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ADDRESSING THE CONSEQUENCES OF PREDATOR DAMAGE TO LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY
By: Steven H. Umberger, Extension Specialist, Animal and Poultry Sciences;
Table of Contents
Within reason, producers should make every effort to prevent or minimize livestock and poultry losses from predation through good husbandry and the strategic use of deterrent strategies such as electric fence, guard animals, and housing. Because physical, economic, and animal management limitations may prevent complete deterrence of predators, it is important that producers fully understand their options.
The following sections depict differences in compensation and deterrent strategies that may be used for animals killing or injuring livestock and poultry.
Code of Virginia ▀ 3.1-796.116. Dogs killing, injuring or chasing livestock or poultry. It shall be the duty of any animal warden or other officer who may find a dog in the act of killing or injuring livestock or poultry to kill such dog forthwith whether such dog bears a tag or not. Any person finding a dog committing any of the depredations mentioned in this section shall have the right to kill such dog on sight as shall any owner of livestock or his agent finding a dog chasing livestock on land utilized by the livestock when the circumstances show that such chasing is harmful to the livestock. Any court shall have the power to order the animal warden or other officer to kill any dog known to be a confirmed livestock or poultry killer, and any dog killing poultry for the third time shall be considered a confirmed poultry killer. The court, through its contempt powers, may compel the owner, custodian, or harborer of the dog to produce the dog.
Any animal warden or other person who has reason to believe that any dog is killing livestock, or committing any of the depredations mentioned in this section, shall apply to a magistrate of the county, city or town wherein such dog may be, who shall issue a warrant requiring the owner or custodian, if known, to appear before a general district court at a time and place named therein, at which time evidence shall be heard. If it shall appear that the dog is a livestock killer, or has committed any of the depredations mentioned in this section, the district court shall order that the dog be (i) killed immediately by the animal warden or other officer designated by the court or (ii) removed to another state which does not border the Commonwealth and prohibited from returning to the Commonwealth. Any dog ordered removed from the Commonwealth which is later found in the Commonwealth shall be ordered by a court to be killed immediately.
Code of Virginia ▀ 3.1-796.118. Compensation for livestock and poultry killed by dogs. Any person who has any livestock or poultry killed or injured by any dog not his own shall be entitled to receive as compensation the fair market value of such livestock or poultry not to exceed $400 per animal or $10 per fowl, provided that: (i) the claimant has furnished evidence within sixty days of discovery of the quantity and value of the dead or injured livestock and the reasons the claimant believes that death or injury was caused by a dog; (ii) the animal warden or other officer shall have been notified of the incident within seventy-two hours of its discovery; and (iii) the claimant first has exhausted his legal remedies against the owner, if known, of the dog doing the damage for which compensation under this section is sought. Exhaustion shall mean a judgment against the owner of the dog upon which an execution has been returned unsatisfied.
Local jurisdictions may by ordinance waive the requirements of (ii) or (iii) or both provided that the ordinance adopted requires that the animal warden has conducted an investigation and that his investigation supports the claim. Upon payment under this section the local governing body shall be subrogated to the extent of compensation paid to the right of action to the owner of the livestock or poultry against the owner of the dog and may enforce the same in an appropriate action at law.
Code of Virginia ▀ 3.1-796.101. Disposition of funds. Unless otherwise provided by ordinance of the local governing body, the treasurer of each local jurisdiction shall keep all money collected by him for dog license taxes in a separate account from all other funds collected by him. The local jurisdiction shall use the funds for the following purposes:
Any part or all of any surplus remaining in such account on December 31 of any year may be transferred by the governing body of such county or city into the general fund of such county or city.
County Boards of Supervisors have used a variety of methods and resources to determine fair market value of animals killed or injured by dogs, including auction market operators, county animal damage committees, and qualified representatives of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In the case of purebred breeding stock, breeders should furnish purchase receipts for the animals damaged, or if raised on the farm, sale receipts for animals of similar age, weight, and breeding value. Factors that should be considered when determining fair market value include: 1) class and weight of animals; 2) stage of production for breeding animals; and 3) age. Above all else, producers must remember to contact their county animal control officer within the first 72 hours after the damage has occurred to confirm and determine the cause of damage. Animal control officers are able to explain the necessary procedures for filing damage claims. County payment for livestock damage is not optional. Attempts by County Boards of Supervisors to avoid paying livestock claims for dog damages have failed whenever challenged in court. Other approaches, including the use of creative bookkeeping to delay damage payments indefinitely, have failed in the courts as well. Accordingly, producers filing claims should be fair and reasonable in their assessments of livestock damage.
Distinguishing Between Dog and Coyote Damage
Coyotes typically bite adult sheep and goats on the throat just behind the jaw and below the ear. Death commonly results from suffocation and shock; blood loss is usually a secondary cause of death. Careful removal of the skin from around the neck will reveal the tooth puncture marks. On small prey, such as young lambs and kids, coyotes may kill by biting the head, neck or back, causing massive tissue and bone damage. Some coyotes kill by attacking the flanks or hindquarters, causing shock and loss of blood. This is quite common with calves, but less common with sheep and goats. Young coyotes are more likely to kill in a manner similar to dogs, and some coyotes may kill in an atypical fashion throughout their adult life. Coyotes normally begin feeding in the flank or just behind the ribs. Feeding on the hindquarters is also common, and small animals may be entirely consumed.
The shape of tracks, the length of stride, the prominence of nail marks, and the pattern of travel are all used to differentiate between dogs and coyotes. Dog tracks are typically round, whereas coyote tracks are oblong and narrower than dog tracks (Figure 1). The coyotes' hind tracks tend to follow directly in line with or on top of their front tracks. In contrast, a dog's rear tracks are slightly to one side of the front tracks.
Vultures are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Vultures may be harassed without federal permits, but they can only be killed after obtaining a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Harassment (nonlethal scaring tactics) is considered to be anything except trying to kill, injure, trap, or capture the animals. Producers must document their attempts to deter damage through harassment as a prerequisite of the permitting process. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Animal Damage Control are able to provide assistance to producers applying for federal permits for vulture control.
Region 1 - Williamsburg
Region 3 - Marion
Region 5 - Fredericksburg
Region 2 - Lynchburg
Region 4 - Verona
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
About the authors: Acknowledgment|
Portions of information contained in this publication were obtained from Procedures for Evaluating Predation on Livestock and Wildlife, D.A. Wade and J.E. Bowns, Texas Agricultural Extension Service Publication B-1429;
Vultures: Damage Prevention and Control Methods, USDA/APHIS Animal Damage Control; and
Coyote: Managing Coyote Problems in Kentucky, F.A. Servello, T.L. Edwards, and B.U. Constantin, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service Publication FOR-37.
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