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Using Donkeys as Guards  [Back to Article List]

Donkeys - Coyotes and coyote control and management 

Source: Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management Read the Full Article: 


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  • Donkeys. Although the research has not focused on donkeys as it has on guarding dogs, they are gaining in popularity as protectors of sheep and goat flocks in the United States. A recent survey showed that in Texas alone, over 2,400 of the 11,000 sheep and goat producers had used donkeys as guardians.

    The terms donkey and burro are synonymous (the Spanish translation of donkey is burro) and are used interchangeably. Donkeys are generally docile to people, but they seem to have an inherent dislike of dogs and other canids, including coyotes and foxes. The typical response of a donkey to an intruding canid may include braying, bared teeth, a running attack, kicking, and biting. Most likely it is acting out of aggression toward the intruder rather than to protect the sheep. There is little information on a donkey’s effectiveness with noncanid predators such as bears, mountain lions, bobcats, or birds of prey.

    Reported success of donkeys in reducing predation is highly variable. Improper husbandry or rearing practices and unrealistic expectations probably account for many failures. Donkeys are significantly cheaper to obtain and care for than guarding dogs, and they are probably less prone to accidental death and premature mortality than dogs. They may provide a longer period of useful life than a guarding dog, and they can be used with relative safety in conjunction with snares, traps, M-44s, and toxic collars.

    Researchers and livestock producers have identified several key points to consider when using a donkey for predation control:

    Use only a jenny or a gelded jack. Intact jacks are too aggressive and may injure livestock. Some jennies and geldings may also injure livestock. Select donkeys from medium-sized stock. Use only one donkey per group of sheep. The exception may be a jenny with a foal. When two or more adult donkeys are together or with a horse, they usually stay together, not necessarily near the sheep. Also avoid using donkeys in adjacent pastures since they may socialize across the fence and ignore the sheep.

  • Allow about 4 to 6 weeks for a naive donkey to bond to the sheep. Stronger bonding may occur when a donkey is raised from birth with sheep.
  • Avoid feeds or supplements containing monensin or lasolacid. They are poisonous to donkeys. Remove the donkey during lambing, particularly if lambing in confinement, to avoid injuries to lambs or disruption of the lamb-ewe bond. Test a new donkey’s response to canids by challenging it with a dog in a pen or small pasture. Discard donkeys that don’t show overt aggression to an intruding dog. Use donkeys in smaller (less than 600 acres [240 ha]), relatively open pastures with not more than 200 to 300 head of livestock. Large pastures with rough terrain and vegetation and widely scattered livestock lessen the effectiveness of a donkey.

    Source: Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management

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