Effective management of predation on livestock is essential to the conservation of large carnivores, because conflicts with human interests can be fatal to individual predators and may lead to the decline of populations of wolves, lions, leopards, cheetahs, coyotes, and spotted hyenas. New tools allow better management of the edges where carnivores, people, and livestock intersect, according to an article in the March 2006 issue of BioScience, the monthly journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
The article, by John A. Shivik of the US Department of Agriculture's National Wildlife Research Center, describes a variety of techniques now being used to minimize predation, ranging from ancient (for example, fladry, colored flags that can repel wolves) to modern (for example, electronic warning systems).
Some devices work by simply frightening predators away from livestock. In this category are fladry and a device that flashes lights and sounds a siren when it detects predators. Guard dogs have also made a comeback in recent years in the United States. Other techniques modify behavior through conditioning. In this category are fladry with electrically charged wires ("turbo fladry"), paintball-type weapons that use rounds filled with capsicum powder, and guns that fire rubber bullets. Tagging of predators with radio collars that activate protection devices can improve the effectiveness of some methods.
No one device works well over the long term, however, and Shivik points out that the complex psychological relationship between human populations and predators must be taken into account if conflict is to be minimized.
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Contact: Donna Royston
American Institute of Biological Sciences
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