Wherever large carnivores are present damage prevention presents one of the most important tools
for long term conservation of their populations and also an effective way to ensure the safety of human property and local agriculture.
Unprotected or inappropriately protected property can present easily accessible food source for large carnivores. In many cases this damaged property results in conflict situations. Damages caused by large carnivores occur on various types of human property and can also greatly vary in their scope and scale. For instance, damages caused by wolves are mostly limited to livestock, predominantly small livestock, on the other hand bears can also cause damage on beehives, orchards, fields and silage bales.
Scale and number of damage cases caused by bears fluctuates between years in regards to natural food availability. Number of damage cases connected to lynx are negligibly small than those caused by wolfs and bears.
It is important to know that the number of damage cases, in a given area, is not strictly connected to the number of individual animals that are present there. That is mostly because multiple damages can be caused by just one individual animal. So to protect our property we must first and foremost be responsible landowners.
Existence of pasture farming in the areas where large carnivores are constantly or occasionally present, can only be achieved through application of appropriate prevention measures. In Slovenia as well as in other parts of Europe there is very little to none places without some human activity, that is why we must search for reasonable and long term solutions that could enable us to coexist with large carnivores.
There are many different ways on how to protect our property form large carnivores. Few of the most efficient approaches are:
Protection with the electricity
Wild animals are usually very careful. When they come across a physical barrier, that is foreign to them, they first want to familiarize with it. In the case of electricity this first contact causes the animal great pain. This negative experience arouses fear in animal and results in future avoidance of protected area. Protecting property with electric fences is known as one of the most reliable and widespread way of preventing damage caused by large carnivores.
It should be noted that not all approaches are efficient. In many cases livestock is secured with electric fences with just two or three electrified wires. Such installations are not intended to keep potential predators away from the livestock, its purpose is just to keep flocks in one designated area. To be efficient, installation has to prevent passage of large carnivores above, below and through the electric fence. This can be achieved with high electric fences. Not only that this kind of fences offer efficient security to the livestock, their mobility also enables suitable pasture management.
In the case of permanent fencing of wider pastures and also stationary beehives multi-wire electric fences are proven to be effective. As mentioned before, this way of fencing is mostly used to keep livestock in a manageable area, but can serve as a good damage prevention measure if the installation is correct. The fence has to be under electric current at all times. When setting up the multi-wire fences we have to be aware that more wires means greater protection. We recommend that such electric fence is at least 150 cm high and consists of at least six electrified wires. When the pasture is not in use it is important to remove the wires and pillars to enable uninterrupted crossing of wild animals. Removing the fence when it is not used and without any electrical current can also prevent large carnivores and other wild animals of finding a way to bypass this prevention measure and lose the fear of this obstacle.
Livestock guarding dogs
The presence of livestock guarding dogs is also one of the more effective ways to prevent large carnivore caused damage to livestock. It is important to distinguish between livestock guarding and shepherd dogs. The latter are used for steering and leading the herd but livestock guarding dogs are used to protect the herd from predation. Although the practice of flock protection with livestock guarding dogs almost died out in the last couple of decades, the spatial expansion of large carnivore populations caused that they are again seen as a good damage prevention solution.
Livestock guarding dogs have a very sharp pack instinct. Dogs that grow up with the flock, consider grazing animals as members of their pack. Because of that they perceive these animals as one of their own so they start to act protective towards them. To ensure efficient protection there must be at least three dogs present at the pasture. Presence of multiple livestock guarding dogs ensures that they behave like a pack and cooperate with each other. To ensure maximum safety of livestock is best to combine livestock guarding dogs with electric fences.
Raising and training good and effective livestock guarding dog requires a lot of work and time. The most crucial for the development of proper features are the first two years of dog’s life. Within our project we will raise two livestock guarding dogs (tornjak breed) and donate them to two farms located in the project area. This will save time and efforts of farmers and hopefully promote this kind of prevention measure.
If you want to know about livestock guarding dogs we kindly invite you to visit our Safe grazing. We also published a handbook covering this topic.
Since large carnivores are naturally wary and typically avoid encounters with people, protecting and monitoring livestock herds with a shepherd is another tool that reduces the risk of livestock losses to carnivores and has been used effectively for centuries. Nowadays shepherds are used just in few parts of Europe, mostly on the Balkan peninsula and in some alpine parts of Italy, Switzerland and France, besides preventing carnivore attacks is not their main purpose.
Their main task is manly to roundup herds in stalls where the animals can be milked. Apart from mentioned parts of Europe the use of shepherd pasture is dying out. The key techniques that help improve this kind prevention from large carnivore predation include night-penning (night enclosures) and human presence at all times. Shepherd can also control the work of livestock guarding dogs, they can monitor the dogs’ behavior and so ensure the efficient integration of dogs in the herd.
Follow the link for more information about shepherd pasture.
To find out more about various effective ways of protecting your property, co-financing the purchase of prevention measures or the process of reporting a damage, we invite you to visit the portal Safe grazing, where you can find all the necessary information.