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As the population grows, so does demand for food; it is no wonder that the meat industry and the heavy inputs its products require is putting increased pressure on the planet. And as agricultural borders expand in the name of livestock production, humans are butting heads with local predators faced with shrinking habitat and prey availabilities. This war with nature is leading to impassioned discussions on predator control, and how man can protect his livestock interests from the appetite of nature.

From meat to dairy, demand for animal protein sources sustains a massive sector of the U.S. economy. It’s also important to remember the weight that these operations carry in their call for feed crop giants such as corn and soy. Given the pull these industries have in the economy, the desire to protect animal agricultural operations is obviously a priority. Threats to these commodities include livestock disease, extreme weather, and loss to predators. Unfortunately, it is the loss to predators that has many in the animal agricultural sector looking for new and lethal ways to reduce competition for their animals.

Eliminating Predators to Maximize Profit



In 2010, the USDA released statistics highlighting the losses of sheep and goats in the livestock industry. Numbers for 2009 showed that, of the 634,500 sheep and lambs lost, predators accounted for 39 percent of the total. 554,000 goats were lost the same year, and predators accounted for 32.5 percent of these deaths. Other issues such as disease, extreme weather conditions, and digestive problems accounted for the other losses.

In 2011, the USDA released similar statistics highlighting the loss of cattle in the United States in the year 2010. Coyotes accounted for roughly half of the losses of cattle to predators, followed by dogs, mountain lions and bobcats. In total, 219,900 cattle were lost to predators, accounting for roughly 98 million dollars in lost revenue. While these numbers may appear surprising, perhaps it’s more surprising that predators only accounted for 5.5 percent of total losses of cattle to death in 2010. The other 94.5 percent of deaths totaling 3.77 million cattle were caused by a myriad of other issues including respiratory problems, digestive problems, issues during calving, and weather-related phenomenon.

What is striking about the statistics on losses of sheep, goats and cattle is that predators do not account for the majority of losses. While predators do take a more sizeable chunk of sheep and goats compared to cattle, the numbers are still not as lopsided as one might believe given the drastic measures man has taken in the name of predator control.

Currently in the U.S., the management of predators to agriculture animals is maintained by Wildlife Services, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While Wildlife Services does manage programs that have a considerable positive effect on both wildlife and human safety, including the management of rabies and prevention of wildlife hazards in aviation, it is the agency’s wildlife management techniques that are gaining negative attention from animal lovers and environmentalists.

Lethal Control Methods and Their Impact



Perhaps the most concerning methods that Wildlife Services uses to manage predators are those that are painful and lethal. Some of the more unsettling practices used to eliminate carnivore activity affecting livestock are poisonings, trappings, and shootings (ground and aerial). Some animals, like coyotes and wolves, also have their dens destroyed and pups euthanized.

In 2014, Wildlife Services euthanized over 61,000 coyotes and destroyed 425 dens. The same year, 321 gray wolves, 301 mountain lions, and 784 bobcats were intentionally killed as well by the government agency.

Not only is this upsetting from the perspective that values the life of the animal, but there is also concern for the unintentional consequences these killing methods have.

Non-Target Poisoning and Trapping

Lethal predator control techniques are especially concerning because the effect is not felt completely and solely by the targeted predator. Poisons and traps don’t discriminate between targeted wildlife and other animals. Both Compound 1080 and M-44 Cyanide, two popular poisons used in predator control, have been especially unkind to canine family members as unintentional dog deaths have resulted for years from both poisons. Traps can also catch the leg or head of any animal wandering by, whether or not they’re a predator.

Ecosystem Damage

In addition to accidental poisonings and trappings, lethal predator control is also concerning from an ecological standpoint. By reducing predators, we degrade the ecosystem as a whole given the important role predators play in ecosystems. They help keep larger prey numbers in check which can benefit vegetation diversity, reduce the amount of terrestrial erosion that occurs, and improve the diversity and density of smaller animals like insects and reptiles.

While predators may represent only one portion of the food web, the impact they have can be seen and felt throughout the entire system. Predator control thus becomes a method not just to control a single nuisance animal, but rather to manipulate the entire spectrum of life surrounding that one animal.

Alternative Predator Control Methods

Given the dramatic impact that lethal predator control methods have, non-lethal alternatives are becoming more desirable. There are a variety of options available to both ranchers and the government agencies wanting to protect the interests of both livestock production and wildlife.

Well-trained guard dogs can be an effective tool for ranchers to utilize. They are able to watch livestock at all times and deter any approaching carnivores. In 2010, guard dogs accounted for 36.9 percent of the non-lethal predator control methods used by ranchers.

Fencing provides an additional form of predator control. Surrounding a pasture in a tall, well-constructed fence can prevent access to a herd by large carnivores, thus reducing the chance of predation and the need for more extreme control measures. Some ranchers also choose to confine their livestock at night when predators are most likely to hunt.

Scare tactics are utilized to discourage predators from coming into contact with and preying on livestock. Rubber bullets, noise makers, flash bangs, and barking dogs may be used to frighten large carnivores away from areas they shouldn’t be in, and to encourage them to seek prey elsewhere, in the wild.

How You Can Protect Predators

The first thing you can do to prevent inhumane predator control methods is to remove your support for the practice. By refraining from eating meat, you no longer have to worry about possibly consuming a meal that brought harm to animals like coyotes, wolves, and mountain lions.

Sadly, even if you abstain from meat, predators will still be killed in the process of protecting the meat industry for other consumers. You can take your impact a step farther by becoming versed in the individual issues your state faces in predator control and wildlife management. Educate yourself on which methods of predator control are legal in your area, which ones are used most frequently, and contact your representatives to petition for the protection of large carnivores from the meat industry. The animals can’t speak for themselves so they’re depending on you to do it for them!

Image source: John Morgan/Flickr

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0 comments on “Did a Coyote Die for Your Burger? The Livestock Industry and Lethal ‘Predator’ Control Methods”

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Susan L Walkup
1 Months Ago

I never understand why people don\'t understand the cost of raising cattle. They are a food. They are primarily raised for food. If people stopped eating meat they would become extinct. Not form predators, but from no one to feed them. Unlike bison, they don\'t exist in the wild. I am not sure that ultimately that is kinder. Whether you choose to eat meat not not, it is important to recognize the dependence of cattle on farmers for their existence.

Susan L Walkup
21 Aug 2018

I would like to also add that the reason I am looking coyote control is urban coyotes. I have lived in Flagstaff Az for my whole life and for the first time, the coyotes are coming into our neighborhood. This is a hunting town and there is wildlife in the woods. This summer they have been hanging around in the parking look of the elementary school and people have security footage and have witness the coyotes coming right onto the porch of their houses and eating their cats. Killing them while the owner was looking out the window watching. They are fast and lethal. And this is a new thing for us. They come after dawn and as the sun goes down. They don\'t seem to be around in the middle of the night. Or at least they have feed by then. So far there are about 8 cats missing that have been posted on the local neighborhood website. One neighboring area lady lost 5 cats so far. This not normal and once the coyotes are used to hunting in the area, they are not receding since the rains came. So don\'t let your children put out the garbage at night. This is not a rural area. We are 40 years developed and unsure what to do.
Those 5 cats are in addition to the 8 that have gone missing in this area. People walk their little dogs and kids. If I can find a predator control collar for my cat, i will do it. This I do for all of us. Currently I monitor her hours. She is 5 years andindoor/outdoor cat. The coyote is not more important. This are is filled with deer and elk and wildlife. They are just urban hunting for convenience.

James Schmidt
1 Years Ago

All that read this article are being lied to by the author. Consider these true points;
1. Guard dogs only work successfully with sheep and goats and are far from 100% successful. Donkeys and Llamas have very limited success too. They are expansive and require maintenance and replacement. Note that non of the animal activists offer to pay for any of these great ideas either.
2. Perhaps small hobby farms can fence all or part of their property. In the Midwest, Southwest, and West ranches are tens of thousands of acres in size. Some can require full time maintenance with just as a 5 strand barbwire and not an elaborate and expense woven wire field fence. Woven wire can cost $2.50 per linear foot where a barbwire fence is generally about $1.00 a linear foot (in my area). Figure a small 40 acre pasture requires 5,280 linear feet of field woven wire fence or $13,200 for a very small 40 acre pasture in my area. Large ranches would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on woven wire fences that have very limited success in detouring predators for a while.
3. As a retired USDA coyote specialist I know first hand that scare-a-way devices are semi effective for about one or two days and then the coyotes figure them out. A total waste of money.
4. It is 100% unrealistic to think that ranchers can bring 10,000 cattle every night to holding pens and then take them back each day! That is fantasy land!
5. Has the author ever used rubber bullets? They are good for very close range-very up close- and will kill a coyote dead! This author should know more about what she is talking about. She does not in anyway.
6. Damage to the ecosystem? Please! Compound 1080 is totally restricted in the United States and has ONE use for predators and that is in the Livestock Protection Collar. A target specific device that only comes into play when the animal is attacked and is bitten around the neck. The very small amount of powdered Cyanide used in the very effective M-44 device dissipates quickly when exposed to the air. The ONLY way this device works is that it must be bitten and pulled up by the predator and then it discharges. Only canines bite like that so it is very target specific. Cats, deer, antelope, horses, cows, goats, sheep, elk, rabbits, racoons, and similar do not set these devices off!

Do not be fooled by this totally unrealistic author who clearly has a non hunting agenda. Some people in this world can not only eat vegetables. There are medical conditions were pills can not give the necessary chemicals a body needs like iron very successful. People like this author want to impose THEIR will on everyone else because THEIR agenda is the only one that matters.

This author did not tell you that decades old scientific peer reviewed studies by the dozens prove over and over again that 70% of coyotes populations can be eliminated annually without any damage to the ecosystem and the coyote population. Dozens of scientific peer reviewed studies also show that coyote control works to protect sheep, goats, cattle, deer, rabbits, and more. Those populations expand and improve with coyote control. You want to see more rabbits and deer? Kill coyotes!

Note again that not one single animal activists group or individuals offer to pay for any of these "great ideas". They do not write checks for the lost livestock caused by the predators either. These farmers, ranchers, and regular citizens are protecting their business just a mall shop does with barred gates, security systems, and locked doors. Why doesn\'t an animal activists group start a reimbursement program for lost livestock for these agricultural businesses? How about a uniformed security service that will patrol the tens of thousands of acres of pastures used in the livestock world?

Presently these individuals and groups only want to find ways to spend other peoples money. To make ridiculous suggestions having no idea if they work or not. Those same people complain about prices at the grocery store too. Get real folks!

1 Years Ago

Human Kind\'s selfishness as a whole knows no end really. It is sad but really true. We as a species don\'t even think about our future offspring and their future offspring. If something bad does not directly affect us, then it is no matter(even then it is debatable).

We treat the earth like a cheap prostitute, her resources we keep taking taking and taking. Other creatures are collateral.

1 Years Ago


1 Years Ago

usual moronic left winger green wienie spew of total idiocy and hate .
You jerk offs need to go get your head extracted from your anal openings and QUIT being brainless Enviro-nazis.

Harry Mozen
30 Apr 2017

"Colonialgirl" you don\'t seem to be overloaded or even sufficiently loaded with brains yourself. What makes you spew such hatred for environmentalists? Do you like it that corporations and others are spoiling the planet that we call home? Do you enjoy breathing smog?. Do you like to eat lead or other heavy metals? Do you like to drink water with arsenic or other poisons in it?
Do you think that these situations are going to improve if no one does anything? The picture I see of you is of a confused, unthinking, dirty-minded, judgmental, pitiful little girl.

30 Apr 2017

Yeah it\'s not like we need to protect the earth you know our only home or anything! Coloniagirl I\'m hoping you are really young and stupid it\'s just better than being just stupid!

Muriel Servaege
1 Years Ago

Coyotes seem to get on well with the herd of cows. Why not leave them alone?

Silver wing
1 Years Ago

Good info everyone should know.
Thank you.

3 Years Ago

You do realized how uninformed you are? Two cattle ranches nearby.One small one is 80, 000 acres and the other is 300, 000 acres and you suggest fencing them to keep out predators, having guard dogs or bringing in cattle at night? Are you nuts?

29 Apr 2017

On my 70th birthday, I was asked how I felt about mankind\'s prospects. This is my reply: We are behaving like yeasts in a brewer\'s vat, multiplying mindlessly while greedily consuming the substance of a finite world. If we continue to imitate the yeasts, we will perish as they perish, having exhausted our resources and poisoned ourselves in the lethal brew of our own wastes. Unlike the yeasts, we have a choice. What will it be?

Farley Mowat

The "livestock" industry has more to fear from VEGANS than from coyotes.

3 Years Ago

fuck the coyotes

29 Apr 2017

We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself.

Farley Mowat

Thomas Martin
3 Years Ago

Eliminate leasing of federal lands for raising cattle.


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