Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Ecology

The First Experience of Livestock Guarding Dogs Preventing Large Carnivore Damages in Finland/ Esimene Kogemus Karjavalvekoerte Kasutusest Kaitseks Suurkiskjate Eest Soomes

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Ecology

The First Experience of Livestock Guarding Dogs Preventing Large Carnivore Damages in Finland/ Esimene Kogemus Karjavalvekoerte Kasutusest Kaitseks Suurkiskjate Eest Soomes

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In recent decades the populations of wolves (Canis lupus), bears (Ursos arctos), and lynx (Lynx lynx) have increased and expanded towards more inhabited areas throughout Europe (Boitani, 2000). Large carnivore populations estimated by the end of 2005 in Finland included 205-215 wolves, 810-860 bears, 1100-1200 lynxes, and 145-150 wolverines (Gulo gulo). Compared to 2004, the numbers represent increases of 11% for wolves, 22% for bears, 24% for lynxes, and 16% for wolverines (Kojola et al., 2006). Return of the carnivores to their original habitats has caused problems. In Finland the number of attacks towards sheep, cattle, hunting-dogs, reindeer, and other domestic animals has increased in recent years. Finnish State covered 190 000 [euro] in 2005 as compensation for damages by large carnivores (Nylander & Ahvonen, 2007). Return of the large carnivores has also caused lots of fear among people, especially towards wolves (Bisi & Kurki, 2008).

Damages caused by large carnivores can not be stopped by the elimination of predators as the management of wolves and other large carnivores (except in the reindeer herding area in northern Finland) is regulated by the EU Nature Directive, Annex IV. Developing and distributing information about damage preventive methods can be a solution to reduce losses and compensation costs. In seeking sustainable coexistence of humans and large carnivores in Finland this far fencing, wolf phone service, and the removal of problematic individuals have been used (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, 2005).

Livestock guarding dogs (LGDs) have been for millennia an effective means of protecting rangeland, i.e. cattle or sheep, from predators in Central and Southern Europe as well as in Asia (Rigg, 2001). In the United States, LGDs were introduced as a new method of guarding flocks in the 1970s (Linhart et al., 1979; McGrew & Blakesley, 1982; Coppinger et al., 1983; Green & Woodruff, 1983a, 1983b; Black & Green, 1985). LGDs work by staying with the livestock and driving away intruders with rarely any need for physical conflict because of their impressive size and protective behaviour. Often more than one dog is needed to keep up the necessary level of protection (Rigg, 2004). LGDs should be kept with, brought up with, socialized with, and bonded with the stock they are going to protect (Coppinger, 1992).

There is no LGD tradition or local breeds of LGD in the Nordic countries. In Sweden the testing of LGDs in electric fenced areas has started recently (Levin, 2005). The use of LGDs to protect sheep was evaluated in Norway (Hansen & Smith, 1999; Hansen, 2005). The sheep in Norway tend to graze widely dispersed in small family groups, which makes the use of traditional LGD methods in Norway difficult (Hansen, 2005). A total of four different LGD methods have been evaluated in Norway: LGDs used in combination with herding and night corrals, LGDs on fenced pastures, LGDs alone with sheep on open range, and LGDs loose on patrol together with a range inspector (Hansen & Smith, 1999; Hansen, 2005). LGDs on fenced pastures are the least expensive method and show the second best preventive effect (Nilsen et al., 2003). The use of LGDs has not been a great success in Norway with high costs, widely dispersing sheep, and also strict laws for dog keeping (Hansen, 2005). Finland differs from the areas with long traditions of LGD use in having relatively small rangelands and forest surrounding pastures. In addition, the long winter period with shorter pasturing times and everyman's right to use rangelands and forests are also factors that need to be considered. There would surely be a need for LGDs in Finland if knowledge of the use of dogs and their possibilities were to reach the people who need a trustable guard for their livestock or property (Koljonen, 2002). Thus, it is important to explore the suitability of this method for large carnivore damage prevention. …

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