On Guard An Ancient Breed Of Dog Is Protecting Families From Rebounding Cougar Populations

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On Guard An Ancient Breed Of Dog Is Protecting Families From Rebounding Cougar Populations

Post by Spiritwind »

I’m posting a couple links here about cougars since the recent attack on our little goat herd. It’s unfortunate that we had to have such a traumatic experience out here to realize what formidable predators they are. I have a whole new, much healthier, respect for them. We are definitely getting a puppy this summer to add to our current two LGD’s. In fact, there is something out there this morning, as both the dogs are on high alert. I found out a cougar can jump up to 18 feet, like a spring, off the ground, and a few other things that are good to know about them. They are the largest cat known to purr, sort of just like your pet kitty, and they like cardboard boxes. On the other hand, they might eat your pet kitty, if they are hungry.



On Guard An Ancient Breed Of Dog Is Protecting Families From Rebounding Cougar Populations

https://www.spokesman.com/stories/1996/ ... rotecting/

By Larry Shook
In the Napa Valley wine country of California on a spring day in 1994, a little boy called his mother to “come see the big deer.” Instead of a deer, what Cathy Pridmore found perched on a rock, intently eyeing 3-year-old Joseph at play, was an adult cougar. It was crouched, its tail was flicking, and the mother had the distinct impression it was about to pounce. Pridmore whisked her son to safety but still shudders at the memory. “At that point I said, ‘It’s time to take action.”’

Pridmore began researching a way to protect her toddler from the area’s increasingly numerous cougars. What she discovered was an ancient breed of Turkish livestock guardian dog known as the Anatolian shepherd.

Only an unusual canine could fend off the “American lion,” but Anatolian shepherds are formidable beasts themselves. Some weigh more than 140 pounds and stand six feet on their hind legs. The dogs are known for a complex and paradoxical nature. For one thing, despite their hulking size, they can sprint 45 miles an hour, faster than a cougar or a grizzly bear. They also have a disarming personality that can shift from mellow to ferociously protective in the blink of an eye.

Anatolians and related livestock guardians were almost unheard of in this country until the 1970s. That’s when the Endangered Species Act triggered a search for a means of controlling predators without killing them.

University and government agricultural researchers discovered primitive Eurasian dogs such as the Anatolian shepherd guarding flocks of sheep and goats in remnants of some of the world’s oldest pastoral societies. They saw that 99 percent of the time the dogs’ mere presence was enough to keep carnivores away.

Rarely is actual battle required, because predators prefer hassle-free dining; even minor injuries can prove fatal in the wild. That’s fine with the dogs, who’d rather not fight; it upsets the flock. Their first defensive measure is visual deterrence. They simply stand and let themselves be seen.

If that doesn’t do the trick, intruders are greeted with a mild, throat-clearing sort of bark. That will escalate, if necessary, to a blood-curdling warning. The final warning isn’t an idle threat. No one who knows the dogs suggests their bark is worse than their bite, and with their legendary fearlessness, prodigious strength and catlike agility, they can drive off the largest predators, grizzlies included. Ironically, while the dogs protect livestock, they protect predators, too, by minimizing conflict with humans.

Today, as many as 4,000 of the unusual animals may be defending America’s pastures. Increasingly the dogs are being adopted as personal bodyguards in cougar country.

When lions go to school
Edgy relations with cougars, also known as mountain lions, have become a fixture of life in parts of the West ever since the big cats came under protection of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Once thought to be nearly extinct, the tawny predators now are a dangerous pest in many communities.

Shortly after a mountain lion killed 18-year-old Scott Lancaster as he jogged within a few hundred yards of his Idaho Springs, Colo., high school in 1991, National Public Radio broadcast a report on just how common encounters with Felis concolor have become.

Parents in suburbs outside Boulder, Colo., told of spotting the cats regularly, even catching them peering through living room windows at children playing indoors. The creatures turn up in Los Angeles back yards and golf courses, they’re spotted in Missoula parking lots, and trapped in suburban garages in Vancouver, B.C.

While most Americans face greater risk from bad egg salad than mountain lions - only 13 fatal cougar attacks have been reported in North America this century - most of the deaths have occurred since the species was protected, and human-lion encounters are clearly rising.

Wildlife authorities such as Roger Woodruff, assistant state director for Washington and Alaska for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Damage Control agency (ADC), agree that the small number of human deaths to date belies the hazard posed by rising cougar populations. “There’s no question that these are very dangerous animals,” he said.

With the end of human persecution, a bolder mountain lion may be emerging.
In 1994 a lion calmly strolled into John Brown Elementary School in Rathdrum, Idaho. It was about 6:30 in the morning, and custodian Bob Kinna had opened the school’s doors so freshly mopped floors could dry. He had just greeted the trash collector when he noticed a strange creature approaching. “I said, ‘Jeez, look at the size of that -‘ and I was going to say ‘dog,’ and I said, ‘My God, that’s a mountain lion!”’ The 150-pound carnivore stepped into the school’s halls as casually as it might have turned down a forest path. Fish and game officers tranquilized it in the library.

Little Joseph Pridmore hadn’t been the only one threatened by cougars at his family’s home. Sheep raised by his teenage sister, Cori, were killed by cougars with distressing regularity.

Sometimes prowling within 50 yards of the house, the big predators were a nerve-wracking presence until the Anatolians arrived. Now that three of the big dogs look after the Pridmores’ 70 acres, Cathy Pridmore says she might believe there wasn’t a mountain lion left in the world were it not for certain occurrences.

Recently neighbors on one side of the Pridmores investigated a racket on their porch and found three yearling cougars devouring the family’s pet cat. The night before, a cougar killed sheep belonging to neighbors across the road. And in surrounding hills the Pridmores regularly come upon the remains of lion-killed deer.

“Sometimes I have to go out after dark to find a sheep that didn’t come into the barn,” said 16-year-old Cori Pridmore. “No way would I do that without one of the Anatolians with me. But I’d go anywhere with them.”

In 1989 Leita and Keith Burfitt moved with their five children to 1,200 picturesque acres in Newport, Wash., near the Little Spokane River. They stocked their farm with goats, sheep, horses, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, rabbits - and Anatolian shepherds.

Disquieting sounds from surrounding woods unnerved the Burfitts. They requested an assessment from ADC, and the investigating officer reported the place was crawling with coyotes, cougars, bears, even a wolf pack.

A young grizzly bear spotted this spring north of Spokane was dubbed the “100-year grizzly” - the first member of its species officially seen in a century - but long before that, the Burfitts had photographed grizzly paw prints in woods near their home.

For a year before the big dogs were acquired, whenever the Burfitts had animals in the pasture, a family member would stand guard with a rifle. It was miserable, wet, mosquito-bite duty.A bear got three lambs anyway. The horses would come in from the river pasture with their flanks raked by cougars.

The Burfitts obtained Anatolians and instantly enjoyed a cordial new understanding with the area’s indigenous meat eaters. “We’ve never lost anything since,” said Leita. “Absolutely nothing, and it just surprises me because everyone else has so much trouble.”

A cougar recently attacked six cows owned by one of the Burfitts’ neighbors, leaving one cow dead, three so badly injured they had to be destroyed, and one wounded.

These are typical casualty reports from the country these days, says Leita, but Anatolians maintain a cordon around her family’s farm. She has watched her dogs drive mountain lions up into the hills. One night they ejected a cougar from the rabbit barn where bunnies were being born.

Afterward, the Anatolians had to be patched and cleaned up a bit, but most of the blood on them wasn’t of canine origin. The cougar it came from was run off without the loss of a single bunny. The cat never returned.

In Montana’s Nine Mile Valley, Rose Qualley worried about the numerous cougars near her home. Qualley, who is better known by her screen name Andie MacDowell, wanted her children to enjoy the same freedom she did growing up as a country girl in Gaffney, S.C. But not far from the actress’s Montana ranch a small boy was killed by a mountain lion.

“My son goes out in the meadow and (hunts for) frogs,” said the movie star, “and he’s got friends over here, and they’re just little guys and they make those high squeal sounds that mountain lions like….”

For protection the actress and her husband, Paul Qualley, obtained an Anatolian shepherd. Nowadays the children scramble after frogs under the unblinking watch of a big dog named Buddy. Buddy loves the children, says MacDowell. They’re his lambs. He never takes his eyes off them, and the mountain lions stay away. MacDowell says she wouldn’t raise children around cougars without Buddy’s help.

Deadlier than African lions
Pound for pound, cougars are more deadly than African lions, according to wildlife biologists. Solitary hunters, they can bring down thousand-pound elk. The big cats kill by biting; their huge temporalis and masseter jaw muscles let them crush a prey’s skull or snip the spinal cord at the back of the neck. Or they slash open the carotid arteries with their scalpel claws.

Either way, it’s so swift and silent that horseback riders have turned to admire a view and discovered a cougar eating their dog on the trail.

Wildlife experts such as the University of Idaho’s Dr. Maurice Hornocker, the leading authority on mountain lions and one of the world’s most respected big cat specialists, don’t dispute the danger posed by cougars. However, they cite practical and philosophical reasons why humanity should learn to share the planet with them.

“The big carnivores are ideal barometers of environmental health,” says Hornocker. “They require flourishing populations of prey. Prey depend on a healthy ecosystem.”

Balanced natural systems, he stresses, have more than aesthetic value to civilization. They hold in check viruses, bacteria, “lurking organisms that have been for millions of years repressed by all this beautiful diversity.”

Environmental destruction, warns Hornocker, threatens to loose these organisms on humanity as pathogens, possibly causing global health crises that make living with carnivores seem tame by comparison.

As an example, he cites AIDS, which has been called “the revenge of the rain forest” because the virus apparently sought humanity as a host only when its own survival was endangered by disruption of its native habitat.

Another reason for embracing cougars is more abstract, concedes Hornocker, but is consistent with the modern environmental spirit that is reshaping social values.

“We forget that we are products of the same evolutionary process that brought us mountain lions and grizzly bears and dickey birds and flowers and grass. … If we want to live in a sterile environment, we can sterilize it. But … it’ll make monsters of us.”

Hornocker points to the use of livestock guardian dogs as an expression of “cultural wisdom.” He is encouraged by indications that such wisdom is growing, citing the insistence of citizens in Colorado and California that cougars be protected, despite recent fatal attacks in both states.

It turns out that protecting people and livestock with almost-forgotten breeds of guardian dogs is easier than trying to kill predators with poison, traps and bullets. Anatolian owners such as the Pridmores say they can’t imagine living without an ancient shepherd to watch over them.

In two years there has been only one night when the Pridmore family’s dogs couldn’t be with the sheep. On that night a mountain lion ate a lamb.

These 4 sidebars appeared with the story:
1. HUMANS MUST LEARN TO LIVE WITH COUGARS Society has two choices regarding cougars, says Dr. Maurice Hornocker, the country’s top expert on the species. “We can exterminate them or learn to live with them.” Because of the animals’ reproductive dynamics, simply hunting them appears to have little overall effect on their populations and may not appreciably reduce the risk they pose to people, notes Hornocker. As evidence, he points to Vancouver Island where “the biggest percentage of all human/mountain lion encounters in North America has occurred,” despite intensive lion hunting since the island was settled by whites. Hornocker says a similar situation exists in northwest Montana. Because large predators are so valuable for environmental health, Hornocker contends that it is wiser to teach people how to live with lions than to exterminate lions. “I think we can only look to some of the older societies in Africa, in Asia, where people have lived in harmony with big, dangerous animals for centuries,” he says. Hornocker notes that because of genetic differences, some lion populations are more aggressive than others and more likely to endanger humans. He and most of his colleagues advocate identifying dangerous individual lions whenever possible and humanely euthanizing them.

2. DEER ARE LIKELY TO ATTRACT MOUNTAIN LIONS Bear-elk, wolf-moose, cougar-deer, owl-grouse, eagle-trout, lynx-hare. Montana writer Rick Bass has called them “the magnificent predator-prey showcases of the northern Rockies.” Cathy Green, a biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, notes that educating the public about the natural relationships of such species is one of the most important tasks of wildlife professionals today. Newcomers to the country sometimes say they want deer but not mountain lions, she notes. She suggests that’s like favoring lush foliage but not rain. “In North America the single most important diagnostic for figuring out an area where you might have lions is the presence of deer,” said Green. She believes, however, that public appreciation of natural systems is rising. A recent study, “Societal Preferences for Mountain Lion Management Along Colorado’s Front Range,” found that: Up to 80 percent of the sample residents of metropolitan Denver advocated restricting housing development to preserve mountain lion habitat. Less than 9 percent of questionnaire respondents thought that cats coming into residential areas should be shot. Fully 30 percent of those surveyed thought that even a mountain lion that killed a neighborhood resident should be spared.

3. GUARDIAN DOGS REQUIRE A MATCH Who should own a livestock protection dog? Three quick answers: 1) Only those experienced with owning big, powerful dogs. 2) Only those willing to take the time to carefully study them and learn how they differ from modern dogs. 3) Only people who are prepared to make lifestyle adjustments to accommodate their unusual nature. Most authorities on these breeds agree that while they can make superb, deeply bonded companions with proper socialization, they are not “pets” in the conventional subordinate sense of the word. Bred for millennia to exercise independent judgment in response to perceived danger, whether from a mountain lion or a person, the dogs will protect. While they are not aggressive the way modern guard dogs such as Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers can be, their protective reactiveness has been likened to the strike of a rattlesnake. In modern society, the dogs require substantial fencing in all but open range settings. Generally, most of the guardian breeds shouldn’t be allowed off leash in public places except when given the most expert training. Classically, their temperament is calm enough to make them good therapy dogs, but they should never be subjected to attack dog training; it makes them dangerously aggressive.

Responsible breeders refuse to sell them to people looking for a “macho” dog. The best general reference on the breeds is “Livestock Protection Dogs: Selection, Care and Training,” by David E. Sims and Orysia Dawdiak, $9.95 from OTR Publications, (800) 367-2174. A list of livestock guardian dog breeders can be obtained by writing Roger Woodruff, USDA-APHIS-ADC, 720 O’Leary St. NW, Olympia, WA 98502. Sandy Kempe, publisher of Flock & Field, a livestock guardian dog newsletter, offers a handout called “Beginner’s Guide to Livestock Protection Dogs.” It is available for $1 and a stamped self-addressed envelope from Sandy Kempe, 7331 156th St. S.E, Snohomish, WA 98290. Larry Shook

4. COUGAR POPULATION GROWING The lions are back. After being hunted to the edge of extinction earlier in this century, mountain lion populations now are probably higher in the 10 Western states than they were at the time of Columbus, estimates Maurice Hornocker, the leading authority on the big cats. Professional management of deer and elk, key prey species, combined with ending cougar extermination efforts, are thought to be the reasons. Since 1985, cougar numbers in Washington have more than doubled, up from 1,000-1,500 to an estimated 2,400-3,200 today, according to Steve Pozzanghera, a carnivore manager with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department. Between March 1995 and March 1996, 323 cougar complaints were filed with the Fish and Wildlife Department, nearly a third of them based on the death or wounding of livestock and pets.

Eleven of those complaints came from Spokane County, and 72 were lodged in Stevens, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties. Throughout southeast Washington there were only 11 complaints. The greatest concentration of complaints came from Pierce and King counties, with 35 and 30 filings respectively. Because the state only recently began compiling such statistics, Pozzanghera says hard data on cougar-human interactions are lacking. But judging from the workload of field officers, he believes there is a marked rise in meetings between cougars and people. Foothills where the two species’ habitats overlap is where most encounters occur. There are only six recorded cases of mountain lion attacks on people in Washington’s history. The first, in 1924, resulted in the death of a child. No further attacks were recorded until 1977, when a mother and daughter were assaulted. There were two attacks in 1992 - both on children - one in 1994, and on May 24 of this year a lion went after a 28-year-old mountain biker as he ate lunch on Wolf Creek Trail in Olympic National Park. A former wrestler, the cyclist managed to momentarily pin the cougar. When he released it, man and beast ran in opposite directions. Not conceding the match, the cougar dashed back and stole the man’s lunch before vanishing. In Idaho, lion populations are clearly rising, according to John Beecham, wildlife game and research manager for the state’s Department of Fish and Game. “Sightings (of lions) have been on the increase,” he said. “We’re getting lion kills in areas where historically we have not had lions,” he said.

Moreover, he notes that while in the 1970s “routinely we would get, oh, a half a dozen or a dozen (deer and elk hunters who said they shot lions that were stalking them), now we’re getting in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 cats a year killed in situations like that.” Increased cougar numbers and intensified human settlement in their habitat cause Beecham to be “a bit concerned” about human safety. “I think it’s just a matter of time before we have an incident,” he says. Wildlife officials offer this general advice: If you live in lion country, practice good hygiene. Keep garbage secure, don’t leave pet food outside, don’t let pets roam, and secure livestock at night. Hikers in lion country should stay in groups and keep small children near them at all times. Cats are opportunistic hunters and have been known to attack toddlers from dense brush even as parents watched. If approached by a mountain lion, stand tall, wave your arms, make noise, throw rocks, and try to back away slowly. Don’t run. If attacked, fight hard. In short, don’t behave like prey. Larry Shook

Spokane author Larry Shook is writing a book, “Shepherd of an Ancient Place,” about revival of the protection dog breeds.
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