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updated: Dec 09, 2013, 11:57 AM
By Julia Di Sieno
Too much hype and rumors are floating...
It just doesn't happen much here.
In the United States, more predators are killed as a result of preying on domestic livestock
than for any other intentional reason. Our history has created a tradition of relying on government to reduce risks
related to wildlife. We make a call and taxpayers pay to have offending lions, wolves, and coyotes killed. It's a
kneejerk reaction. Unfortunately, this has reduced our reliance on traditional methods for protecting livestock, and has
stifled our creativity and innovation in designing new methods and technologies for safeguarding domestic animals as
So don't assume that the loss of a single carnivore is unimportant: not only are mountain lion
populations reduced dramatically in many areas that have been cut off by roads and development, but killing an
established resident lion may actually make predation problems worse. The future of the species in your area might
depend on your decisions.
But even if you don't care about the lion, you are responsible for the livestock in your care.
We've assembled some of the common methods for keeping livestock safe from predators, and listed them below. We've also
developed a set of plans for small herd enclosures, information about guard animals, and a list of techniques and
devices to scare predators away. Clearly every situation has its own challenges, but we hope one or more of these
methods may work for you.
Rethink Your Animal Husbandry
Your situation is unique, and so there isn't a single set of rules or best practices for protecting your domestic
animals. Not only do needs vary by breed, and constraints differ by locale and nearby wildlife habitat, but wildlife
habits may change over time with the climate and season. It makes sense to sit down and create a plan for protection,
using the categories below. Take out pen and paper and draw a map of your operation. Notice wildlife attractants, and
where you might create deterrants. Set down a daily schedule and a calendar for the year.
Pens, Barns and Enclosures (read more)
Unless you maintain a large herd of livestock, it is best to keep domestic animals such as chickens, ducks, geese,
goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, burros, donkeys, and cows in completely enclosed pens. Build secure enclosures with a
roof and floor. They don't have to be expensive. Well-secured chain link will do. See our pen scrapbook for plans and
ideas. You can often use an existing outbuilding or barn. Take the time to check all points of entry, and keep access
closed up at night. It's important to build a pen first, and only then purchase livestock.
Take Advantage of Daylight
Many livestock owners believe that their animals enjoy freedom to roam. But domestic animals also truly enjoy shelter
and a place that is safe from predators. If you must let livestock outside secure enclosures, do so during daylight
hours, or while you attend them. Bring them into a secure enclosure from dusk to dawn, when predators are most active.
Staking, chaining, or tying out livestock is an invitation to all kinds of predators, and is in fact used by unethical
hunters to attract lions to be killed.
Keep Wildlife at a Distance
Clearing brush and shrubs from a barnyard and establishing a limit line between wild areas and domestic operations can
keep wildlife from having a place to hide. Smaller wild animals draw in larger wildlife and carry their own risks, too.
Look over your yard for places that raccoons, skunks, oppossums and rodents might take up residence. Whenever deer are
visible in the area, take extra precautions, as mountain lions are likely to be present as well. Secure your livestock
in enclosures or guard them carefully when deer herds are likely to move through your area.
Seasonal changes disrupt a habits and force lions out of normal patterns of movement in order to seek out prey. Because
they are opportunistic hunters, lions will take any animal that looks and smells like food and that does not appear to
present an immediate danger. It appears that mountain lions are most likely to be tempted by domestic animals when deer
herds are migrating. Unfortunately, this is also the time when many domestic animals are born, and therefore most
vulnerable. Heavy snow, orchard windfalls, and mating seasons will also affect wildlife behavior.
Install Frightening Devices (read more)
Mountain lions depend on surprise to catch their prey, and, like most wild animals, avoid dangers that they don't
understand. Installing motion or timer-activated devices around your animal enclosures may help keep predators away.
Remember that it is as important to scare away the lion's potential wildlife prey as it is to scare away the lion.
Alternating simple devices using water, sound, light can provide non-lethal methods for habituating wildlife to stay far
from your yard or farm.
Choose Not to Kill
Cutting edge research is demonstrating what we have suspected all along: that killing an established adult lion often
makes predation problems worse. (See the article "Troubled Teens"). When we lose a domestic animal to a wild predator,
we feel angry. We may worry that our own security - and that of our family, neighbors, and other animals - is
threatened, too. But experience, and now science, indicates that the first reaction, to kill the predator, may actually
increase the remaining risk. So, take time to think before calling in a government agency. Governments are bound by law
and tied by tradition to act lethally and immediately in many cases, and they have few tools other than guns at their
disposal. Your best defense may be to accept the initial predation as a lesson of life and a cost of raising livestock,
and to review and revise your own animal husbandry methods based on what you have learned from the experience.
Please learn more by visiting MLF website. (www.mountainlion.org)
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