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:
<10px margin-top:0px="" direction:ltr="" text-align:left="" text-indent:0px="" list-style-type:decimal="" line-height:16px="">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
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. <10px margin-top:0px="" direction:ltr="" text-align:left="" text-indent:0px="" list-style-type:decimal="" line-height:16px="">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. <0px margin-right:0px="" direction:ltr="" text-align:left="" margin-top:0px="" text-indent:0px="" list-style-type:decimal="" line-height:16px="">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.
Center for Wildlife Damage Management
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