THEY’RE OUT THERE
D E V E L O P I NG A D E F E N S E AG A I N S T L I V E S T O C K L O S S
olves, bears, coyotes and mountain lions are among
the predators that threaten livestock around the world.
Because domestic livestock share predator space,
farmers and ranchers must seek effective defenses.
Preventive measures are always the best approach.
Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources Wildlife
Damage Specialist, Brad Koele, encourages livestock owners to
learn as much as possible about local predators.
“Wildlife habitat is continually shrinking,” Koele says.
“We see that in southern Wisconsin with more and more
development of rural areas. At the same time, in some
areas, we’re also seeing expansion of bear, wolf and coyote
populations. While wildlife populations fl uctuate, we know
there are a lot of carnivores out on the land.”
As livestock owners learn about predators common to their
area, Koele recommends evaluating specifi c livestock risks.
Elements to consider include proximity of wooded areas,
location of remote pastures in relation to the central ranch/
farm building site, and what management options may reduce
predator activity in areas where livestock are confi ned.
“It’s also key to pay attention to livestock behavior,” Koele
says. “If animals are agitated, not grazing or huddled in a
particular pasture area, that’s a good indication they perceive
some type of threat.”
While predation can happen at any time, livestock are
especially vulnerable to large carnivores at calving and
lambing season. Intensifying monitoring practices and keeping
livestock in the safest possible location during this time may
reduce predator threat.
“Calving away from wooded and wilderness areas and
calving inside a facility helps reduce predation risk,” Koele
says. “Calves are particularly susceptible at birth and for the
fi rst few months of their lives. Adult cows can fend off large
predators. Guard dogs or animals can help defend livestock or
alert livestock owners about the presence of predators.”
Because some guard animals succumb to predator attacks,
guard animals aren’t 100% effective against large apex
predators like wolves. Adding high tensile electric fencing to
calving areas and establishing predator obstacles can help
“Some states offer programs to help cover the cost of
fencing used to defend livestock,” Koele says. “Lighting
livestock areas with Fox Lights can also help keep
predators away. Flashing lights or other type of lighting
stimuli may also help deter predators.”
In Wisconsin, bear attacks on livestock
generally result in lethal control. Wildlife
specialists know non-lethal deterrents
are typically not effective with bears.
Depending on state laws, livestock owners may have the right
to lethally trap and remove predators. Generally, wolves and
bears are more protected by state and/or federal laws.
Game cameras may assist livestock owners in evaluating
predatory risks and the types of predators in their local area.
Understanding specifi c predator behavior will help livestock
owners avoid inviting predators to pastures.
“Predators are always looking for food,” Koele says.
“Immediately removing any carcass resulting from natural loss
is an extremely important step in keeping predators away.”
Livestock owners are also advised against maintaining a
carcass dump on their property because of its potential for
“The safest way to dispose of a carcass is by using a
rendering truck or burying the carcass,” Koele says. “Compost
is another method that can be utilized if done properly.”
Typically, carcasses are covered with some type of waste,
such as manure, wood chips and shavings or old hay. The cover
helps restrict domestic and wild animals from accessing the
carcass. The debris also aids decomposition.
Wolves, bears and coyotes are both scavengers and hunters.
Once they locate a source of food, they’re more likely to return
to search for an easy kill or scavenge. Afterbirth from calving is
known to be a powerful wolf attractant.
Studies have shown that increased human presence is a
wolf deterrent. Patrolling livestock at dawn and dusk, when
wolves are most active, may help repel them.
“In Wisconsin, when there’s a predation incident, we
distribute an email or text message to alert area livestock
owners about it,” Koele says. “The alert allows livestock
owners to take proactive steps to protect their animals.”
Each pasture setting is unique with its own mix of wildlife.
The fi rst step to keep predators at bay is to identify risks and
use available resources to deter them.
A wolf kill site can be quite large and bloody; wolves scatter
everything, generally leaving only the spine and skull, maybe
some feet and lower leg, and some hide. They kill, eat, and hit
the trail, rarely coming back. Bite marks visible under the hide
and on the bone, massive internal hemorrhaging and other
critical signs help Wildlife and Game offi cials confi rm a kill.
YAIR LEIBOVICH / DREAMSTIME
32 I WORKING RANCH I MARCH 2019