Pack Goats and Predators – How to Prevent Issues Before They Occur

pack goats

Pack Goats and Predators

Pack goats and predators are genetically engineered adversaries. This article will help you prevent any issues from happening before they occur. Because this predator/prey relationship is predictable we know how to be mindful of our goats in the pasture and the back country.  First thing to remember is that the number one predator of goats is the domestic dog.  I have found that, over the years, breeds that are close to their “predator roots” are the most dangerous. Examples are any kind of hunting dog and huskies in particular. For some reason that breed is a constant culprit.

That said, any large enough domestic dog  should be viewed as a possible killer of your goat.  You need to be concerned about them both on the trail and in your pasture. Many dog owners walk their dogs off leash despite the law being contrary to that in most places. As far as the other predators in North America… bears, coyotes, wolves and cougars, I will speak to them as well. Honestly these wild predators are of much, much less concern than domestic dogs in terms of frequency of encounters and deadliness of those attacks.

Prevention at home

An ounce of prevention goes a long, long way in the world of pack goats and predators. That goes for all of them, but especially domestic dogs as they are the number one killer. This is especially true based on the frequency of goats and dogs encountering each other.  So, rule number one is to limit or eliminate encounters and you’ll have the ultimate winning strategy.  In the pasture that is done with a fence a dog can’t dig under or jump over.  So, you may want to dig your metal fencing 12 inches into the ground all around your outside parameter.

I like chain link the most as goats damage it the least and it’s the toughest.  You can often get chain link from craigslist or Facebook Market Place as  people are often selling older fencing at a high discount.  Also, I think your fence should be a minimum of 5 feet high, 6 is better. It should also be very low, and secured to the ground through staking or burying, to keep dogs out.  Electric fencing is a great solution to keep goats in and dogs out. The best design will need an additional bottom strand 6 inches off the ground on the outside to deter dogs.

Prevention on the Trail

On the trail, I have found it is best to always be aware of oncoming people and their dogs.  At a distance I ask them to leash their dogs because I have goats. I say it very kindly and still have yet to get any guff from someone. Most people feel dutiful to not hurt others animals and know they are breaking the law by having them off leash.  It’s important to mention that I walk trails that I know are “leashed” areas. This way I am always in the right when I remind them that this is a trail designated for humans and stock…not dogs, hence the leash law. I also always hike with a big hiking staff or trecking poles so if an attack happens, I can having something separates me from the attack. They also help to deter the dog with if he has a hold of my goat.  I like this one mentioned here.

Lions, Wolves, and Bears oh my!

Now let’s speak to the issues of the wild predators and how I view them.  Second to dogs, bears are your goats’ greatest threat. This is based on thousands of personal trail miles, and testimonies from the goat and pack goat community over the years. I live in Idaho where we have all the critters of concern: coyotes, cougars, bears and wolves. Of those predators the most bold is the bear.  He will bumble his way into opportunity and not necessarily care a lot about what else might be there. In many cases, if he is habituated, he has only met “yelling” as the potential consequence of breaking into camps.  My defense strategy is to never leave my goats alone. I high line them in the night time (with bells on), and I’m always armed and ready to defend. Always have a headlamp, a gun and bear spray in camp. I go into more detail in how I set up camp in this article. This will not be a common occurrence.  I hear of one to two encounters per year among the pack goat community. This community has grown to hundreds of folks doing thousands of trail miles.  It is far from common and has only happened to me once in a minor way. It was in the beginning of my packing career when I didn’t know any better and left them alone in camp.  More on that story can be seen here.

Lesser wild threats

As for coyotes, I just haven’t seen issues with them except with baby goats. This mostly occurs when they are alone in the pasture. I use the same strategy to protect from them as I do dogs by securing my pasture.  Cougars and wolves are very similar to one another in being very calculated predators. You would need to be in a base camp for a long time to have any issues with them. They prefer to “scout it out” and hang on the parameter for longer before taking action.  I have seen their tracks around camp multiple times but they have kept their distance.  However, I have heard of one attack on a goat by a cougar, and one by a wolf. Several people have seen them with no incident.  I think often a cougar that is “assessing” is often misjudged as “about to attack”.  That said, an unafraid, bold predator of any kind that willing to hang close to humans is a threat that should be dealt with, I’ll leave it at that.  Both the cougar and wolf attack I know of were to same people. Both times they had been in the same remote base camp for weeks. This allowed their goats to wander further from camp which they will do with familiarity for grazing. As a result this allowed for the wolves and cougar to “case the joint.”  So, in long term camps be very aware and move more often. Also, always be prepared to defend your goats.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, many will argue that horns on your goats will help them defend themselves. This is true, but only to an extent.  A wild predator is always going to win if he wants to eat your goats.  You cannot argue the toughness of a mule deer buck or bull elk but all these predators kill them every day.  Don’t fool yourself into believing keeping your goats with horns will protect them. I do believe, however, it will delay things and can be very intimidating to domestic dogs.  Two goats in my string, “Merciless” and “Ridge”, are very dog aggressive and will pound any dog that comes near. They shut down any of that funny business before it starts. I’m usually more worried about peoples dogs than my goats when they’re around. They weren’t trained to do it, they have done it on their own, and their horns help in that way.
One final note, Livestock Guardian dogs are a great solution as well and they will protect your goats.  That said, the negative side is they can be very aggressive toward people, especially kids. With them you now have your own predator to worry about.  Please be very cautious with these dogs as they are bred to kill and not be a pet.  That said, many are successful in having them be both a pet and protector. From my research this is less common than the aforementioned.