Damage Control

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Published on: Feb. 2, 2006

Last revision: Nov. 23, 2010

better than originally thought,” says Braithwait, based in Camdenton. “When a group of otters finds a hatchery pond, the losses can be extensive.”

Setting Conibear-type traps or underwater snares can be very effective when specific travel lanes can be identified. Shooting otters, where safe, can also eliminate the problem.

A non-lethal method available to pond owners is placing a low-set electric fence around the pond perimeter. This fencing can be an economical approach for protecting fish stocking investments.

“Otters move around a lot,” says Braithwait. “You have to get right on otter damage before it’s too late.”

Identifying otter sign is the key to early detection of otter damage. Otters will pull fish up on the bank to feed and leave the skeleton when finished. Otters also love crayfish. Consequently, their scat (feces) will normally contain large quantities of crayfish shells.

Beavers are another aquatic animal that frequently cause damage. Most complaints involve trees being chewed or cut down. After all, that is what beavers do. However, if those trees cost several hundred dollars and were planted for shade or aesthetics, then something must be done.

Most control methods used for otters are also effective for beavers. To protect individual trees, property owners can wrap tree trunks with wire or plastic piping at least four feet high.

More serious problems occur when beavers clog city water supply outlets or dam water drainage systems, causing crop fields to flood. Usually, a short training session and initial trap setting with city employees or the landowner rectifies these problems.


Coyotes continue to cause occasional problems for farmers trying to raise cattle or sheep. Losses can get serious if the offending animal is not identified and stopped in a timely manner.

“Cattle farmers keep pretty close track of their calf crop,” says Scott McWilliams, biologist, West Plains. “After losing a calf or two, they’re anxious to catch the coyote.”

Very often though, the culprit is not a coyote at all, but free-running domestic dogs. Biologists can distinguish between coyote damage and damage caused by dogs. The ability to accurately interpret animal sign becomes extremely important in these cases.

If the culprit is in fact a coyote, it is caught by snare or foothold trap. Snares are inexpensive, easy to set and very effective. A special permit is required to set snares and can only be issued by a wildlife damage biologist.

Research shows that livestock predation by coyotes is usually the work of one individual animal.

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