What Homesteaders Need to Know About Predators

You need to understand your local predators to keep your animals safe.


Hello everyone, Rob Raskin of Las Vegas back again with Part Two of my three-part series about protecting yourself from predators. In this week’s installment we’re going to discuss the most common predators, how you can tell what is attacking your animals, and what you can do to stop it.


What Are the Most Common Predators?

If you’re homesteading, these are just some of the many predators that put your animals at risk.

  • Coyotes
  • Foxes
  • Hawks
  • Weasels
  • Bobcats
  • Minks
  • Wild boars
  • Owls
  • Raccoons
  • Opossums
  • Snakes
  • Mountain lions


What Predator Is Killing Your Animals?

When it comes to identifying a predator who has attacked your animal, the best place to start is by doing your homework. Before you set your homestead up, understand which predators are native to the environment and what they like to eat. This will allow you to understand the level of threat that is posed and to plan accordingly.


If the predator has already attacked, like a forensic investigator, you’ll have to examine the scene of the crime. Are there any footprints still visible? Not only can you identify a predator by its prints, you can also identify it by its gait. Were any claw marks left behind? Were your animals killed and left at the scene, or were their bodies dragged away? The answers to these questions will help you determine what kind of predator you’ve got on your hands.


You can also identify a predator via its scat. This can not only tell you what has been eating your animals, it can tell you what else it is eating: an important clue when you’re trying to identify a predator.


How to Protect Your Animals

There are both lethal and non-lethal methods of protecting your homestead from predators. Here are a few you may want to try first. You don’t have to wait for a predator to make its presence known before you take proactive steps.


The Best Defense Is a Strong Offense

Most barriers aren’t going to keep predators out. No matter how high you make your fence, predators can still climb and fly over or burrow underneath. You can bring your animals into a fully enclosed anti-predator shelter at night, but these can be incredibly costly to construct if you want them to be truly effective. There are also animals that prey during the daylight, like mountain lions.


Your best bet is to build a barrier and use it in conjunction with another method. To begin with, clear away any brush where predators can hide, and make sure you don’t leave pet food outside where it may attract them.


Electric fences can be effective for keeping larger predators like coyotes and wolves out, and some homesteaders believe these animals have the ability to communicate the rest of the danger to the rest of the pack. This is beneficial because the original animal who received the shock will prevent others from approaching the fence. That said, an electric barrier may not be effective where smaller predators are involved.


When it comes to protecting your animals from predators, a dog really is man’s best friend. A livestock guardian dog is a pastoral dog that has been specifically bred for the purpose of protecting everything from chickens to larger animals. These dogs become a part of your herd, and they’ll fight to the death to protect it. Because of this, they’ll be right there protecting your livestock 24/7.


Believe it or not, you can also use llamas as livestock guardian animals.  Llamas will stay your flock to protect it. Male llamas have been known to protect female sheep who are giving birth, and female llamas will circle the flock to keep it safe.


Keeping cats on your homestead can also keep your eggs safe from predatory snakes.


When It’s Time to Shoot

In many cases, there’s no reason to shoot a predatory animal. It is possible to live peacefully together with predators. As long as it hasn’t attacked your homestead yet, it’s best to hang back and observe it to determine whether or not it’s a threat or it’s just passing through.


A good general rule of thumb is to never take a life unless someone else is in danger of losing their life. The predatory animal being in the vicinity of your homestead alone is not a threat. However, if the predator has already attacked your animals, you may have to kill it to keep it from coming back because it’s developed a taste for what you’ve got.


Be sure to join me, Rob Raskin, again next week, when I’ll be discussing how to protect your homestead from mice and other rodents in Part Three of my three-part pests and predators series.



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