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Utility of Livestock-Protection Dogs for Deterring Wildlife from Cattle Farms

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Context. Livestock producers worldwide are negatively affected by livestock losses because of predators and wildlifetransmitted diseases. In the western Great Lakes Region of the United States, this conflict has increased as grey wolf (Canis lupus) populations have recovered and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) have served as a wildlife reservoir for bovine tuberculosis (Myobacterium bovis).

Aims. We conducted field experiments on cattle farms to evaluate the effectiveness of livestock-protection dogs (LPDs) for excluding wolves, coyotes (C. latrans), white-tailed deer and mesopredators from livestock pastures. Methods. We integrated LPDs on six cattle farms (treatment) and monitored wildlife use with tracking swaths on these farms, concurrent with three control cattle farms during 2005–2008. The amount of time deer spent in livestock pastures was recorded using direct observation.

Key results. Livestock pastures protected by LPDs had reduced use by these wildlife compared with control pastures not protected by LPDs. White-tailed deer spent less time in livestock pastures protected by LPDs compared with control pastures not protected by LPDs.

Conclusions. Our research supports the theory that LPDs can be an effective management tool for reducing predation and disease transmission.We also demonstrate that LPDs are not limited to being used only with sheep and goats; they can also be used to protect cattle.

Implications. On the basis of our findings, we support the use of LPDs as a proactive management tool that producers can implement to minimise the threat of livestock depredations and transmission of disease from wildlife to livestock. LPDs should be investigated further as a more general conservation tool for protecting valuable wildlife, such as ground-nesting birds, that use livestock pastures and are affected by predators that use these pastures.

Document: Gehring-et-al-2010_Wildlife-Research.pdf  PDF icon

Author(s): Thomas M. Gehring, Kurt C. VerCauteren, Megan L. Provost and Anna C. Cellar

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