Foraging theory provides a useful framework for livestock predation management

08 Aug 2019

A societal shift toward plant dominant diets and a reduction in livestock rearing could have broad social, environmental and conservation benefits. Livestock husbandry, however, has a wealthy cultural history, strong support and high consumer demand. It is therefore likely to continue as a major land use and conservation issue for predators. From a producer’s perspective, the primary goals of livestock protection are maximising, or at least maintaining, production by minimising losses and mitigating detriment to stock welfare. Lethal removal of predators remains a commonplace solution. Such management measures are questionable as they raise animal welfare and conservation concerns, risk inhibiting ecological processes, are often expensive, and in some circumstances, exacerbate livestock predation problems. Non-lethal alternatives can facilitate co-existence between livestock farmers and predators, ideally reducing the ecological impact of pastoralism and achieving conservation goals. The need for rigorous study of non-lethal approaches has however been recently highlighted. Tools and methods involved in livestock protection, as well as the theoretical basis of how we perceive and manage the problem, require deeper consideration. Non-lethal approaches require knowledgeable implementation and an effective decision making system is a prerequisite for successful practice. Livestock predation and its prevention are fundamentally influenced by the underlying principles of foraging ecology and risk theory. We propose that manipulating elements of Brown’s (1988) quitting harvest rate model provides a useful conceptual framework for reducing livestock predation and encouraging coexistence.