Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

October 2004


Published in Sheep & Goat Research Journal 19 (2004). Copyright © 2004 The American Sheep Industry Association. Used by permission.


Coyote and dog depredation account for much of the economic losses to livestock in the United States (National Agricultural Statistical Service, 2000, 2001). However, depredation by other species (such as members of reintroduced wolf populations) can be more socially and politically contentious. Predators are often elusive and attacks on livestock are not often witnessed but the species of predator causing stock losses can sometimes be ascertained from evidence near the carcass (such as scat or hair), the attack pattern, or size and spacing of bite wounds. However, these species assignments can be subjective and may be influenced by the experience level of personnel, the condition of the carcass, and knowledge of previous predation history at the site. Variation among conspecific predators in attack pattern, and inter-specific overlap in those patterns, may be another complication to accurate predator species identifications. There are wide ranges in accuracy of identifying species based on scat morphology (Farrell et al., 2000). Variation in individual feeding preferences (Fedriani and Kohn, 2001) may also complicate accurate species identification from scat. Sociological considerations also may influence results. For example, local or regional compensation schemes may unintentionally result in biases in predator species identification (Cozza et al., 1996). Using common field methods, the accurate identification of the gender of a predator responsible for a specific predation event is unlikely. Likewise, although there may be assumptions about which specific individual was responsible for an attack on livestock, those assumptions may not be based on any concrete data. Clearly, an unambiguous method to determine the predator species would remove identification biases. A method to identify the specific individual responsible for kills would benefit our understanding of predation and would be useful in certain situations. Both methods, even if used strictly in research situations, might ultimately result in improved approaches to minimize livestock losses to predation.