This website is a Collaborative of sharing expertise on behalf of our farmers. The role of biologists on this site is to help our farmers get to know the carnivores that live on their farms.
This is a photo of Titan
We share with you this link that writes about her life. When you read about her life what happens? We hope that what happens is that carnivores cease to be figments of our imagination, and instead become living breathing beings seeking in their lives just what we seek in ours.
If ever you wanted to do research regarding the Guardian Dog that is right for your farm, this newly published book by Jan Dohner will be of great assistance to you. It is one of those books you would want to keep as a reference because it is packed with valuable information.
Whenever I speak with our farmers, their resident Red Fox most always comes up…that is, the fox’s relationship with their chickens. So here is a bit of history to help you understand your Red Fox and how you can live and farm well with them.
When the Europeans came to the American continent, Europe had long before eradicated all the large predators like wolves and bears. The ones that remained were relegated to remote mountain areas like the Alps and Pyrenees. As we know, from our history, the settlers swiftly eradicated the large carnivores from the eastern United States, but the fox remained.
Because no animal husbandry practices were used to protect the farmer’s chickens and other livestock, the fox took advantage of these easy meals. Those that were caught doing so were simply shot. Those particular foxes did not learn anything. But those that did get away with it, taught their kits that this was their food, and how to procure it. So from generation to generation the vixen has passed down to her kits this way of life.
As a result, farmers have lost many chickens over the past few centuries.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY~
Please look at the photo above. This is who we want our foxes to eat ~ their wild prey. Our foxes are NOT playing their important role on the ecosystem of your farm if they are killing your chickens! And because our foxes have gotten in to this bad habit over the centuries, sometimes it is very challenging to let them know that it will be very dangerous for them if they try it on your farm.
And that danger is not to be shot, but being challenged by a guardian dog, Llama or Donkey, or being zapped by an electric fence. If you have an insistent fox intent on taking your chickens,know that you need to be very consistent in your animal husbandry practices. You MUST keep them secure in their coop at night, and during the day they will need a guardian and electric fencing.
If you “stick with it” your fox will finally get what you are trying to tell them: “There is NO easy food here for you!” Then keep that fox on your farm, because they understand what you are saying, and will pass it on to their kits.
Again, this is an important part of the Farming of the Future ~ You need to know your carnivores, look at your farm from their point of view, and learn how to speak to them in a language they understand. Farming at its Best!
Contributed by Geri Vistein, Carnivore Conservation Biologist in Maine
An Excellent opportunity to come learn about farming successfully with Carnivores will take place at THE COMMON GROUND FAIR in Unity, Maine on September 24 and 25.
At 1:00 PM on Saturday, the 24th we will host a panel of two outstanding farmers, Dave Kennard and Billy Foster, noted author and breeder of Kangals Jan Dohner, and Wildlife biologist and author Geri Vistein. Last year the tent was packed as we shared together in a lively discussion, our experience and knowledge. Our audience was amazing, jumping right in and asking excellent questions and expressing what has been happening on their farm.
Then, at 2:00 PM Jan Dohner will go more into depth about all the important issues regarding the decision to find a guardian dog, and then when they come to your farm…then what? Her new book Farm Dogs is just being released on time for the Fair, and her excellent 2007 book Guardian Animals: Using Dogs, Llamas and Donkeys to Protect your Herd is highly recommended She will also speak on Sunday, the 25th at 1:00 PM
SO COME IF YOU CAN! MUCH TO LEARN AND GREAT SUPPORT AWAITING YOU!
Guardian Dogs know what their work is about. They don’t need the farmer to teach them that.
BUT ~ when they are new to your farm, there is much for them to learn about the specifics of YOUR farm. It is exremely important that you take the time to teach them…..if you want them to be successful guardians.
The following is shared by Jackie Church of Windance Farm in Upper State New York. She is a responsible breeder of Maremma Guardians, and shares her knowledge and experience in a Manual she has written for farmers. Here is one section on introducing your guardian to your farm.
Setting your Dog up for Success
You must set your dog up to succeed. This applies to a new adult dog, and to the brand new young puppy that arrives at your farm.
You need to know what to expect from your dog and what ages you can expect it. Some dogs are exceptions in both the negatives and positives. You may have a dog that could never fail, no matter what you did. Then you have others who take longer to mature, and make you scratch your head more than anything in your life.
Again, what you put into this dog – is exactly what you will get out of this dog. If you toss a dog in the pasture alone, then you will get exactly what you are putting into it. Yes, the dog may (and an adult should) know how to keep predators out, mark the boundaries and bark.
But all the rest? The relationship it should have with the stock, with you, what the boundaries are, where and what – all that the dog does not know.
In all of the old world countries that use guardian dogs, they do not run just one dog. They work the dogs in teams. There is a smattering of ages –from some old dogs to very young dogs.
The older mature dogs that know their jobs are the teachers of these young pups. This is done by example and correction. If you take a young pup and place it in the field without an adult dog who knows the ropes –then YOU become the teacher. YOU become the mentor. YOU become the one to provide the instruction. If you do not, any failure of the dog is not because of the dog, but because of the lack of guidance and training.
WHAT DOES A 9 WEEK OLD COYOTE PUP …THAT HAS BEEN SHOT….. HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR FARM?
The answer is….a great deal. I am a wildlife biologist whose work focuses on carnivores. A Vet contacted me and shared how this coyote pup came to her. Evidently an individual killed this pup’s parents and she was wondering around unprotected by them. It appears that same individual shot this small pup (but was a bad aim), so the bullet went through her paw. Her paw being very little was badly damaged, bones and flesh torn apart.
So what does this pup’s story have to do with you. So often when I work with our farmers in Maine, I share with them that farming well with carnivores entails 2 important aspects: When speaking about coyotes the first aspect entails keeping a stable coyote family present on your farm. In this situation the parents have the opportunity to teach their pups how to be excellent hunters of their wild prey, and when they are…they are not hungry. The second aspect is using good animal husbandry practices, as you can read about on this website.
So this pup has lost her parents. She is too little to know how to hunt effectively (At this age she is completely dependent on her parents). So if pups are left to struggle for survival……they will seek out your farm animals more readily, and will continue to do so as they grow up…if they survive.
So be aware of what goes on around your farm. There are many enlightened farmers here in Maine who share with their community members the need to leave their coyotes in peace. And what a difference it makes!
One last comment regarding this pup’s story. It makes me believe that our young people care about all life on the farm. That is the Farming of the Future. This is how the pup made it to the Vet ~ The granddaughter of the individual who attempted to kill this pup, saw what happened and ran to a neighbors where a young man sought out the vet.
Shared by Geri Vistein, Carnivore Biologist in Maine
More and more people are wanting to raise chickens ~ for some people as a means to provide income, and for others just to enjoy them and have fresh eggs. But no matter where you raise them, whether you are in a suburban neighborhood or in a rural landscape, predators will be present. That is why ELECTRIC NETTING is a great resource. The following information is shared by Wellscroft Fencing in New Hampshire. They have personal experience with what they are sharing here ~ they are farmers, too..
Electric nettingis one of the fastest, easiest, and most versatile types of fence available. It is widely used to confine just about any livestock as well as protect a vast array of crops from a host of predators. Netting is a great temporary fencing option and is an excellent choice for anyone farming on rented land, preferring to shift their grazing areas, or that does not want to invest in a permanent fence.
How electric netting works: One of the nicest benefits of electric netting is it is quick and easy to set up and move. Most netting is made from a poli-conductor horizontal strand tied or bonded to a polyethylene string or plastic vertical strut which holds each intersection in place.
A hollow PVC post with steel spike is inserted at various intervals in the net depending on its type (some are spaced closer together to better support the weight of the netting). The size of the netting grid, height, length, type of conductor, post size, and spike type are all considered for the animal that is to be kept in or out. Once you set up your netting, install a ground rod and energizer for it to be effective. It is recommended that netting never be left unenergized.
Finally, know that netting is very effective for all seasons, except in areas where winter brings plenty of snow. Netting does not hold up to snow, and wildlife standing on that snow will not receive an electrical shock, as they cannot be grounded.
If any of your farm animals are out in the winter, you must use a woven wire fence, with an electrified wire at the top of the fence. In this instance, as the wildlife climb the fence to get over, they will be grounded when they touch the electrified wire.
Photos and information provided by Wellscroft Fencing in New Hampshire
Many farmers have discovered donkeys as their Guardians of choice! And know that there are many wild burros (Spanish name for donkeys) in need of a good home. They can be purchased very inexpensively from the Federal Bureau of Land Management. (see the link on our guardian animals page)
However … please feel free to contact us regarding this. We have great connections with a caring Mustang rescuer who can guide you through it. The following are some Donkey Basics that may help you ~
~ DONKEY BASICS ~
The donkey’s herding and territorial instinct, combined with its inherent dislike for all canines, domestic and wild, can make it an effective Guardian animal. Donkeys rely predominantly on sight and sound to detect intruders. When intruders approach, sheep will tend to move so the guardian animal is between the intruder and themselves. The donkey’s loud brays and quick pursuit will quickly chase predators out of the pasture.
When seeking a donkey as a Guardian, 2 standard size jennies (females) or 2 standard size gelded males are the most effective. It is important to have two donkey guardians, as they are very social and tend to be much calmer and content in each other’s company….and therefore more effective guardians.
When introducing the donkeys to the sheep or goats (or other livestock under their care) they should be placed in a pasture next to, but separate for a period of 1 to 2 weeks. They then can be placed in the same pasture but should be watched carefully initially for any signs of conflict.
If you have herding dogs, both the dogs and donkeys will adapt to work with each other, if you take the time to introduce them to each other. Though donkeys are aggressive toward canines, most are docile and gentle with humans.
Donkeys are most effective in smaller, open pastures of less than 600 acres, and watch over not more than 200 ewes or goats. Larger pastures with rough terrain and dense brush, where sheep and goats are scattered, lessens the effectiveness of the donkey.
Donkeys should never be made to guard pigs, as they would often be forced to stand in mud. Donkeys are from the deserts, and if forced to stand in mud, their hooves will rot.