Woodland stream.

California Coastal Farm Uses Dogs, not Bullets to Protect Sheep

Alison Charter-Smith and Tony Jaehnichen own and run the Madrone Coast Farm; a small organic, livestock farm, located near the rural community of Felton, California.

Situated in the Santa Cruz Mountains on California's coast, and frequented by predators, Madrone Coast Farm has found a safe, friendly alternative to using guns to deter mountain lion attacks on their sheep herd: sheepdogs.

The farm's 25 sheep and hundreds of ducks and chickens are guarded closely, around the clock by Luke and Leia - sheepdogs who bark and position themselves strategically when intruders approach.

At night, the couple encloses the animals in buildings with motion-sensing lights, but the dogs are their first line of defense. The dogs take turns sleeping in short naps and don't back down to predators, Ms. Charter-Smith said.

This approach was once the traditional method of protecting livestock. However, it's now rarely used in America where the prevalent practice is to allow domesticated animals to wander freely, or keep them penned in an unprotected enclosure, and then have the government, at taxpayers expense, track down and kill any predator that might threaten or kill those animals.

Because of this and other wildlife-friendly practices, Madrone Coast Farm, has become the first farm in California to receive a wildlife-friendly certification.

Ms. Charter-Smith, who began farming in 2010 after a tech career in Silicon Valley, said the couple has encountered four mountain lions, one of whom killed a pregnant sheep. Ms. Charter-Smith said her goal with certification was to promote the fact that peaceful coexistence with predators is possible.

"You can have both wildlife and livestock and still farm successfully," she said.

To receive certification, the couple also had to show that their ponds are accessible to wildlife and their property has minimal fencing, allowing wildlife to move freely.



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