Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Livestock Predator Identification -- Bears


After having a number of my readers write to ask about how to identify what sort of predator attacked and/or killed their livestock. I decided to try to provide you with a fairly brief description of how to do that. I really hope the information below helps you.

As for Livestock Predators:
  • In general, predators are rarely observed. Because of this, the accurate assessment of losses to specific predators often requires careful investigative work.
  • First one must determine the cause of death by checking for signs on the animal and around the kill site.
  • Check for the size and location of tooth/talon marks will often indicate the species causing predation or at least eliminate certain species from suspicion. 
  • Typically, hair/feathers will obscure the attack site. Some say that ideally, the victim may need to be skinned in order to investigate the attack site properly. 
  • When investigating a kill, always consider the time of day the predator attack occurred. 
  • Extensive bleeding usually is characteristic of predators. 
  • Where external bleeding is not apparent, the hide can be removed from the carcass, particularly around the neck, throat, and head, and the area checked for tooth holes, subcutaneous hemorrhage, and tissue damage. 
  • Hemorrhage occurs only if skin and tissue damage occurs while the animal is alive. Animals that die from causes other than predation normally do not show external or subcutaneous bleeding, although bloody fluids may be lost from body openings. 
  • Livestock losses are easiest to evaluate if examinations are conducted when the carcass is still fresh. 
  • Animals may not always be killed by a throat attack, but may be pulled down from the side or rear. 
  • Blood is often on the sides, hind legs, and tail areas. 
  • Calves can have their tails chewed off and the nose may have tooth marks or be completely chewed by the predator when the tongue is eaten.
  • Tracks and droppings alone are evidence that a particular predator is in the area and when combined with other characteristics of depredation -- it can help determine what predator is causing the problem.
Bears -- Signs of these Predators:
  • Prey on livestock. Black bears usually kill by biting the neck or by slapping the victim. Torn, mauled, and mutilated carcasses are characteristic of bear attacks. 
  • Often, the bear will eat the udders of female prey, possibly to obtain milk. 
  • The victim usually is opened ventrally and the heart and liver are consumed. 
  • The intestines are often spread out around the kill site, and the animal may be partially skinned while the carcass is fed upon. 
  • Smaller livestock such as sheep and goats may be consumed almost entirely, and only the rumen, skin, and large bones left. 
  • Feces are generally found within the kill area, and a bedding site is often found nearby. Bears use their feet while feeding so they do not slide the prey around as do coyotes. 
  • If the kill is made in the open, it may be moved to a more secluded spot. 
  • The grizzly has a feeding and killing pattern similar to that of the black bear. 
  • It has been found that most cattle are killed by a bite through the back of the neck. 
  • Large prey often have claw marks on the flanks or hams. 
  • The prey’s back is sometimes broken in front of the hips where the bear simply crushed it down. 
  • Young calves are occasionally bitten through the forehead. 
  • The presence of bears has stampeded range sheep, resulting in death from suffocation or from falls over cliffs. 
  • A marauding bear searching for food may also play havoc with garbage cans, cabins, camp sites, and apiaries. 
  • The bear track resembles that of a human, but has distinctive claw marks. The little inside toes often leave no marks in dust or shallow mud so the print appears to be four-toed. 

For more on Livestock Predator Identification, please click on any of the following links:


Tom Correa

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