Protecting Livestock from Predators
Predators are animals that kill and eat other animals, or prey. Predation is a natural process, and the only animals not considered predators are ones that strictly feed on plants.
The Florida panther and black bear are the largest potential predators of livestock in the state, and both are legally protected. However, neither is associated with livestock loss in Florida often, and this is also true for eagles and bobcats. Predation on livestock is more likely to occur from coyotes and domestic dogs.
Coyotes have expanded their presence throughout Florida in the last 40 years, and they can prey on cattle, goats, and sheep. Additionally, they’ve also been known to kill cats and small dogs.
The first step in protecting livestock from predators is to determine if your livestock is being preyed on by other animals. Livestock can die from many causes, including parasites, lightning, or starvation. Livestock killed by predators have bruising and puncture wounds beneath their skin. Another indicator is blood on the ground (but no livestock missing), which can be evidence of a struggle.
Once you determine predation is the source of livestock loss, you want to identify what particular animal is the predator. Coyotes often bite and eat the noses of young animals and attack sides and hindquarters. They also feed on the flank (located behind the ribs) and consume organs.
Domestic dogs bite on multiple areas of the prey’s body and often consume very little of it.
Ways to Protect Livestock
- Although dogs can attack livestock, certain breeds can protect them. Guard dogs (and even guard llamas and guard donkeys) may be an effective way to protect livestock. However, success depends on the guard animal’s training and behavior.
- Consider wire or electrical fencing as a preventive measure to keep predators out before they establish a pattern of preying on livestock.
- Using light and noise, such as bells and night lights, may deter predators from the premises.
- Vary techniques and even use multiple practices to outsmart predators and keep them from becoming familiar with livestock-filled areas.
Visit the United States Department of Agricultures’ APHIS Wildlife Services and Florida Wildlife Services for more information on protecting livestock from predators and coexisting with wildlife.
Adapted and Excerpted From:
J. S. Green and R.A. Woodruff, "Livestock Guarding Dog," USDA (07/1999).
M. B. Main, Interpreting the Physical Evidence of Predation on Domestic Livestock (WEC141), Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department (rev. 09/2011).
“Predator Control for Sustainable and Organic Livestock Production,” National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. (Accessed 8/2013).