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Predator Aversion Techniques


Fully enclosed structures have proven to be the best way to protect livestock.  But if enclosing your animals is not an option, then the following techniques may help to improve their safety.  These measures are often implemented in open-ranching operations.




If a covered pen is not an option then building a tall fence may be a suitable alternative.  While permanent fencing is an excellent option for small pastures, it is impractical on the vast public lands of the west where the high costs make it untenable for most ranchers, and where its presence impedes the movements of other wildlife species, including pronghorn antelope and mule deer.   Hence, fencing should not be constructed in a manner that blocks migration corridors for wildlife.  Larger operations should consider fencing a smaller area in which to confine sheep at night, or to confine ewes and lambs for the first month or so after birth.  See Animal Husbandry for more information on breeding livestock.


Temporary or portable fencing can be used to keep livestock together so that they can be guarded more effectively.  Portable electric fencing is easy to set up and allows herders and guard animals to monitor livestock and intruders.  The effectiveness of fencing is influenced by a variety of factors, including density and behavior of mountain lions, terrain and vegetative conditions, availability of prey, size of pastures, season of the year, design of the fence, quality of construction, maintenance and other factors.  Their benefits can be maximized if used in conjunction with other methods, such as the use of guard dogs or llamas: fencing can keep mountain lions out of a pasture while keeping guard animals in.  Fencing has additional advantages, including greater control of grazing and impacts on vegetation, eliminating the need for herding, and reducing parasitic infestations by minimizing contact with adjacent herds.  


Details and Design

Fences should be tall and constructed of heavy woven wire.  Electric fences are often recommended, but keep in mind a mountain lion may be able to clear a ten-foot fence without touching it, so the electric charge on a three-wire fence will not be much of a deterrent.  But in general, properly built electric and non-electric fences have been shown to prevent or significantly reduce the incidence of predation in cases with livestock. 


Coyotes and skunks can dig so be sure to bury the bottom of the fence.  We recommend creating an apron around the perimeter by placing fencing material along the ground that extends out a few feet from the fence.  Attach it to the fence, stake it down, and bury it 6 to 8 inches from the surface.  This makes it difficult for predators to get in since their instinct is to dig at the base of the wall.  Please keep in mind that fences should not be placed where they will block migration corridors for wildlife.


Guard Animals


Specially raised livestock guard dogs have proven to be one of the more effective strategies for reducing livestock predation by mountain lions and other large carnivores.  Introduced to the United States in the early 1970s from Europe where they have been used for thousands of years, livestock guard dogs were being used in at least 35 states by the mid 1980s.  The most popular dog breeds used as livestock guard animals include Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd (Kangal), Great Pyrenees, and Komondor.  Recommend another breed of livestock guard dog.



When properly trained and raised with the herd, livestock guard dogs have reduced predation on livestock by over ninety percent in many cases.  Some ranchers reported an estimated value around $3,000 of open-range sheep saved per dog per year from predators.  Of course, this amount varies from ranch to ranch depending upon the size and value of the herd.  But in the majority of cases, the money saved from the reduction in predation greatly exceeds the purchase price of a livestock guard dog (ranging anywhere from $200 to $1,000 depending on breed, bloodline and age) and a few hundred dollars per year for their annual maintenance cost (food, veterinary care, and miscellaneous). 


Before purchasing a livestock guard dog, contact a few breeders for more information and feel free to post any additional questions on our Forum.  Remember that livestock guard dogs are not pets, and must be specially raised and trained in order to be effective.  They are best suited to large herds in remote locations because they can pose a risk to people.  Guard animals such as llamas and donkeys are more effective against coyotes than lions.  Horned cattle have also been used in some ranching operations as a deterrent to predators.  See Animal Husbandry for more tips on the benefits of multi-species ranching operations.  If you have any additional advice from your own experiences or even stories of trial and error, please help us improve our recommendations by posting your story on our Forum.


Motion Alarms


Researchers have developed several devices designed to frighten or deter large carnivores from attacking livestock, though these are generally effective when livestock are confined in small pastures. One such frightening device is the Electronic Guard, produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which consists of a blinking strobe light and warbling type siren that activates for 710 seconds every 67 minutes at night. While we are not aware of any studies examining the efficacy of frightening devices such as the Electric Guard with mountain lions, their effectiveness has been documented with coyotes and wolves.


Another device that keeps some predators and other animal "intruders" away is the "Scarecrow." With a motion detected blast of cold water this device is a humane and effective method of deterring animals from your yard. It is hooked up to a normal garden hose and mounted in the ground. When the motion detector senses movement, the Scarecrow sprays a 3-4 second burst of water, and then resets itself. The spray head can be adjusted from 10- 360 to cover a small or large area and has a 35 ft range for flexibility in placement. The Scarecrow is simple to use, safe and inexpensive, but not yet proven to scare off mountain lions.


While frightening devices may produce only variable and short-lived benefits if maintained in the same location, altering their placement, varying the frequency of sound and light bursts, and utilizing a mixture of devices can retard continued habituation by carnivores.



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