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Large predators, like wolves and mountain lions, are reappearing in landscapes throughout the western United States. This conservation success story; however, brings new challenges as predators interfere with livestock ranchers. As SCI Foundation discussed in the “Issue of the week: Social Tolerance of Wildlife,” livestock can become part of the food chain as an easy source of prey for these large predators.
One of many solutions ranchers use to protect their animals are Livestock Guarding Dogs (LGD). LGDs, large breeds like Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, Komondors, and Maremmas are trained to stay with livestock and aggressively fend off predators. Their heightened senses detect predators and alert ranchers to disturbances in the herd before predation occurs. LGDs are not 100 percent effective, but they do reduce predation events.
Wildlife Services (WS), a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), encourages the use of several different approaches to predator management, which incorporate a variety of non-lethal methods. Use of LGDs are becoming more common in the livestock industry and with proper training, they may yet prove to be the most effective non-lethal method.
The U.S. is not the only place LGDs are being utilized to protect livestock and livelihoods. They have been used around the world for centuries; early records indicate they were used in Rome as early as 150 B.C. They are still widely used across Europe and in many African countries. Turkey, for example, has been using Anatolian shepherds to ward off wolves and bears for millennia.
In Namibia, Livestock Guarding Dog programs have been instrumental in cheetah conservation. Because cheetahs often survive on agricultural lands, they will readily come into contact with humans and livestock. Generally, farmers in these areas view cheetahs as a threat to their livelihood, and before the implementation of Livestock Guarding Dog programs, would lethally remove them. With the introduction of guard dogs, like Anatolian shepherds and Kangal dogs, livestock loss has been reduced by 80 percent.
Human-wildlife conflict mitigation is a large part of wildlife management. Whether it is livestock depredation by predators, deer devouring gardens and crops, or pesky raccoons getting into trash cans, most humans have experienced conflict to some degree. Wildlife managers continue to trial new methods, like LGDs, to help reduce conflicts for both the safety of humans and the continued conservation of wildlife.
Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more SCI Foundation news.
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