Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) have been used for predator control for thousands of years. However, they are relatively new to Australia, and in this project the use of LGDs for stock protection was investigated in Australia.
A telephone survey among 150 users of LGDs was conducted to determine the effectiveness of Australian LGDs for predator control. In addition, to investigate LGD movements and behaviour, GPS collars were placed on Maremma Sheepdogs that were free-ranging over large areas with their livestock. Simulated wild dog incursions were used to test the Maremmas’ response to a predator challenge. Wildlife surveys were done to investigate the effect of LGDs on large herbivores, and stress levels were measured in sheep to determine if the presence of LGDs made the stock calmer.
The results show that LGDs are apparently highly effective in Australia, with 96% of respondents in the survey stating LGDs had eliminated or significantly reduced predation. They were found to be equally effective on large range-land operations as on small properties, as long as the appropriate number of dogs was used for the property situation. They are also highly cost-effective. Free-ranging LGDs seem to set up territories around their livestock, which is likely a highly effective method of predator control because it creates a buffer zone around livestock from which predators are repelled. Analysis of the data from the wildlife surveys and sheep stress levels is still ongoing. By economically reducing or eliminating predation, LGDs have great potential in reducing human-wildlife conflict.
Researcher: Linda van Bommel | Christopher Johnson
Institute: University of Tasmania
Best practice manual for the use of livestock guardian dogs: http://www.feral.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Guardian-Dogs-web.pdf