Tooth and Nail: Ranching With Predators

Last month On Pasture asked: “What’s the best way to protect your livestock from predators?” and provided information from the Livestock-Predator Hub as food for thought. Turns out, On Pasture author John Marble has been thinking about predators for a long time. I hope you enjoy his thoughts. _________________________ My relationship with predators goes way back. At the age of nine, I began protecting the family ranch by trying to shoot any animal that might fairly be called a “varmint”. The list was long: coyote, fox, raccoon, mink, nutria, musk rat, chicken hawk, falcon, opossum, weasel, blue jay, kestrel, starling, sparrow and on and on and on. Eagles? Well, truth be told, we didn’t have any eagles back then. Now, those lamb-snatchers are everywhere. Makes me glad I don’t have lambs.   Funny how things change. Nowadays, it’s a fairly frequent occurrence for a car to pull into the driveway, a rattled driver trotting to the door to tell me that there are some coyotes roaming around a field within sight of the highway. Oh! And there are some cows in that field, too. Often, there are offers to run home and get a rifle. Next comes the look of absolute confusion when I explain that the coyotes are just part of the deal here, that they’re just hunting mice anyway, that…no…“We don’t shoot ‘em.” I’ve quit shooting all those other varmints, too. Turns out, I kind of like having the hawks and weasels around. And the starlings? Well,

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5 thoughts on “Tooth and Nail: Ranching With Predators

  1. We’re in a predator rich environment, primarily coyote, but occasion bear, wolves, cougar, bald eagles. We’ve lost a couple calves to coyotes, always 1-3 days of age. The coyotes at least are very territorial, once they learn to hunt lambs, will continue to do so and need to be removed, if they do not learn this, the keep other coyotes away.

    The combination of electric fencing, frequent moves in a mob, and Livestock Guarding Dog living with the flock keeps this practically non-existent.

    I’ve been on other grazing operations in the SW part of the state that have had significant losses to wolves and cougars for both calves and sheep.

    The only black bear incident we’ve personally experienced was a bear tearing the milk filled udder off a close up ewe.

    Bald eagles (and now Golden Eagles) forced use to give up on pasture lambing, only the new borns seem to be most vulnerable. The guards dogs did not see this as threat.

    The fox we have on the farm have never been an issue.

    Predators are part of the system and not all bad. Just have learn to manage their presence.

    Excellent piece John.

  2. My response to people that ask to hunt coyotes on our land is to deny permission because I want to protect the coyotes that know to respect the electrified fence around our sheep. They defend their territory and keep other coyotes away. They have plenty of small rodents to eat, and I have observed them boldly walking through the pastures past the sheep paddocks with neither group reacting.

  3. I heard an Iowa sheep producer talk about how coyotes and most other predators are territorial. If your predators are well fed otherwise and leave your livestock alone then they are also helping defend your livestock by keeping similar species out.

    I’m also a big fan of electrified fence and have run goats in heavy timber where our game cameras showed coyotes, bobcats, hounds chasing the coyotes etc. We never lost a goat to predation, lost a few to lightening.

    My goal has always been to work with creation, rather than fighting it. It takes too much energy, money and effort to fight and fitting our efforts into the ecosystem result in less efforts, higher profit, and greater happiness in every case that I can think of after 37 years of working throughout the middle part of the U.S.

  4. Thank you for an interesting and honest article. All ranchers in our area face living with predators every day especially sheep and goat ranchers and anyone who raises chickens. Too often the urge to shoot anything that MIGHT be a threat seems ithe right answer. Our Extension Service actively performs scientific research and offers Predator Management courses to provide ranchers with options that can be more cost effective and successful than tradtional ‘shoot them all’ methods. I am glad that we are realizing that our ecosystems need a balance of predator and prey and we are working to learn how to support that balance AND be able to make a living while ranching. It is not an easy issue that is for sure. Thank you again. Looking forward to more of your articles

  5. We live in central British Columbia. Our chickens are in covered runs; otherwise coyotes or foxes would get them. Goshawks catch our “scrub” pigeons (which we don’t mind) but rarely adult chickens even when the run isn’t covered. Any chicks or partly-grown chickens without roof wire over the pens will be eaten by ravens.

    Wolves live nearby but never both our few cattle. Black bears have twice been in our chicken coop but each time because we didn’t have a dog on the yard to chase them away. When we have a non-roaming dog, the dog keeps a perimeter of about 150 yards free of bears. Outside of that, they are free to graze in the hayfield. We rather like seeing them around. We have no experience of eagle predation, nor have we heard of it in this area; almost all eagles here are bald eagles and they eat fish and carrion.

    I appreciate the viewpoint in your article. Thank you.

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