When Predators Strike: What Killed My Animals?

In and around the Victor Valley region of the High Desert, numerous reports of wild (and some not so wild) predators are appearing on social media, and sometimes, in the news. The number of calls we receive regarding this issue has increased more than 200% in the past year.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

Predators have always been a part of the Mojave Desert landscape. Some are widespread, while others prefer more specific habitats to call home. All native predators are important. Whether a bird, mammal, or snake, our native predators all play a crucial role in keeping other species “in balance,” and without them, our wild lands would be quickly overrun with many non-predatory species, such as rodents and rabbits. In addition, the problem of careless pet owners results in dogs that roam, day and night.

As the human population continues to increase locally, the environments that predators depend upon is fragmented, resulting in not only a loss in suitable habitat, but often, a decrease in prey species that predators depend on.

Competition for food sources may increase, due to larger numbers of animals in smaller spaces. A large increase in homeowners who are now keeping chickens, goats, and other animals creates an “all you can eat buffet” when sufficient mitigation measures aren’t taken to ensure that animals are kept safe.

A COMBINATION OF FACTORS BRINGS PREDATORS INTO RURAL COMMUNITIES

  • An overabundance of prey. This includes rabbits, (invasive) ground squirrels and roof rats. As hungry predators search for food, these (and other) species can easily be located by sight, sound, or smell, and attract hungry predators directly into rural communities. Often, these infestations exist alongside, or near where livestock and poultry are kept. It may be your home, or it may be that of a nearby neighbor.
  • Once drawn into an area, predators often gain easy access when domestic animals are not sufficiently protected. The instinct of a wild animal is to find prey as quickly and easily as possible, and if hungry enough, many species will work at finding a way to get in. Most often, this occurs in the cover of darkness. Once wild animals learn that its much easier to find food this way, the behavior continues.
  • More predators are trying to survive in less space. Some species are legally protected, meaning they may not be hunted and/or trapped. There may not be enough wild prey due to competition, resulting in animals travelling further to find food.

AN ANIMAL HAS ALREADY ATTACKED MY LIVESTOCK, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

  • If animals have been killed, leave them where found, do not move them.
  • Do everything possible to preserve the area. Even a small track can help identify the species responsible.
  • Get unharmed animals safely secured.
  • Take numerous photographs, without disturbing the area.
  • Contact a wildlife control professional in your area to conduct a site inspection as quickly as possible. A fast response to a predatory issue is a must. Most professionals will adjust their schedules to provide timely assistance. and have the training, experience, and tools needed to address such issues swiftly and effectively. They will also advise you of current local regulations, state laws or permits that may be needed, depending on species.
  • Remember, quick action can prevent further damage.

HOW CAN I KEEP PREDATORS AWAY FROM MY ANIMALS?

  • Keep feed and grains securely stored in steel containers with steel lids. Examine all bales of hay for rodent infestation prior to purchase, and reject any suspect bales. Remember, rodents will eventually draw predators.
  • Do not feed pets outside. Even dry dog and cat food is easily detected by wild animals, including rodents.
  • Do not offer poultry or other livestock more food than can be consumed at one time. Keep coops and all livestock areas free of waste and excess/spilled feed.
  • Keep water sources inside of secure fencing
  • Address all sightings of rodents immediately. A delay only makes the problem worse, and more expensive to solve.
  • Keep all animals securely fenced in, with secure, predator-proof roofing. Even the most secure walls won’t keep an owl, or a predator that climbs/digs from entering.
  • Do not let cats roam outdoors, and keep all dogs (especially small dogs) supervised when outdoors. If pets must be left outdoors for an extended period of time, construct a predator-proof kennel, including roof.

ROAMING OR FERAL DOGS HAVE ATTACKED MY ANIMALS

Please go to this link for information regarding dogs that are stalking or attacking livestock.