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White Shaggy Dog Alert for Wyomingites

PHOTO: Livestock protection dog with sheep in background. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: Livestock protection dog with sheep in background. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
July 19, 2012

CASPER, Wyo. - If you see domestic sheep while in the backcountry, slow down and go around - whether you're on foot, horseback, bicycle or ATV. This message is aimed at people enjoying public lands, in order to reduce conflicts with "dogs at work." Livestock protection dogs are used to keep predators at bay and sound alarms, and they might see you as a danger if they don't have time to check you out first.

Wildlife biologist Michael Marlow with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), USDA Wildlife Services, says it is also important to note that the dogs are not pets.

"Once people realize the dogs are there to protect the sheep from predation - a form of non-lethal predation management - people embrace that idea. They realize that allows livestock and wildlife to coexist."

Livestock protection dogs are usually white, and common breeds are Pyrenees, Akbash, Komondor and Anatolian shepherds. Predator threats to sheep in Wyoming include coyotes, mountain lions, bears, wolves and domestic dogs.

Marlow says livestock protection dogs often appear shaggy, but that is normal and not a situation indicating the dog needs to be rescued.

"A person may attempt to feed those dogs and may not understand the concept of what their job is. We've even had situations where people have assumed that the dog is lost, and several times dogs have been gathered up and taken to local humane shelters and rescue operations."

If you have a pet dog with you, keep it on a leash, he warns.

Marlow says livestock protection dogs have been used around the world for centuries because they are so effective.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY