How to Protect Your Goats from Predators
If you’re going to raise goats, you need to find out about common predators in your area. Don’t think that, because you’re raising goats in the city, you don’t have to worry about predators. Although some of the animals that we traditionally think of as predators are rarely found in the city, dogs are rampant and birds abound. Kids are particularly at risk because they are small and lack life experience.
The best way to ensure that your goats are safe, especially if you don’t have a guardian animal, is to make sure that they’re secured in a building with no open windows from dusk until dawn. Make sure the door closes and latches to prevent animals from getting in and goats from getting out.
Here are some of the more common goat predators to guard against:
Domestic or feral dogs: Dogs are the worst predators of goats, attacking and killing more often than any wild animal and doing it for fun rather than because they’re hungry. Dogs go after goats individually or in packs, with pack attacks being the worst.
Dogs dig under fences to get to goats. You can identify a dog attack because dogs usually go for a goat’s hind legs and rear end. Goats that are attacked by dogs often have to be euthanized.
Coyotes: Eastern coyotes hunt individually, looking for weak members of a herd; western coyotes hunt in packs. You can tell the difference between a coyote attack and a dog attack because dogs chase and try to get as many goats as they can, while coyotes go for the throat and then try to get at a goat’s internal organs. They may even try to carry the animal away for safe eating.
Cougars: Cougars hunt individually. They leave tooth punctures and claw marks on the upper torso when they attack a goat. They also have been known to drag their prey a distance away, bury it, and come back later to eat. A good livestock guardian dog will normally deter a cougar, unless it is very hungry.
If you live in an area with cougars, get more than one livestock guardian dog to protect your goats.
Birds: Ravens and black vultures sometimes attack goats, especially when goats are down from sickness or trying to have their kids outside. Ravens peck an animal’s head and gouge out its eyes. Ravens attack in groups, which causes a problem for does trying to protect more than one kid.
The USDA recommends hanging a vulture carcass (real or fake) to deter vultures. Owls, eagles, and large hawks also may bother small kids, especially if they get separated from their mothers and cry. You can prevent losses to all types of birds by making sure your goats have safe, indoor kidding pens.
Other predators: Wolves, bears, foxes, wild pigs, and even feral cats will go after goats if their regular food supply is disrupted. Humans are also predators on goats — some rustling for food, but others killing for the fun of it, or for some other misguided reason.
Don’t tether your goats. A tethered goat is bait for any predator that lives in the area. Instead of tethering your goats, build them a proper fence, or if you need to move them around, use cattle panel sections or electric wire to create a barrier that you can move from place to place during the day. And supervise them or get them a guardian for protection.