Preventing large carnivore depredation: revitalising a traditional non-lethal method in Slovakia
AbstractLivestock guarding dogs have been used in Eurasia for millennia to protect domesticated animals from wild predators, stray or feral dogs and human thieves. The tradition was largely abandoned in Slovakia in the first half of the 20th century due to socio-economic changes and/or low levels of losses after large carnivores were virtually extirpated. By the late 20th century wolf, bear and lynx populations had recovered and predation on livestock increased. The overall level of losses is, however, still low: wolves and lynx reportedly killed 353 head of livestock in 1999, causing c.• 11,200 worth of damage; compensation paid for sheep, goats and cattle damaged by bears totalled c.• 11,900 in 1999. Nevertheless livestock depredation is frequently given as justification for killing large carnivores. The Protection of Livestock and Conservation of Large Carnivores project, launched in spring 2000, aims to revitalise the traditional system of raising livestock guarding dogs. Fourteen pups were bought in 2001 and raised with sheep in the Liptov, Turiec, Kysuce and Zemplín regions. Behavioural observations began to test whether two selected breeds (Slovenský čuvač and Caucasian shepherd dog) possessed the key traits of trustworthiness, attentiveness and protectiveness regarded as necessary for successful livestock guarding dogs; scat analyses will estimate the proportion of livestock in the diet of wolves and bears in the Western Carpathians.
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