Procedures for Evaluating Predation on Livestock and Wildlife Illustrated Field Guide

There are individual sections on predation organized by predator. A list of these sections can be found under Illustrated Field Guide on the predation main page or from the links below.These sections contain text describing and photos depicting predation by that predator.They describe the principles and procedures used to separate predator caused injuries and mortalities in livestock and wildlife from those resulting from other causes. Proper identification demands recognition and evaluation of all available evidence. Application of these principles will help the investigator determine whether or not predation was involved and frequently what predator species was responsible.

Diseases, parasites, toxic plants and other mortality factors may require diagnoses by veterinarians and pathologists. In some instances, the absence of food or the presence of toxic plant materials in the digestive tract may provide definitive evidence of the cause of death. In others, the presence of parasites and symptoms of disease can be readily diagnosed. Numerous references on these factors are noted in the reference list for those who wish to review these topics.

Knowledge and skill are often necessary to determine the cause of injuries or death. Although direct observation of predation is rare, it is the most specific evidence possible and may also permit identification of the responsible animal. Fresh injuries or kills which exhibit tooth, claw or talon punctures and hemorrhage are also specific evidence of predation. However, it is seldom possible to identify the individual predator responsible and occasionally it is not possible to identify the species from the carcass appearance alone.

In many instances, determination of predation as the cause of death must be made from circumstantial evidence where the carcasses alone do not provide adequate evidence. The history of predation in a specific area, aberrant livestock behavior, young or small livestock that simply disappear, predator sign (including tracks and droppings containing bone fragments or hair of prey species) are factors that provide circumstantial evidence. With sufficient care and evaluation of indirect evidence, it is often possible to rule out or to confirm predation as a cause of death with a reasonable degree of certainty.

Elements Used to Identify Predation

  • Livestock behavior
  • Direct evidence
  • Indirect evidence