Human encroachment and wildlife reintroduction has placed many predators in close contact with livestock. If you suspect that wild animals have killed some of your stock the first step is to confirm the actual cause of death.
- Animals that are attacked and killed will have a lot of bruising and bite and claw marks. Animals don't bleed after death, so you may have to skin portions of the carcass for a thorough evaluation to determine if it was killed or just fed upon after death.
- Consider the health of the animal. A lack of body fat, an empty intestinal tract and lungs that are not pink and spongy indicate a sickness prior to death. Age of the animal and gelatinous, red marrow, instead of solid, fatty marrow in the large bones are signs that the animal suffered from starvation.
- Survey the area around the carcass for tracks, droppings and evidence the carcass was dragged. Ask your neighbors if they've had problems with wildlife. If you find signs that some type of wildlife has attacked your animal, further clues can help identify the attacker. Playing detective can help you develop a plan to control the offenders.
- Coyotes primarily attack the throat below the jaw, but may bite the head, upper neck or back. Young coyotes tear hindquarters. They also feed in the flank area and may kill multiple animals. Teeth marks are spaced 2 to 23/8 inches apart. Tracks are rounded and about 2-1/2 inches long with little visible evidence of claws.
- Dogs often mutilate but don't feed. Tracks are larger than a coyote with clear claw marks. Teeth marks are wider than 2-1/2 inches.
- Bobcats primarily bite the back of the head and neck of small animals and the throat and neck of larger animals. Generally there are few bites with lots of claw marks. Bobcats feed neatly in the neck, shoulder, hindquarters and flank area. They often drag the carcass from the kill site then cover it. Tracks are 2 to 3 inches in diameter with no evidence of claws.
- Vultures kill those that cannot escape. That means the very young, old, weak or sick. They attack the eyes, nose, naval and anal areas. They may feed but not kill. More often vultures scavenge. They leave no tooth or claw marks.