Stay Safe

  • Be aware.
  • Bring a friend.
  • Wear bright and highly contrasting clothing.
  • Ask park or trail personnel about recent wildlife sightings.
  • Watch for signs and trail postings.
  • Avoid jogging or mountain biking low-light conditions at dusk and dawn.
  • Stay on the trail, and check maps frequently so that you won't get lost.
  • Supervise children, and keep them within arms reach.
  • Keep pets secure on a leash.
  • Don't approach any wild animal.
  • Give wildlife the time and space to steer clear of you.
  • Be vigilant if you bend over or crouch down.

Four Steps to Stay Safe

Help Mountain Lions by Keeping Your Pets and Livestock Safe

 

Living away from the crowded cities means having your own piece of land and plenty of room for children and pets to play. However, it also means wildlife is just outside your backdoor.

Birds and squirrels may be amusing visitors, but inviting any form of wildlife often means you are opening the door for all kinds of critters.

The best thing to do is to keep a barrier between you and the wildlife – it benefits everyone! By doing so, you will save your pets and livestock from becoming dinner and help keep out of trouble thereby ensuring they will not be killed for doing what comes natural to them.

Put wildlife at a safe distance and make sure your furry loved ones are kept close and protected by following these four simple steps.

Step 1. Bring Your Pets Indoors

Keeping your animals inside helps prevent diseases and also protects them from mountain lions, but we understand this is not always possible.

And besides, isn’t part of the reason you are living away from the city is so you and your animals can have plenty of open space and not be cooped up all day?

While your pets are safer indoors (and we suggest you keep them inside whenever possible or if there has been a recent lion sighting), they are typically not at great risk from mountain lions in your yard during the day.

Lions are usually most active at night. You will increase your pets’ safety and keep them happy by simply bringing them indoors between dusk and dawn, as well as accompanying them on late night bathroom outings.

If having your animals sleep inside the house is not possible… for example you have large dogs, a herd of sheep, or a goat that just snores too loudly, then secure them for the night in a fully enclosed structure like a shed, barn, or one of MLF’s lion-proof small livestock enclosures. For larger ranching operations where this is not an option, please see Step 3 for tips on keeping free range animals safe from predators.

Step 2. Keep Mountain Lions Out of Your Yard

Just because there are lions in the area does not mean one is living in your backyard. A lion’s territory can easily encompass 20 square miles and they spend most of their time traveling throughout their territory.

Therefore, an easy way to keep lions away is to be sure you are not attracting their natural prey – deer – to your home or garden.

The California Department of Fish and Game’s A Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage has tips on which plants to grow and which ones to remove.  Brush in general is not only a fire hazard, but it can also provide comfortable hiding places for wild animals. So clear bushes from around your home… especially if they are the type deer like to eat, and install proper fencing to keep wildlife out and protect your garden.

Raccoons and feral cats are also common lion food, so do what you can to avoid attracting them. Store your pet food in a secure enclosure and whenever possible feed your animals indoors.

Garbage cans also provide a magnificent party buffet for wild animals… and it may not be long before a lion decides to crash the party and eat the guests. Close the buffet by securing your garbage cans.

Step 3. Safeguard Livestock

Raising livestock is often a messy business.  Just like people can’t help themselves from buying that great smelling popcorn at the movie theater, mountain lions may be tempted to come into your yard for a quick and tasty meal should they catch a whiff of one.

The smell of blood from sick, injured, dead, or newborn animals will attract mountain lions.  Clean up the source and place vulnerable animals within a secure enclosure.  See our animal husbandry page for more details on how to protect breeding and injured animals.

If the size of your ranching operation does not permit you to follow the previous steps, or if you have implemented them and are still having conflicts, consider researching and investing in some of these additional predator aversion techniques.

If a covered livestock pen is not an option, you may need to build a tall fence. Mountain lions have been known to jump 15 feet vertically. Trained livestock-specific guard dogs are also said to scare off mountain lions.

Timed or motion sensor alarms with flashing lights, loud noises and sprinklers may work on mountain lions, and can also provide an added bonus of scaring other pesky neighbors who show up uninvited.

Step 4. Now Spread the Word

After following these simple steps, please let your neighbors know the value of taking the same precautions. A neighbor’s actions can still attract mountain lions into the area and increase everyone’s chances for a conflict.

We’ve created a simple brochure that you can photocopy and distribute in your neighborhood. once people understand that it’s much easier — and far better — to change human behavior than the behavior of wildlife, they’ll usually come around.

And don’t forget to let people know to come to this website to learn about lions. While you may understand how to live peacefully with the local wildlife, your neighbors may not. Their appeal to a government agency may result in the death of a mountain lion.

Often neighbors call in the authorities thinking that they are simply making a report, and without understanding the likely consequences. Once a call is made, it’s often a death warrant for the wild animal.

Please think your actions all the way through and do what is best for your community. Help your neighbors by referring them to our website or by printing and distributing some of the brochures listed below. Invite your local 4H and FFA clubs to contact MLF for help or tips for protecting their animals.

Encounters

How Safe are Humans When Lions are Close By?

 

“DFG does not consider mountain lion sightings near human habitation a public safety concern as long as the lion is not exhibiting aggressive behavior towards people. Mountain lions occur most anywhere you can find their primary prey, which is deer. As you likely know, deer not only live in remote forests, but also in green belts, parkways and riparian corridors along rivers. As such, mountain lion sightings in these areas are not uncommon, and DFG receives numerous reports of lions in these settings every month. Mountain lions are considered beneficial in these settings as they maintain healthy deer herds by keeping their populations in check.

DFG has scientific evidence that mountain lions inhabiting areas close to humans are no real cause for concern. We have either conducted or been associated with mountain lion studies that have monitored their movements in such areas. We typically capture mountain lions and place a radio collar on them in order to track their movements. The information gleaned from these collars has provided some illuminating results. They have indicated that mountain lions regularly use such areas more frequently than we have previously thought, and that these lions generally attempt to stay away from people.

For example, in Southern California, university researchers have placed collars on these big cats in a heavily used park. They also placed trail loggers and remotely triggered cameras along popular trails to estimate human use. Surprisingly, the results indicated that some lions were mere feet away from people who were unaware of the lion’s presence. During the course of this study, no reports of aggressive lion behaviors were ever reported to the researchers or park personnel.”

Excerpt from Outdoor Magazine
California Dept. of Fish & Game, May, 2012


If you have a Close Encounter with a Mountain Lion

 

Seem as large as possible

Make yourself appear larger by picking up children, leashing pets in, and standing close to other people. Open your jacket. Raise your arms. Wave your raised arms slowly.

Make noise

Yell, shout, bang your walking stick or water bottle. Make any loud sound that cannot be confused by the lion as the sound of prey. Speak slowly and loudly to disrupt and discourage the lion’s hunting instincts.

Act defiant, not afraid

Maintain eye contact. Never run past or away from a mountain lion. Don’t bend over or crouch down. Aggressively wave your arms, throw stones or branches, do not turn away.

Slowly create distance

Assess the situation. Consider whether you may be between the lion and its kittens, prey or cache. Back away slowly to give the mountain lion a path to retreat, never turning your back. Give the lion the time and ability to get away.

Protect yourself

If attacked, fight back. Protect your neck and throat. People have used rocks, jackets, garden tools, tree branches, walking sticks, fanny packs and even bare hands to turn away mountain lions.

Hiking Safety

Keeping Mountain Lions — and You — Out of Trouble on the Trail

 

Encounters with mountain lions are rare. But if you hike or bike in mountain lion habitat, your family’s understanding of the biology and behavior of mountain lions can enhance your safety.

Mountain lions tend to spend the day in dense cover, and to hunt when deer are active, most often at dawn and dusk. While these are also the times that people like to take a walk — avoiding the midday sun — we have a responsibility to be sensible when we do so in mountain lion country. The key to safety is to be aware; not afraid.

Lions do not see the same way we do. They look for the shape and movement of their natural prey. Deer are the lion’s favorite meal, and so it’s important for people to look as human as possible. Wearing brightly contrasting clothing can help a lion distinguish you from its natural prey. Although lions do not see colors as we do, dark, midtone or drab woodsy colors will make you look more like a deer.

Always be very alert when crouching or bending down in mountain lion country. Check the area carefully first, and make some noise. Lions aren’t able to see in sharp focus or in detail. Leaning down or bending over also makes the neck and back of the head vulnerable, and this is where a lion will target an attack.

Be especially concerned if you run across a dead animal in the brush. Steer clear. Don’t investigate or disturb the area. Lions cache their prey for weeks at a time, and will defend the cache.

Rapid movement of any kind — like biking or jogging — may trigger a lion’s instinct to chase.

Once the chase has begun, the lion is no longer able to think rationally or assess whether their target is a deer. Lions can sprint at speeds approaching 45 miles per hour, so outrunning them is unlikely.

It’s easy to see how a dog could be mistaken for prey, and chasing a pet may bring the mountain lion back to you. For that reason, it’s important to keep pets on a leash, and to keep them close to you.

It’s not safe to approach or attract any wild animal. Even deer can be dangerous. Although they appear passive, they deserve space and respect.

Stillness ought not to be equated with a lack of aggression. Lions are stealthy predators, and they cannot roar as a warning.

When you encounter a mountain lion and it doesn’t run from you immediately, don’t jump to conclusions about the meaning of its behavior. It may view you as prey, or as a predator.

Lions will not turn their back on you if they view you as dangerous, because they know from their own hunting behavior that predators attack from behind.

So a lion not backing down is often a sign that you already have the advantage.

Predators, like the mountain lion, cannot afford an injury. If they are hurt they cannot hunt effectively, defend a territory, or seek water and shelter. When injured, wild animals starve. But a sick or injured animal also may seek out easy prey, and become much less interested in anything that looks like it will fight back.

Research has shown that mountain lions go out of their way to avoid other mountain lions, and humans — relying on wariness as their first defense, resorting to fights only when necessary to defend a territory or a litter of kittens.

The best way to ensure that both you and the lion may leave safely is for you to back away slowly while continuing to look as big and intimidating as possible, leaving the lion avenues of escape.

It’s important that a lion not feel cornered, or separated from its kittens, or a cached kill. It will fight to reach — and protect — either. If a lion doesn’t take an easy exit, kittens or a cache may be the reason.

Most wild animals want to avoid humans. And their fear is healthy and should be encouraged, for their own safety.

People survive encounters with mountain lions when they behave aggressively. Not only does being hit by a thrown rock hurt, but it makes it very clear that you are not a deer or coyote.

In one case a 9-year-old boy in El Dorado County frightened a mountain lion away by playing his trumpet. When asked why he did that he said, “…my parents taught me to make noise, look big, do not run…”

With much of the western United States being mountain lion habitat, many parks have come to expect occasional lion sightings as natural occurrence in wild areas, and will simply take note of your report of seeing a lion.

If the lion exhibited aggressive behavior in the encounter, officials may close off the trail temporarily as it may be a mother lion with cubs nearby; or they may choose to investigate why the lion behaved out of character, as it may be diseased or injured.

Making a media event out of a lion encounter often leads to the death of the lion, even when it behaved perfectly naturally, and caused no harm.

Some people will rush to the area in hopes of seeing the lion. Others will demand — out of fear — that the danger be eliminated.

So, if you see a lion in the wild, treasure your safety and that of the lion, and be grateful for the rare opportunity. Many people work their whole lives in the wild and never catch a glimpse of this elusive creature.

Keep Your Pets and Livestock Safe

Livestock owners take on a responsibility for the health and security of the domestic animals in their care. Today, all around the world, shepherds still guard flocks. Herds are brought into enclosures at dusk and released to graze when the sun is high. Barns and barnyards are carefully maintained and secured. Guard animals are trained to haze off predators.

The following simple methods have been used to keep pets and livestock safe from mountain lions and other predators.

BROCHURE:  Preventing Conflicts with Mountain Lions in California

Protecting Livestock

Wild wariness and natural defenses have been bred out of domestic livestock. They are unprepared to defend themselves.

Livestock owners take on a responsibility for the health and security of the domestic animals in their care. Today, all around the world, shepherds still guard flocks. Herds are brought into enclosures at dusk and released to graze when the sun is high. Barns and barnyards are carefully maintained and secured. Guard animals are trained to haze off predators.

It just doesn’t happen much here.

In the United States, more predators are killed as a result of preying on domestic livestock than for any other intentional reason. Our history has created a tradition of relying on government to reduce risks related to wildlife. We make a call and taxpayers pay to have offending lions, wolves, and coyotes killed. It’s a kneejerk reaction. Unfortunately, this has reduced our reliance on traditional methods for protecting livestock, and has stifled our creativity and innovation in designing new methods and technologies for safeguarding domestic animals as well.

The majority of conflicts between wildlife and livestock on the urban edge occur with domestic livestock animals that are kept as pets, hobby or recreational animals, as 4-H or FFA teaching projects, as tools to keep grass and vegetation down, or as breeding stock. Cattle ranchers experience very few depredations from mountain lions, compared to other sources of danger for their herds. But every livestock owner will tell you that every animal counts.

So don’t assume that the loss of a single carnivore is unimportant: not only are mountain lion populations reduced dramatically in many areas that have been cut off by roads and development, but killing an established resident lion may actually make predation problems worse. The future of the species in your area might depend on your decisions.

But even if you don’t care about the lion, you are responsible for the livestock in your care. We’ve assembled some of the common methods for keeping livestock safe from predators, and listed them below. We’ve also developed a set of plans for small herd enclosures, information about guard animals, and a list of techniques and devices to scare predators away. Clearly every situation has its own challenges, but we hope one or more of these methods may work for you.

Rethink Your Animal Husbandry

Your situation is unique, and so there isn’t a single set of rules or best practices for protecting your domestic animals. Not only do needs vary by breed, and constraints differ by locale and nearby wildlife habitat, but wildlife habits may change over time with the climate and season. It makes sense to sit down and create a plan for protection, using the categories below. Take out pen and paper and draw a map of your operation. Notice wildlife attractants, and where you might create deterrents. Set down a daily schedule and a calendar for the year.

Pens, Barns and Enclosures

Unless you maintain a large herd of livestock, it is best to keep domestic animals such as chickens, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, llamas, alpacas, burros, donkeys, and cows in completely enclosed pens. Build secure enclosures with a roof and floor. They don’t have to be expensive. Well-secured chain link will do. See our pen scrapbook for plans and ideas. You can often use an existing outbuilding or barn. Take the time to check all points of entry, and keep access closed up at night. It’s important to build a pen first, and only then purchase livestock.

Fences

Fences may help to prevent both deer and mountain lions from choosing your backyard or pasture over your neighbor’s. Unlike bears, mountain lions will not tear most fences apart, and unlike coyotes, foxes, skunks and dogs, mountain lions won’t dig beneath a fence. But a lion’s ability to climb and to jump means that a barn or covered pen is always a better choice for protection. Fences designed to deter mountain lions should be very high, deep and well-constructed. Electric fencing can be used, and temporary fencing can help to increase the efficacy of guard animals.

Take Advantage of Daylight

Many livestock owners believe that their animals enjoy freedom to roam. But domestic animals also truly enjoy shelter and a place that is safe from predators. If you must let livestock outside secure enclosures, do so during daylight hours, or while you attend them. Bring them into a secure enclosure from dusk to dawn, when predators are most active. Staking, chaining, or tying out livestock is an invitation to all kinds of predators, and is in fact used by unethical hunters to attract lions to be killed.

Keep Wildlife at a Distance

Clearing brush and shrubs from a barnyard and establishing a limit line between wild areas and domestic operations can keep wildlife from having a place to hide. Smaller wild animals draw in larger wildlife and carry their own risks, too. Look over your yard for places that raccoons, skunks, oppossums and rodents might take up residence. Whenever deer are visible in the area, take extra precautions, as mountain lions are likely to be present as well. Secure your livestock in enclosures or guard them carefully when deer herds are likely to move through your area.

Think Seasonally

Seasonal changes disrupt a habits and force lions out of normal patterns of movement in order to seek out prey. Because they are opportunistic hunters, lions will take any animal that looks and smells like food and that does not appear to present an immediate danger. It appears that mountain lions are most likely to be tempted by domestic animals when deer herds are migrating. Unfortunately, this is also the time when many domestic animals are born, and therefore most vulnerable. Heavy snow, orchard windfalls, and mating seasons will also affect wildlife behavior.

Fall Birthing

Adjusting the period when lambing, kidding or calving is scheduled can be an effective way of limiting predation. Livestock losses are typically highest from late spring through summer as coyote packs provide food to young pups. Mountain lions may give birth at any time of year, but do so more often in the spring. They too, will struggle to feed their kittens. If livestock producers change to an autumn calving or lambing program, the opportunity for wild animals to prey on young livestock can be significantly reduced.

Shed Birthing

The practice of lambing, calving, and kidding in sheds protects young domestic animals. Ewes and lambs are typically confined to corrals next to the lambing shed for two weeks after birth. Owners can obtain veterinary help for birthing problems, treat sick lambs, and care for orphans. By moving pregnant ewes or goats to barns or other enclosures where they can be monitored, predation can be virtually eliminated. Shed birthing also reduces the blood which might attract predators to a larger ranging herd.

Keep Livestock Areas Clean

Lions are attracted by the smell of blood. Keep injured animals, or livestock nearing and following birth, in fully enclosed structures. Immediately remove and destroy afterbirth, carcasses, and other animal by-products from areas near livestock enclosures or homes. Keep feed secured, even from smaller wildlife, particularly at night. Fence in vegetable and fruit gardens that might attract deer and other wildlife. Remove windfalls. Even livestock droppings may attract wildlife, which consider the rich feces as a source of food. Predators may follow.

Install Frightening Devices

Mountain lions depend on surprise to catch their prey, and, like most wild animals, avoid dangers that they don’t understand. Installing motion or timer-activated devices around your animal enclosures may help keep predators away. Remember that it is as important to scare away the lion’s potential wildlife prey as it is to scare away the lion. Alternating simple devices using water, sound, light can provide non-lethal methods for habituating wildlife to stay far from your yard or farm.

Employ Guard Animals

Guard dogs bred to protect livestock from predators have been used for thousands of years in Europe. Studies show that properly trained livestock guard dogs reduce predation by as much as 93%. Guard dogs are not pets, and must be specially raised and trained in order to be effective. They may also pose a risk to people, and are best suited to large herds in remote locations. Other guard animals — such as llamas and donkeys — are more effective against coyotes than lions. Horned cattle are also being used in some ranching operations as a deterrent to predators.

Multi-species Stocking

Raising sheep and cattle together – called “interspecific pasturing” or “flerds” – has proven to be an effective way to deter predation. When carnivores approach, cattle encircle the more vulnerable sheep, which discourages predators from attacking. If the risk of getting injured is high (as from being kicked by a full-grown cow or gored by horns), most predators will reconsider. Flerds also make better use of pasture forage, and internal sheep fencing is not so often required, as the sheep tend to stay with the cattle.

Selecting Appropriate Livestock

Certain breeds of livestock have specific needs or weaknesses that must be considered in relation to habitat, terrain, and grazing conditions. Before obtaining new livestock, ranchers should evaluate their grazing habitat and select breeds that are appropriate for that habitat and resident carnivore species. Some ranchers experiencing chronic mountain lion predation have shifted from sheep to cattle production, and in areas with high predation some have changed from cow-calf to steer operations.

Choose Not to Kill

Cutting edge research is demonstrating what we have suspected all along: that killing an established adult lion often makes predation problems worse. (See the article “Troubled Teens”). When we lose a domestic animal to a wild predator, we feel angry. We may worry that our own security — and that of our family, neighbors, and other animals — is threatened, too. But experience, and now science, indicates that the first reaction, to kill the predator, may actually increase the remaining risk. So, take time to think before calling in a government agency. Governments are bound by law and tied by tradition to act lethally and immediately in many cases, and they have few tools other than guns at their disposal. Your best defense may be to accept the initial predation as a lesson of life and a cost of raising livestock, and to review and revise your own animal husbandry methods based on what you have learned from the experience.

Deterrents

Scaring Mountain Lions Away

Water, sound, and light can provide non-lethal methods for habituating wildlife to stay far from your home or farm.

Mountain lions depend on surprise to catch their prey, and, like most wild animals, they avoid dangers that they don’t understand. Installing motion or timer-activated outdoor lighting, sirens, or jets of water around your home and domestic animal enclosures may help keep predators away.

Remember that it is as important to scare away the lion’s potential wildlife prey as it is to scare away the lion.

Timed 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.

Motion Alarms

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.

Creativity

If you’ve developed effective frightening devices to deter predators from your property, please let us know at Mountain Lion Foundation.

For example, one ingenious man named Larry posted an idea on the BackYard Chickens forum about the method he discovered to protect his chicken coop:

“Several years ago we had a serious problem with skunks, fox, and coyotes raiding the coops at night. We did pretty well by making sure that the coops were in good repair and we also used all the heavy duty fencing available to us. But still there were times when a latch was left open or a determined animal made it’s way into the coop. Luckily that did not happen often – but once can be devastating.”

“One day while at a yard sale I saw a box of what looked like Halloween lights. A string of about 12 lights on a 14 ft. electrical cord. Each light had a plastic cover that looked like evil eyes. Pretty cool. I asked if I could plug them in to see if they worked and sure enough they were perfect. Each light had a blinker and they would come on and off independently. Each light was a different style and all of them spooky. And they’re water proof.”

“I removed all but 4 of the lights from the string and installed one pair of eyes on each side of one coop. I placed the lights down at ground level. I also plugged them into a day/night sensor to automatically activate every night at sundown.”

“We have not had one incident of snoopy predators since.”

Have You Invented a Solution?

If you’ve developed effective frightening devices to deter predators from your property, please let us know at Mountain Lion Foundation.

Enclosures and Pens

Secure Livestock Enclosures

As a reminder, you can download free construction plans, instructions and material list for MLF’s lion-proof small livestock enclosures: Low Cost PenMobile Pen, or Permanent Enclosure. See how easy it is to build a predator proof pen in this video.

For larger ranching operations, see our section on protecting livestock.

The best protection measure against mountain lions and other predators is to bring pets indoors at night, and place livestock into fully enclosed barns, pens, or sheds. Unsecured openings, such as windows, doors, or large gaps, could provide access for highly curious or desperate predators.

Be sure to place all new livestock enclosures, both covered and open, away from any trees or brush that lions might climb or hide within.

Obviously, the easiest and most cost effective way to secure your animals is to use a preexisting structure. Any obstacle between a lion and your animals will make the lion more likely to avoid the hassle and find dinner elsewhere. So if you’ve got some spare materials laying around like boards and chicken wire, get creative and make your animals that much more secure.

If you do not currently have a facility to house your animals safely, or fixing up an old structure would be more work than it’s worth, consider building a new quick and easy lion-proof small livestock enclosure, such as the one MLF designed, over the weekend. Modifications can easily be made to fit your specific needs. Also, integrating various predator aversion techniques including frightening devices, fences, and guard animals, can help keep mountain lions away from your pen.

The Basics

Download free construction plans, instructions and material list for MLF’s lion-proof small livestock enclosures: Low Cost PenMobile Pen, or Permanent Enclosure. See how easy it is to build a predator proof pen in this video.

We recommend using wood and/or chain link fencing to build an enclosure. Make sure the roof is strong enough to support a snow load or the weight of a lion if one should decide to jump on top and test your carpentry skills.

If you have a problem with coyotes or other animals that dig, create 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. More fencing options.

Fix Up Your Current Structure

 

1. Walls

If your barn or shed is built from wood, make sure all boards are in sturdy condition. Replace or reinforce any broken pieces. Board up any openings that wild animals can fit through. If there are too many openings between boards, consider reinforcing the walls with chain link. Make sure all windows are closable with glass or latched shutters, or board them up. Be sure to consider proper ventilation for the health of your animals, but be aware that predators can enter through large openings.

2. Floor

The walls of your enclosure should extend all the way to the ground, and ideally buried at least a foot. As mentioned above, an apron is a great way to keep out digging predators.

3. Door

The entrance should have a sturdy door that closes and latches. If you have bears in the area you will need a more complicated lock than if you are only concerned about lions and/or coyotes. Double check that there are no large openings around the frame.

4. Roof

Lions can jump more than fifteen feet so a sturdy roof is mandatory to insure your livestock is safe. If it snows or storms heavily in the winter, MLF recommends a wooden roof that can handle a snow load. Close off large gaps to keep your furry ones safe and dry inside. Consider installing mesh or a screen over openings in the eves to keep out small rodents.

MLF Lion-Proof Small Livestock Enclosures


The Mountain Lion Foundation has designed and built three styles of lion-proof small livestock enclosures. One is designed for snow loads, while the other works in warmer climates and can be moved. Our most recent enclosure can be built for around $650 in 2021.

Construction plans with instructions and material list can be downloaded free: Low Cost Pen or Mobile Pen or Permanent Enclosure. See a predator proof pen being built in this video.

Guard Animals

Guard Dogs to Protect Your Flock and Herds

Guard dogs bred to protect livestock from predators have been used for thousands of years in Europe.

Studies show that properly trained livestock guard dogs reduce predation by as much as 93%. Guard dogs are not pets, and must be specially raised and trained in order to be effective. They may also pose a risk to people, and are best suited to large herds in remote locations.

Guard Animals

Specially raised livestock guard dogs are one of the more effective strategies for reducing livestock predation by mountain lions and other large carnivores. They have been used in at least 35 states after being introduced to the United States in the early 1970s. Other guard animals — such as llamas and donkeys — are more effective against coyotes than lions. Horned cattle are also being used in some ranching operations as a deterrent to predators.

Training and Behavior

The use of dogs as livestock guard animals appears to have originated in Europe, and dogs have been used there to protect flocks and herds from wolves, bears, foxes and domestic dogs for many thousands of years. Records from Ancient Greece and Rome describe the use of an extinct breed of dog — the Molossus — for livestock protection. “Never, with them on guard,” says Virgil, “need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back.”

A Pyr gains acceptance from the flock by being submissive. The ewe or ram postures by butting and the Pyr responds by crouching down. Not being a threat, the sheep readily accept the dog.
Milk and Honey Farm, Cokato, Minnesota

Guard dogs differ markedly from sheepdogs which are trained to herd, and the breeds used differ as well. Guard dogs are trained to integrate themselves within the flock, transferring the canine pack social structure, and therefore learning to protect the flock from harm. The light coloration of most guard dogs is believed to allow them to more readily blend in with the sheep, be accepted as part of the flock, and also to confuse predators.

Guardian dogs may be trained to boundary limits by walking the fence line repeatedly, setting their territory and that of the flock. Usually, guard dogs need not actually fight a predator, but frighten it away by displaying their large size and loud bark.

Dog Breeds

The most effective breeds include Akbash, Kangal, Great Pyrenees, and Komondor. Less commonly known are the Turkish Kars, Turkish Tazi, Czechkoslavakian Chuvatch, the Polish Tatra, the Hungarian Kuvasz, Tibetan Mastiff, and the Italian Maremma.

 The Akbash is one of several guard breeds of Turkey, originating in the west central region near Ankara. It is white in color. It is believed to be less aggressive towards people than some other guard breeds, but still very aggressive toward wild predators and other dogs. There are more than 2000 Akbash dogs in the United States, and one of the three breeds the USDA most recommends as guard dogs.

 

The Kangal, known as the national dog of Turkey, is tan in color with a distinctive black mask. It originates from the Sivas-Kangal region of the country. The Kangal became known in the United States in the 1980s, and has a large frame, powerful chest, pendant ears and short blunt muzzle: characteristics of early mastiffs. It is often called an Anatolian Shepherd, which is more accurately a term for any of the dogs from Turkey, and the name can be confusing.

 

The Great Pyrenees were originally bred as dogs of war, and then used during times of peace to guard sheep and goats. They are less aggressive towards people than some of the other dogs used as guardians.

 

The Komondor originated in Hungary, and is another large, white-colored breed, distinguished by its long and heavily corded coat. Hungarian records as far back as 1544 mention the breed, which has been declared one of Hungary’s national treasures.

Costs and Benefits

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).

Ed and Erlyne Schmidbauer inherited this ranch from Ed’s parents, who bought it in 1945. The family has always raised sheep here. However, wool is now a money-losing product (shearing alone costs more than the wool brings), so they sell lambs for meat. Their daughter raises goats on adjoining property. They sell their hormone-free products seasonally at local farmers markets under the label Haehl Creek Ranches.

The Great Pyrenees (or Pyrenean Mountain Dogs) are the sheep’s protectors against coyotes, mountain lions, bears, and roaming domestic dogs. Although even these large dogs would be no match for a bear in a fight, the large predators seem to respect the “territory” of the guard dogs and stay away. The last of this year’s lambs are still with their parents, but were do to be taken to the slaughterhouse within the coming week.

Someone in the group asked Erlyne Schmidbauer why they use dogs rather than llamas as guards. She laughed and said, “Mountain lions like llamas even better than sheep!” She said that the one drawback of the Great Pyrenees is that foxtails in their long fur are a big problem, particularly between their toes.

Larry McCombs

Before purchasing a livestock guard dog, contact a few breeders for more Information. 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.

 

 

 

Fences

Fencing to Deter Mountain Lions

Fences may help to prevent both deer and mountain lions from choosing your backyard or pasture over your neighbor’s. Unlike bears, mountain lions will not tear most fences apart, and unlike coyotes, foxes, skunks and dogs, mountain lions won’t dig beneath a fence. But a lion’s ability to climb and to jump means that a barn or covered pen is always a better choice for protection. Fences designed to deter mountain lions should be very high, deep and well-constructed.

The effectiveness of predator-resistant fencing is influenced by a variety of factors, including the density, age and behavior of local mountain lions, the terrain and vegetative conditions, the availability of prey, size of pastures, season of the year, design of the fence, quality of construction, and maintenance concerns.

Fence Detail and Design

Properly built electric and non-electric fences have prevented or significantly reduced how often mountain lions prey on livestock. Fences are often used to habituate predators to move elsewhere in search of prey, because fencing is so costly to completely exclude them.

Mountain lions can leap a ten foot fence with ease, so fences should be at least 12 feet high.

The best materials will be difficult for a lion to climb, such as heavy woven wire or chain link.

Fences constructed to keep Florida panthers off the highways have also included a broad wire mesh overhang at the top of the fence to prevent lions from climbing over.

Whatever kind of fence is used, it is important to be vigilant about clearing overhanging tree branches as well.

Section 5.3.2 of the Federal Highway Administration’s Best Practices Manual: Wildlife Vehicle Collision Reduction Study shows photographs of the fencing used to prevent endangered Florida Panthers from crossing freeways. Only the highest and best constructed fences have proved effective.

Electric Fences

Some property owners have achieved better protection by using alternating hot and grounded electric wires on their fencing. However, given that a mountain lion may be able to clear a ten-foot fence without touching it, the electric charge on a typical low-hung three-wire fence will not be much of a deterrent. To complicate matters, a lion’s fur coat provides some insulation from electric shock, requiring relatively higher voltage to be effective, and increasing the risk of electric shock for other wildlife, people and pets.

Adding one or more electric wires at the top of a 12 foot chain link fence may help to prevent lions from climbing over, and perhaps reduce the risk.

One example of a low-cost fence that solved a mountain lion problem in Montana can be found on page 109 of the Living with Predators Resource Guide (17MB pdf file) provided by the Living with Wildlife Foundation.

Fencing for Night, Birthing and Recuperation

When a pen or barn is not feasible, you might consider fencing a smaller area in which to confine livestock at between dusk and dawn, Similarly, temporary fences may be used to confine young domestic animals for the first month or so after birth, when they are particularly vulnerable. Injured or sick animals can also be fenced in and away from the rest of a herd, since the scent of blood or illness may attract predators.

Temporary Fencing

While permanent fencing may help protect small pastures or backyards, it is too costly and impractical for the vast public lands of the west. Temporary or portable fencing can be used to keep livestock together so that herds can be guarded more effectively. Portable electric fencing is easy to set up and far less expensive than the permanent predator-resistant fences described above.

An electric fence is not a physical barrier: it’s psychological. Herd animals must be trained to fear the fence, and should never be confined within when the voltage is too weak or the fence is turned off. It’s the same for predators: the initial (and repeated) shock from an electric fence may train them to return to the wild in search prey, even though the fence itself might be easily breached.

Because the fencing is a psychological barrier, it must be visible. White wires are more visible than any other color against most dry or lush grassland backgrounds. Mountain lions do not see color as well as high contrast, so white wiring will be more effective than red, orange or yellow.

Dry soils can prove to be a big problem for temporary electric fencing. Grounding rods require damp soil, and may disable the electric current when the earth retains little moisture.

Some good general guidelines about temporary electric fencing can be found in Fences that Work.

The benefits of temporary fencing can be improved when used in conjunction with shepherds or guard animals. Temporary fencing has additional advantages, including greater control of grazing, reducing impacts on vegetation, eliminating the need for herding, and avoiding parasitic infestations by minimizing contact with adjacent herds.

Concerns Regarding Prey Movement and Predator Behavior

A significant downside to using preventative fencing to divert mountain lions is that should a lion inadvertently become enclosed in an area with prey with no easy and apparent exit, the lion will kill — and continue to kill — until all movement has stopped.

This is instinctual, not a choice or decision. It is not done because lions are particularly cruel or wasteful. The basis of this behavior is that lions hunt herd animals, and their experience is that once one animal has been taken, the others will surely flee. When this does not happen, it is an unnatural event, and the lion perceives danger. If escape is not easily achieved, or the lion does not remember how he entered, it will kill again.

Mountain lions are vulnerable to infection and death from even the slightest injury, and are often injured by their prey, even when only confronting a single animal. So killing any and all immediate and evident threats provides safety to the individual and an evolutionary advantage to the species. Moreover, mountain lions cannot distinguish detail or color as we do, and rely more specifically on movement, sound and scent to determine the level of danger.

There is no easy answer to this dilemma, but it’s important to understand the issue when making a choice about using fencing rather than total exclusion and enclosure.

Considering other Wildlife

Coyotes, wolves, foxes, dogs and skunks will dig beneath even the strongest fence, so be sure to bury the bottom of the fence. We recommend placing fencing material along the ground that extends out a few feet to create a buried apron or skirt along the entire width. Attach it to the fence, stake it down, and bury it 6 to 8 inches from the surface. This feature capitalizes on canines’ instinct to dig at the base of a wall.

Many additional resources have been detailed for protection from bears, which use their great strength, persistence and dexterity to break into many an enclosure that would thwart a lion or coyote. We suggest reading Electric Fencing for Bears by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Bears and Electric Fencing by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department,

Please keep in mind that fences (or other man-made obstacles such as homes, businesses, roads, or domestic grazing operations!) should not be placed where they will block important migration corridors for scarce, threatened or endangered wildlife. Inviting deer into your backyard or pasture is generally not a good idea — as predators will almost certainly follow — but check with a local biologist to ask whether your property is part of an irreplaceable wildlife corridor if you are uncertain, and before you build your fence. For more information about wildlife corridors, be sure to listen to the audio feature: ON AIR: Kim Vacariu on Continental Corridors