Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Utility of livestock-protection dogs for deterring wildlife from cattle farms

Thomas M. Gehring A C , Kurt C. VerCauteren B , Megan L. Provost A and Anna C. Cellar A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Biology, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859, USA.

B National Wildlife Research Center, USDA APHIS WS, Fort Collins, CO 80521, USA.

C Corresponding author. Email: gehri1tm@cmich.edu

Wildlife Research 37(8) 715-721 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR10023
Submitted: 12 February 2010  Accepted: 16 July 2010   Published: 22 December 2010

Abstract

Context. Livestock producers worldwide are negatively affected by livestock losses because of predators and wildlife-transmitted 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.

Additional keywords: bovine tuberculosis, coyote, grey wolf, livestock protection dog, mesopredators, white-tailed deer, wildlife damage management.


Acknowledgements

Our study was funded by Central Michigan University (Research Excellence Fund Award), Central Michigan University College of Graduate Studies, USDA-APHIS-WS-National Wildlife Research Center, USDA – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Animal Welfare Institute (Christine Stevens Wildlife Award), CITGO Petroleum, Inc., Defenders of Wildlife, and National Geographic Society-Conservation Trust. Logistical support was provided by Michigan Department of Natural Resources & Environment, USA Forest Service, and the Warren family. We are grateful to livestock producers who participated in this study and to A. Boetcher, R. Brown, J. Detraz, K. Luzinski and J. Pejza for valuable field assistance. We thank B. Swanson, D. Uzarski and D. Woolnough for assistance with statistical analyses and two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the manuscript.


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