Great Pyrenees vs Coyotes vs 'Game Warden'

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Great Pyrenees vs Coyotes vs 'Game Warden'

Postby desheep59 » Sat Jan 13, 2007 11:33 am

I'm up to four Great Pyrenees on 80 acres. I just added the fourth three weeks ago and since she has pups, I'm waiting to see whether she'll actually work or not. (She was a back-up worker where she came from - is 50% pyr - the pups are 75%. Hopefully the pup I keep will be a worker. The person giving up the dog wants one of the pups for a guardian but didn't want the whole lot.) The other three adults are wonderful - I couldn't ask for better - but two will be 10 years old this year which is one reason I'm adding dogs. (Have one male and three females.) But I still have coyote losses. And yes, I see the coyotes. The dogs manage to prevent the 'eating' but not the all of the killing and maiming. (My survivors are definitely keepers - otherwise, it's 'culling au naturel'. Grin. Probably the only way I'd ever cull a ewe lamb actually.)

I have been working with the Wildlife Damage Control agent with the Conservation Department for the great state of Missouri on this little problem. He came out last spring and I learned how to set fence line snares. I got one beautiful female four days later in late March. I had to re-up my permit and finally got another scraggly ugly female in late May. I let the permit expire. Well, I've got it again. And he's coming back to teach me how to do leg hold traps - I have permission from adjoining land owners - one CRP and the other with cattle. The guy with the cattle has had losses to coyotes as well as from a pack of dogs. I'm trying to arrange it so he goes out with us.

At any rate, the wildlife biologist says that it's just 'too coincidental' that ALL of the people with sheep that have problems with coyotes have Great Pyrenees as guard dogs. Duh. He's not very happy that none of them will 'put up the dogs to see what happens'. Duh. He's pretty reasonable otherwise I think. But aside from having one of those dogs that is NOT going to be kept away from her sheep TYVM (she destroyed a chain link pen - I mean broke the bottom galvanized rail that was NOT rusted) who will be virtually impossible to keep up, I KNOW it's not my dogs killing my sheep. I KNOW my dogs run and chase at other dogs that come into the pasture. I have SEEN my dogs run and bark at the bloody dang smart-ass coyote that sits just on the other side of the fence (and where was that gun then!) and stares at them. (Yes, there are times when I could wish they'd go over the fence, but all things considered, I'm just as glad they don't.) I really don't want to try and put up my dogs so I can lose 7 lambs in a week in order to prove to him that it's NOT MY DOGS!

Has anyone else had any experience along these lines? Am I the one being unreasonable? Just thought it was time for a reality check.

Oh, and I ran over one coyote (three trips back and forth up and down the road - that was one dumb coyote who kept running down the middle of the road) in December and a week later another one got hit. Apparently a couple weeks before that, another one got hit just a little ways up the road and not directly in front of my place. They are thick.

I don't want to eradicate the coyotes (well, on a good day anyway) and I could live with losing a lamb now and then, but a couple a week is totally ridiculous. I lost 40-50 lambs this year to them. I can't get a hunter to come out and hunt them - they don't show then. My son sits out in our 'coyote tower' and they don't show. You go to sleep and the dog barks and you can look out the window and see one 30 feet from the house that has a dog and 30 head pinned into the fence corner between the house and the barn. And this is 13:30 in the afternoon. I really think that if I can get rid of the one that sits at the fence line and laughs at me, that'd go a long way toward solving my problem. That's on the west. The guys on the east (the road side) have brought in young to hunt - they leave more survivors - so there's a few more to get rid of on that side but if they keep getting hit on the road....

Thank!
Denise
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Postby BK-Ohio » Sun Jan 14, 2007 12:22 pm

Denise,
Hey, we have been where you are and experienced the whole thing with trapping and the game warden. The difference with our operation was when we got the Pyrennes, the issues with losses stopped. The only thing that comes to mind is how your dogs act. Are they the type that like to stay around the barn or house? Are they tame? The absolute best dogs we have had are the ones that NEVER leave the sheep. The ones that really don't care if they ever see you or not, maybe just to get fed once a day. I wonder if you are running too many dogs. It seems that two really good dogs that are really connected to the sheep may be better than 4. It seems sometimes when you get that many dogs together they bond with themselves and not the sheep. Especially if you have one in that group that will stray from the sheep. They will take the rest of the dogs with them and inhibit the good dogs from doing what they are supposed to be doing.
If I were you, I'd maybe consolidate the sheep as much as possible so that the dogs can do the job easier. If you see one of the dogs taking off on a joy run and leading the others off, I'd can the ring leader. These are just a few ideas, its hard to give advise from afar without knowing exactly what the dynamics that are going on in your case are.
We have had a couple of cases where a juvenile dog worked over some of the sheep playing with them. I'm not saying that this is the case with your situation, but there is the possibility that you have a dog that is getting the others in trouble. We solved our problem with putting a band on the male and neutering him. That is another story all together, but it fixed our problem.
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Postby desheep59 » Sun Jan 14, 2007 10:36 pm

The old pair that came with the sheep mainly stay with the sheep. They will be 10 this year and are a neutered/spayed brother-sister team. For the most part they stay with the sheep - whether the sheep stay inside my fence or not. Grin. (That's not a problem any more - that was the first six months.) The male comes up to the house and eats some days and then goes right back out. The female I worry about not being able to hear. I had just let the sheep out one morning when the #3 dog was relatively new and Sweetie and Chloe were actually getting acquainted friendly-like - we were all sheep, dogs, human pretty close together - and I saw Mr. Coyote at the west fence across the field. I watched for awhile and the guard dogs are frolicking at my feet (um hm I was annoyed) and Lance comes flying down from the house barking up a storm, jumps the fence, runs past us and out toward the west fence. The girls stopped and stared then joined him. He's priceless and I hate to see him getting older. Sweetie however, just laid there until I pulled the tractor up to her (just got a tractor - it's so cool!) back in November and she raised her head like 'huh what'. So I do wonder if she hears very well sometimes.

And I babble on. Sweetie doesn't come into the yard much at all. Chloe, the new girl, has her own sheep - the rams and ram lambs - that are in the east pasture. If there's 'excitement' in the west, she joins in to see what the commotion is, but returns to her sheep. She rarely comes into the yard as well. Now the newest addition, Jo, has taken a tour of the field with me and is mostly in the barn with her pups, but is looking like she'll be more of a human dog. She's only been here three weeks though and I'm trying to give her a chance. I got her primarily because of the pups and won't have a problem re-homing her to a non-working home if that's the way it turns out.

My sheep are in two bunches at the moment - I'd prefer three except I really only have the two fields at the moment and a couple acre lots. I'd like to separate my moms and lambs from the flock and keep them closer in, but I even lost lambs that way last year in the mid-afternoon. There wasn't a dog that stayed with my 'mom' bunch close to the house. Sweetie & Lance take the main flock in the west field and, until Chloe came, the rams and dinner ram lambs were on their own in the east. There are about 30 rams/lambs right now and 150 or so in the main flock with new additions almost daily.

And I do bring everyone in at night. Lance still stays out in the field all night - rain, snow, ice, whatever - but Sweetie generally goes into the lot with the girls. She might not stay there all night, but generally starts out in there.

The only reason I started getting another (and another again) dog is because my primary pair are 10 years old and Lance has some health issues and trouble getting around. Although he's a great example of mind over matter. He sleeps so soundly sometimes, I think he's dead and walk out into the field and literally have to touch him before he does anything to acknowledge my presence.

I had a friend come to visit while I was gone and since Chloe's sheep were near the house, Chloe came out to visit and growled at her. Didn't want to be petted - just wanted to see what was going on.

Sometimes they come to see me when I'm in the yard, but that's generally when the girls are up. They come to meet me when I walk the field part of the time. Sometimes they come on the walk, or part way, and sometimes they don't. Yes, they like to be acknowledged for a bit of loving and petting, but they don't dog my heels constantly for it every moment I'm out there either.

I have a friend with sheep and pyrs. Her pyrs liked to greet visitors, although they could be quite intimidating, and one really wanted to be petted. They did roam the field, but were generally closer to the house than the sheep. One of them couldn't be pried from your side when you were out in the field. They were good guard dogs - watched them take out a bobcat in the field one day - but not always good 'working' dogs if I have that distinction right.

The wildlife guy wants to say that the pyrs 'invite' the coyotes at a minimum and that the pyrs are killing the sheep at the other end of it which is why he wants them put up 'to see'. He says that he has talked with others of his kind around the state and they agree. I want to make the guy see he's wrong - but not at the expense of losing so many lambs again.

Thanks!
Denise
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Postby Bill Fosher » Mon Jan 15, 2007 6:08 am

Hi Denise,

Putting up a guard dog seems risky to you and borderline cruel to the dog.

If you must to go along with the idea, I'd do two things. First, rather than putting up the dogs, see if you could place them temporarily on another farm. Second, tell the game warden that you want him to pay for any increased predation at a pre-arranged price. Say $100 per lamb of $200 per adult killed per month above whatever your average losses for that month had been with the dogs. Set a limit to when you'll decide whether the experiment is working or not -- say six months. If he's really interested in the experiment, he should be willing to put up some of his budget to see if it works. You should not be the one taking the risks to test his hypothesis. Just one night of a coyote teaching pups to kill can result in thousands of dollars in losses.
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Postby desheep59 » Mon Jan 15, 2007 8:02 pm

You're right Bill, it is. Short of chaining the one, I couldn't keep her in anyway and what would I have at the end of a period of time I kept them up? I don't think he was talking about that long of a duration - the lady nearby with sheep reportedly 'kept hers up' over a weekend. Well, I was still working there at the time and I know that the one of the old pair was out as was one of the others. And I wasn't over there 24/7 either.

I'd almost bet his budget won't withstand any of my losses - even as part of an experiment - but I will mention it. It's a great idea and if that is what he and his colleagues believe is the problem then they should put their money where their mouth is.

And the old pair, and any working animal, have a home here for as long as they live. I figure that if they've worked for me, I can provide them with a retirement accomodations. So whenever my old boy wants to permanently retire to the porch, I figure I'll accomodate him. But ya know, like the old border collies, he's gonna work til he drops and I figure I'll just find him out in the middle of the field some morning. Bad as I hate to think about it.

I'm just hoping with the weather we've got now, my leg hold trapping lessons are postponed to a warmer, drier week.
Denise
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Postby Bill Fosher » Mon Jan 15, 2007 9:09 pm

I would be very, very reluctant to put leghold traps out around a place if your guard dogs wander.
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Postby Janet McNally » Mon Jan 15, 2007 10:42 pm

wow, interesting discussion about a growing problem. I'm hearing more and more about problems where LGDs fail. I have a growing list of things to consider that may or may not apply but definitely see several things that would lead to failure.

First off, I would not blame the pyr breed. There are in the breed some excellent dogs.

Second right off the bat I can see that you have only one working dog. Most dogs tend to discover they are mortal about 6-8 yrs old (depending upon how heavy the action has been some dogs might take longer). So at 10 yrs old, you have two dogs that a) have compromised ability to see/smell/ and hear predators and b) that have learned to let the young hot shots do the chasing, they will instead just sound the alarm...that is if they hear/see/smell the predator soon enough to know it is there. In a nutshell, the 10 yr olds are retirement material. Oh, they still want to work, and accomodate their wishes and let them believe they are doing their job, just don't *count* on their help any more. Assign the old dogs to puppy rearing and bring in some young recruits to do the hard stuff. Of the two younger dogs. one is tied up raising puppies...so in reality, you have only one working dog who has not been there very long.

Third you apparently have a very large coyote population. Now consider that you have one working dog, and coyotes coming from probably a variety of directions and two groups of sheep ( in how large an area?) that one dog is really doing well to prevent the coyotes from eating the carcass, but he is not going to stop all the kills.

Here is what I would suggest:

1) whodunnit can be determined by skinning the remains and checking bite wounds. It should be very evident whether the killer is a coyote or a dog

2) for now you need to combine all the sheep into one group and put all of the dogs with that group in an area less than 10 acres in size. electrified netting (if possible...is your ground frozen?) can give you some emediate relief especially if there are four dogs inside of it. Figure out how many lamb$ you are loosing and the price of netting might start to look cheap.

3) move the flock from where the depredation occured, it throws the predators off.

4) long term you need two young adult dogs for every group of sheep, and need to manage those sheep in smaller areas, <10 acres per group, the reason you need two dogs, is because you could have coyotes working both ends of one pasture. In europe where these dogs came from it was typical that there would be 4-12 dogs per flock. I've watched a coyote lure the dogs down to one end of the field, only to appear on the opposite end moments later to try and take a lamb while the dogs were busy trying to figure out where the coyote went on the far end. If you have more than one dog, the odds are better one dog remains behind with the flock while the other gives chase.

5) dogs are in their prime from 2-6 years old. >6 are nearing retirement. They can still be useful, just be sure there is a young hot shot to help them out. You probably need to consider bringing in a young pup or two every other year to keep your dog population young enough.

6) having one intact male and female is more effective than all neutered dogs. If you don't want puppies, you can have a vet do a tubal ligation on the females and vasectamy on the male. What makes them more effective is that coyote and wolves regard a mated pair as more dangerous than a no reproducing group. Also I think the males work harder if they are guarding their harem from percieved competition.

7) mix up the breeds a bit. Each breed features a slightly different working style thus covering the sheep somewhat differently. Hybrid dogs have been found to be more effective than purebreds.

The other kind of failure there is more and more of, are domestic dog attacks. often the scenario is large pit bull or rotweiler type crosses in twos or more and only one or two LGDs. Seems like some parts of the country have a lot of these pit bull crosses??? If the LGD is so tightly confined that it cannot stop the domestic dog before it is in the pen, then the frenzied killing that follows can be more than the average LGD can handle. For folks with domestic dog problems, give your dogs some freedom to intervene long before the neighborhood dogs even find the sheep and your problems will be solved.

Janet
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Postby Lana Rowley » Tue Jan 16, 2007 1:25 pm

Janet, thanks for the great info i have saved it and i am glad we have the other LGD coming! Lana
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