Evaluating the Efficacy of Livestock Guardian Dogs

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Julie Young


Large carnivores are unique in their ability to elicit strong human emotions and reactions, making their management extremely contentious. Lethal control is still a common management technique where livestock and carnivores overlap despite a social preference for non-lethal techniques. The use of livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) as a non-lethal tool for reducing livestock depredations is becoming common in the United States. LGDs may provide a viable alternative to lethal management of carnivores in the U.S., but currently utilized breeds appear ineffective against large carnivores. There is little research to determine if different LGD breeds can curb livestock depredations by large carnivores. This study evaluates the effectiveness of LGD breeds in the Western U.S. to determine best management practices for LGDs where wolves (Canis lupus) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) are present. LGD breeds common in the U.S. are compared with three European breeds believed to be more effective at deterring large carnivores. In a pilot study, three Turkish-breed LGDs (Kangals) were placed with a sheep producer in Northwestern Montana, and contrasted with three common-breed LGDs at a neighboring ranch. In both operations the LGDs were left unattended for long periods of time with flocks of about 800 sheep in large (1-10 km2), fenced pastures. GPS data collected for LGDs indicate that all LGDs stayed close by their flocks during the grazing season (median distance to pasture = 0 meters). Remote cameras detected grizzly bears in and around sheep pastures while sheep were nearby. Neither operation lost sheep to grizzly bears during the pilot study. However, grizzly bear density was higher near the kangal's flock and reports from ranchers suggest there were numerous LGD-bear encounters there. The lack of grizzly bear depredations makes direct breed comparisons difficult at this time, but evidence suggests that kangals are effective at deterring grizzly bears.

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