Sheep Predation

Predation Still Major Problem for West Virginia Shepherds

The second truck-to-truck survey taken at the annual wool pick-up days across West Virginia revealed that shepherds are losing $8.59 per ewe sheared from predators. Predation losses from coyotes, dogs and bears totaled more than $384,000, according to this 1996 Shepherds Survey conducted by the West Virginia University Extension Service with help from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control Office in Elkins.

The county per-head loss figures were led by Randolph at $12.97 per ewe sheared, followed closely by Greenbrier and Monroe at $11.86. The county with the greatest ewe numbers, Pendleton, lost over $165,000 from predation or $11.84 for each of its 14,000 breeding ewes sheared. Pocahontas County, with a loss per head estimated at $6.75, saw a $95,600 decline in predation totals from 1995 to $42,292 for 1996. The lowest per-head predation figure of $0.92 revealed in this study was found in the Weston wool pool area which included Lewis, Marion, Harrison, Upshur, Doddridge, and Nicholas Counties .

Coyote kills claimed 3,360 lambs, or 83% of all lambs reported lost to predation statewide. A figure of $75 per lamb was used to compute the $252,064 total. There has been much discussion that due to an unprecedented high lamb market, that figure could be much higher. This study computed ewe losses against a $100 per head market value. A total of 810 ewes were reported lost from predators in this study.

The predator damage, although widespread, was not always evenly distributed. The exception is dogs. Every county reported ewe losses, and all but the Weston survey area reported lamb losses in this category. The counties that touch the triangle of highways from Clarksburg west to Parkersburg, then south to Charleston, and north to Weston reported no losses from bears and $3,600 worth of damage from coyote. This area reported 65% of its damage to dogs. This is compared to 19% statewide.

The coyote contribution to the county predation figures are disproportionate and concentrated in the five contiguous counties bordering Virginia starting with Pendleton and going south to Monroe. Although these counties support 59% of the state sheep population, their predation losses from all species reached 87% of the state total. The coyote component was reported at 95%.