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More information on predatory losses

By Gary Sliworsky

The following is the second of a two part article on lowering predation losses, from Barry Potter, Livestock Specialist, OMAFRA.
Donkeys, llamas, dogs and horses have all been used as livestock guardian animals. Most large sheep producers rely on dogs. Dogs that are raised with cattle have shown that they have protective instincts. They are expensive, but effective. A recent cost study indicated that it costs roughly $800 per year per dog for protection. The dogs act as a deterrent by living with the cattle and attacking all intruders including stray dogs, coyotes or humans. The dog patrols the area around the cows, scent-marks its territory and barks. These three activities alert the coyote or wolf to the presence of dogs. As the coyotes adapt to guardian dogs, more dog power per cow is required. Generally, the coyotes will either try to draw the dogs away from the cows, sending in pack members from behind, or will determine that it is not worth trying to attack a guarded herd. Recently there have been instances of dogs being attacked by coyotes. This remains very rare, as the dogs are usually bigger than the predators.
Donkeys will work to protect cattle as well. The concept seems to be that donkeys have an inherent dislike of dogs and will bray, bare its teeth, kick or bite dogs and coyotes. One thing to watch for with donkeys is the female’s willingness to kidnap new born calves and kick the cow away from its baby. Sometimes scaring devices will work for a while with wolves and coyotes. Scientists in Wisconsin and Michigan have used electronic signal motion detectors which can set off either sirens or strobe lights to frighten the predators away. While these are costly, they are a very effective short term deterrent. Eventually, the coyotes determine that these are not life threatening and will adapt to the sound or light show.
Removal of problem predators has been effective in the past. Coyotes or wolves which identify calves as food need to be killed as soon as possible, so they don’t train their fellow pack members to hunt cattle as well. A pilot removal program in 1997 and 1998 had trappers hired to remove suspect coyotes. During the short trial, harmed livestock dropped from around 4000 to below 3200 by the year 2000. Shortly after the pilot removal program cancellation, livestock claims started rising again, and have continued to increase to current levels of nearly 6000 coyote and wolf kill claims per year.
One of the challenges of problem coyote removal in southern Ontario is the prohibition against non lethal restraint mechanisms. These devices are a proven method of catching coyotes, through identifying trails and setting the restraint mechanisms at travel or fence hole locations. These snares are a legal option in northern Ontario. A trial for the use of non lethal restraint mechanisms, as well as other potential prevention tools will be occurring this summer in southern Ontario.
There is divided research on whether a total coyote hunt will reduce overall livestock predation. In the short term, kill numbers would go down. In the long term, there is a suggestion that coyote numbers will increase to fill a vacuum. The species is very adaptable to its environment. Depending on where your farm is located, hunting can be socially acceptable, or cause problems with your neighbours. A coyote drive can provide an excellent opportunity to reduce the numbers of coyotes. By using hunting dogs, planes, and hunters spotted around a block of land, coyotes can be effectively driven out and shot. As indicated, drives can greatly reduce coyote numbers, but would have to be repeated every year.

Dates to Remember
June 13 - 16 – Large animal clinic dates for Dr. Blair Simonson. Call 274-7393 to book an appointment.