Data from: Where do livestock guardian dogs go? Movement patterns of free-ranging Maremma sheepdogs
2014-11-05, van Bommel, Linda, Johnson, Chris N.
In many parts of the world, livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) are a relatively new and increasingly popular method for controlling the impact of wild predators on livestock. On large grazing properties in Australia, LGDs are often allowed to range freely over large areas, with minimal supervision by their owners. How they behave in this situation is mostly unknown. We fitted free-ranging Maremma sheepdogs with GPS tracking collars on three properties in Victoria, Australia; on two properties, four sheep were also fitted with GPS collars. We investigated how much time the Maremmas spent with their livestock, how far they moved outside the ranges of their stock, and tested whether they use their ranges sequentially, which is an effective way of maintaining a presence over a large area. The 95% kernel isopleth of the Maremmas ranged between 31 and 1161 ha, the 50% kernel isopleth ranged between 4 and 252 ha. Maremmas spent on average 90% of their time in sheep paddocks. Movements away from sheep occurred mostly at night, and were characterised by high-speed travel on relatively straight paths, similar to the change in activity at the edge of their range. Maremmas used different parts of their range sequentially, similar to sheep, and had a distinct early morning and late afternoon peak in activity. Our results show that while free-ranging LGDs spend the majority of their time with livestock, movements away from stock do occur. These movements could be important in allowing the dogs to maintain large territories, and could increase the effectiveness of livestock protection. Allowing LGDs to range freely can therefore be a useful management decision, but property size has to be large enough to accommodate the large areas that the dogs use.