location of the animal and its farm,  and as such, the farm’s right to possess the wild boar can be removed if there is a suspicious number of escapes. The idea of bounty becomes more realistic in tandem with the inventory described above, although it must be approached with caution nonetheless.


                          In conclusion, while there are no significant populations of wild boar currently in Ontario, their presence in neighboring provinces and states, as well as their proficiency in colonizing new ecosystems and regions indicates that they are a realistic threat to Ontario’s crops, biodiversity and local captive pig populations (Pastick, 2014). With the cost of destruction to other regions in mind, preventative methods immediately present the most viable solution and prove to be much more practical and cost effective than allowing wild boar populations to establish. It is recommend that an inventory of game farms and other captive wild boar in and around Ontario be taken, while the import and transportation from outside sources be regulated and monitored. The farms possessing wild boar as game animals or alternative livestock will require a certain level of fencing and monitoring to take place. Each individual animal must be microchipped and any wild boar escapes recaptured immediately. This proactive approach will prevent Ontario from re-living much of the destruction that the rest of the world has suffered, and a rare opportunity to learn from other regions and countries, prior to making the same mistake.

Gray Wolf – Management Plan

Management Plan

This plan provides details about the implementation and maintenance of a strategy that will use livestock protecting dogs (LPDs) to mitigate the impact of wolf predation on cattle. Although LPDs have been used for over 2,000 years, there is much still to be learned about how to effectively implement their use in current livestock rearing operations (Gehring et al., 2010). As such, this management plan will rely heavily on monitoring the success of the solution and effective communication between the livestock owner, experienced LPD handlers, and the community of farmers already using LPDs (Gehring et al., 2010; VerCauteren et al., 2012). Consistent data collection will also contribute to expanding the knowledge of how effective LPD solutions are and how they may be improved. The following paragraphs will address the method of implementation including information about which breeds to use, when dogs will be introduced, how long it will take for the dog pack to establish and key responsibilities of ranchers who chose to implement this strategy. Clear expectations about the effectiveness of this management strategy will also be communicated for a variety of situations ranging from fenced in livestock to free range situations. Different breeds are available and care should be taken to select the appropriate breed or combination of breeds. Each breed of LPD has different traits that make them most suited to different situations. Table 3 below provides a summary of LPD breeds and their characteristics and recommended uses.

Table 3: Comparison of dog breeds and their characteristics. Mixed packs often form the best defense against multiple predators including Gray Wolves.

Breed Characteristics Strengths Issues
Great Pyrenese Large but less aggressive than other breeds, moderately long hair Placid and easy to manage relative to other breeds Generally not effective with large aggressive predators
Kangal Large and aggressive breed, heavy bodied with large head Very territorial and protective of livestock, Can be difficult to manage and may be an issue in areas where other dogs and people may intrude on pasture
Spanish Mastiff Large and alert breed, heavy bodied with large head Territorial and protective of livestock, not particularly active May not patrol as regularly as Kangal

Legal Factors

The use of LPDs eliminates the need for any additional legal permits as this is a non-lethal means of reducing predation by wolves. Any method that involves trapping, relocating or killing wolves requires permits as the wolf is an endangered species in the and permits under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act. Furthermore, legal implications exist at both the state and federal level in the form of the Endangered Species Act and Fish and Wildlife legislation. Although Federal legislation applies to all states the variation in state level legislation makes implementing solutions in multiple states an issue if permits or changes to legislation are required.

Establishing Livestock Protecting Dogs

Livestock protecting dogs and livestock take time to become acclimatized to each other. In most cases, acclimatization begins with effectively bonding the dogs with the herd. Minimal contact with humans is essential as the dogs should be focused on life with the herd and not seeking to be with humans (VerCauteren et al., 2012). Pups are most likely to bond effectively with livestock between the ages of 3-12 weeks; however, they should remain with their mother until the age of approximately 6 weeks which reduces this window of opportunity to the ages of 6-12 weeks. In some instances, bonding can occur up to 16 weeks of age. Ensuring that bonding occurs at the location where the dogs will be working is ideal. Care must be taken when bonding pups with cattle as cattle are much larger than sheep and goats presents a risk of injury to the pups. VerCauteren et al. (2012) recommend bonding pups with one or two 1 month old calves before exposing them to larger members of the herd. This provides a close bond with animals they will be protecting while protecting the dogs from injury by larger cattle. Even when bonding with calves, pups should be provided with a sturdy and safe refuge containing straw bedding that calves cannot access (VerCauteren et al., 2012).

Introduction to pastures should begin between the ages of 6-7 months. Handlers should introduce the dogs to the pasture with their bonded calves and ensure the dogs are walked around the perimeter of the pasture daily to help the dogs understand the boundary of the pasture and begin to establish their territory (VerCauteren et al., 2012). For most dogs, this routine will need to be carried out daily for one and a half to two weeks at which time the dogs can be left with the cattle unsupervised. After 7 months, the dogs and their bonded calves can be introduced to larger pastures with other cattle. Cattle that have been exposed to LPDs are treated very differently than cattle that have not been exposed to LPDs. Naïve cattle pose a serious risk to small puppies so great care must be taken to ensure the puppies are agile enough to evade any nervous cattle that perceive the puppies as a threat. Research indicates that dogs will approach LPD-naïve cattle differently than experienced cattle. Naïve cattle are approached in a more submissive manner by the dogs while experienced cattle are approached and greeted by the dogs without any signs of dominance or submission (VerCauteren et al., 2012). Watching for the development of these behavours and interactions will be critical in assessing how LPDs and cattle are acclimatizing to the situation.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

As with all solutions, there are unwanted challenges and consequences of implementation. For example, dogs may wander too far from the herd or they may not behave aggressively enough toward the target predator. Cases of dogs abandoning their herd and actually resorting to attacking livestock in adjacent areas are uncommon but documented (VerCauteren et al., 2012). If livestock are free ranging on public lands, as is the case in much of the U.S. northwest, hikers and their dogs may inadvertently come into contact with herds of cattle and the associated dog pack that is providing protection. In these circumstances, conflict between the LPDs, hikers, and pet dogs may be an issue. Education and effective communication are essential in these circumstances (VerCauteren et al., 2012). Finally, dogs are animals individual temperaments and behaviours regardless of their breed. Anyone employing this method of livestock protection must be willing to either commit to the time needed to train dogs or spend the money to hire dog handlers. Table 4 summarizes common problem behaviours and suggested methods for correction.

Table 4: Common issues encountered when working with livestock protecting dogs (LPDs). Note the causes and the methods that will help avoid the issue. In most cases, selecting the correct breed and sufficient effort during the training stages will resolve the issue (adapted from VerCauteren et. al., 2012)

Problem Behaviour Caused by Remedied by Avoided by
Roaming Too much human contact; female in heat; too much motivation to hunt wildlife; week bond with herd; companion dog moved Electric or invivislbe fencing; spay/neuter; shock collar; replace with herd-oriented breed/individual Provide only necessary attention; raise with effective LPD; spay/neuter; retain dog with the herd from the beginning
Aggression toward livestock Lack of early discipline; immaturity; play behaviour; adolescent phase of development Increase attention and reprimand; shock collar; replace with less aggressive breed or individual; remove from livestock and temporarily place in herd with more aggressive livestock; provide toys Consistent reprimand for chasing; rais with effective LPD; employ appropriate breed; minimize potential for boredom
Aggression toward humans Underlying breed characteristics or lack of socialization; territorial behaviour; protecting object, food or female; novel behaviour of humans toward LPDs; learned aggressive behaviour; pack behaviour; fearful temperament Replace with less aggressive dog or breed; increased attention and reprimand; shock collar; enrichment of environment occupied by puppy during socialization Employ appropriate breed; provide adequate levels of socialization with humans and environment
Lack of concern over offending species Lack of training or too much pressure by offending species; dog too young; weak temperament; female in heat; wounds Provide supplemental training with encouragement to address target species; place dog in a pack of experienced dogs or provide an experienced dog; ensure high quality food and health Provide early encouragement to exclude target species; employ appropriate breed; give appropriate food; regular health care
Insufficient protection against offending species Underlying breed characteristics; illness; female in heat; not enough dogs; environmental factors Replace dog or breed with a more aggressive breed; regular health care; incorporate alternative prevention tools such as electric fence and calving protection zones Employ appropriate 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 during the 7-12 month period; fearful temperament Increase frequency of training; maintain regular contacts until the dog is adult; avoid fearful pups Provide early and consistent training until adult and adequate level of socialization with handlers
Lack of attentiveness toward livestock Insufficient or bonding too late; illness; female in heat; old dogs Replace with effective dog; medical checkup Follow recommended bonding procedures; monitor health
Ineffective protection Insufficient bonding; illness; too large of an area; too much pressure Replace with effective dog; medical checkup; disperse resources: food, water, and shelter; employ additional dogs; employ other prevention tools Employ appropriate breed; raise in area with offending species; monitor health; be aware of limits of the dog
Insufficient patrolling of area Too large of area; lack of encouragement to establish territory Disperse resources: food, water, shelter; provide encouragement to explore territory; replace with more territorial breed Conduct routine walks with dog on lead within area to be protected

Additional methods of control may be needed including the installation of electric or invisible fencing fencing to keep the dogs in the pasture. In situations where the cattle are ranging over a large area or an area that is not fenced in, great care should be taken to monitor the herd and the dogs to ensure dogs remain with the herd. Multiple dogs may be needed for large areas and large herds. Finally, LPDs are a tool that will reduce but not completely eliminate all possibility of predation on livestock. Management of the heard and the dog pack are required to ensure success.


Livestock protecting dogs offer a non-lethal means of displacing wolves from areas where livestock are being raised. This method of management hinges on the nature of wolves and their ecological niche. The dog pack essentially occupies the territory effectively and provides a form of competitive exclusion that reduces wolf predation. No permits are required to implement this strategy and it satisfies the needs of livestock owners and environmentalists alike. Livestock protecting dogs are an ecologically sound solution to resolving conflict between humans and wildlife while satisfying the priorities of all stakeholders involved in this controversial issue.


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