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Guardian dogs protect sheep by guarding sheep, not by establishing territories and excluding predators

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Allen, L. R., Stewart-Moore, N., Byrne, D. and Allen, B. L. (2016) Guardian dogs protect sheep by guarding sheep, not by establishing territories and excluding predators. Animal Production Science, 57 (6). pp. 1118-1127.

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Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN16030

Publisher URL: http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AN16030


Guardian animals have been a common non-lethal method for reducing predator impacts on livestock for centuries in Europe. But elsewhere, livestock producers sometimes doubt whether such methods work or are compatible with modern livestock husbandry practices in extensive grazing systems. In this study we evaluate the hypothesis that guardian dogs primarily ‘work’ by establishing and defending territories from which canid predators are excluded. Eight maremmas and six free-ranging wild dogs of different sexes were fitted with GPS collars and monitored for 7 months on a large sheep property in north Queensland, Australia. Wild dog incursions into the territories of adjacent wild dogs and maremmas were recorded. Wild dog territories never overlapped and their home ranges infrequently overlapped. In contrast, 713 hourly locations from 120 wild dog incursions into maremma territories were recorded, mostly from three wild dogs. These three wild dogs spent a mean of 2.5–5.9 h inside maremma territories during incursions. At this location, maremmas worked by guarding sheep and prohibiting fine-scale interaction between wild dogs and sheep, not by establishing a territory respected by wild dogs. We conclude that shepherding behaviour and boisterous vocalisations of guardian dogs combined with the flocking behaviour of sheep circumvents attacks on sheep but does not prevent nor discourage wild dogs from foraging in close proximity. Certain husbandry practices and the behaviour of sheep at parturition may incur greater predation risk.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Biosecurity Queensland
Keywords:Apex predator, , human-wildlife conflict, livestock protection, predator–prey interactions.
Subjects:Science > Invasive Species > Animals > Animal control and ecology
Animal culture > Sheep
Live Archive:21 Jul 2016 05:31
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:50

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