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Mitigating carnivore–livestock conflict in Europe: lessons from Slovakia

Robin Rigga1 c1, Slavomír Finďoa2, Maria Wechselbergera3, Martyn L. Gormana4, Claudio Sillero-Zubiria5 and David W. Macdonalda5

a1 Slovak Wildlife Society, P.O. Box 72, Liptovský Hrádok 033 01, Slovakia

a2 Carpathian Wildlife Society, Zvolen, Slovakia

a3 Slovak Wildlife Society, Liptovský Hrádok, Slovakia

a4 Zoology Department, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK

a5 Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, The Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Zoology Department, University of Oxford, Tubney, UK

Abstract

Conflicts with human interests have reappeared following recovery of large carnivores in Europe. Public acceptance is higher than historically but there is a need to identify effective, acceptable techniques to facilitate coexistence. We present a case study of predation on livestock in Slovakia. Damage, mitigation measures and public opinion were assessed using compensation records, analysis of farm conditions, questionnaire surveys, semi-structured interviews, diet analysis and on-farm trials of livestock-guarding dogs. Economic damage was inconsequential on a national scale but high locally: c. 80% of reported losses occurred at 12% of sheep flocks. Grey wolves Canis lupus were held responsible for four to six times more damage than brown bears Ursus arctos, although livestock occurred in only 2 of 78 wolf faeces during spring–autumn, when sheep and cattle were most vulnerable. Losses to Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx were negligible. Compared to other sectors of society shepherds had the most negative attitudes, particularly towards wolves, despite compensation payments. Appropriate use of livestock-guarding dogs was associated with fewer losses: median loss at trial flocks with predation was 70% lower than at control flocks. We conclude that identifying vulnerable farms and targeting them for mitigation could reduce damage, although lack of motivation and awareness are obstacles. This study shows that damage levels need not be excessive despite high predator densities in human-dominated landscapes. Conflicts were unevenly distributed, with much of the variation explained by local conditions and husbandry practices, especially preventive measures. Livestock-guarding dogs are particularly appropriate where wolves are present in proximity to unfenced pastures.

(Received July 16 2009)

(Reviewed September 07 2009)

(Accepted December 08 2009)

(Online publication May 04 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Slovak Wildlife Society, P.O. Box 72, Liptovský Hrádok 033 01, Slovakia. E-mail info@slovakwildlife.org

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