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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Protecting Small Livestock and Predators Alike: Early Successes

  • Author(s): Wyckoff, Christy
  • Hauser, Chris
  • Dorrance, Leslie
  • Fischer, Christy
  • et al.

Wildlife-livestock conflict is an ongoing challenge for both livestock production and conservation efforts. Predator kills of livestock are a serious economic concern for most ranching operations. In particular, small livestock such as sheep and goats are vulnerable to native predators including mountain lions and coyotes. Despite this challenge, livestock can be a powerful tool for habitat restoration and biodiversity conservation in disturbance-adapted landscapes such as coastal California. In 2014 and 2015 we used 1,400 goats to graze habitat in the Santa Lucia Mountains, California. To prevent wildlife-livestock conflict, we tested a livestock protection strategy that combines several methods: night penning goats within a double, portable electric mesh fence; using two guarding dogs inside the pen with the goats; monitoring predators with wildlife camera-traps placed on the fence’s periphery; and placement of the pen near the herders’ camp. Despite a predator-rich environment, no goats were lost to predators, and the only predator captured on the wildlife camera-traps over 161 nights was a single coyote. Often, when lions or other predators depredate livestock, the animal is lethally removed to prevent further depredation events. Preventing predators from killing livestock protects both livestock and predators.

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