Livestock Management for Coexistence with Large Carnivores, Healthy Land and Productive Ranches


Experience is proving that when cattle are run in large herds they are less susceptible to predation, especially from smaller predators like coyotes and Mexican Wolves.


A white paper by Matt Barnes, Field Director for Rangeland Stewardship
Keystone Conservation, Bozeman, Montana

Ranchers and rangeland managers can apply many of the same approaches that work for rangeland health and livestock production to reduce conflicts with large carnivores. This paper synthesizes evidence from the rangeland, wildlife, and animal sciences into a cohesive argument: modeling livestock management after the grazing patterns and reproductive cycles of wild ungulates in the presence of their predators can improve rangeland health and livestock production—and increase the ability of ranching operations to coexist with native carnivores. The central anti-predator behavior of wild grazing animals is to form large, dense herds that then move around the landscape to seek fresh forage, avoid fouled areas, and escape predators. Grazing management involving high stocking density and frequent movement, such as rotational grazing and herding with low-stress livestock handling, can improve rangeland health and livestock production, by managing the distribution of grazing across time, space, and plant species. Such management can also reduce the susceptibility of livestock to predation.

Livestock – large carnivore coexistence practitioners can be more effective by expanding from a direct focus on carnivores and predation-prevention tools to the broader social-ecological context of ranches and rural communities, especially livestock management. Domestic animals, after all, are much more manageable. Moreover, only within certain livestock management contexts can preventative or non-lethal tools be applied effectively.

Available at:

Based on experience, we have concluded that killing predators wastes money, precious biodiversity and harms the eco-system.

Traditional cattle ranchers often say that coyotes and lions must be killed to protect cattle. Yet, we have run concentrated herds of up to 1,000 stockers among cougar, bobcats and coyotes for 15 years. We have never lost one to proven predation, never observed an animal under attack, neither seen nor treated a living animal for claw or bite wounds. Predators, including cougar, will scavenge carcasses: this is assumed to prove predation. Most predator removals are conducted under that assumption.

Planned grazing is good for plants and predator protection. Predators change wild animal behavior in ways that help plants. Healthier plants are good for cattle and wildlife.



Ranching, wildlife management, finance, oil & gas, real estate development and management.
  • A good friend who is one of the country’s most experienced practitioners of Keyline applied holistically, wrote:

    “Nice insights, Chris.

    I’ve been recently reading Stuart Kauffman’s Investigations and am predictably wowed by his insight. At the broadest level, his ponderings on the “mechanics” of how:

    “Biospheres, as a secular trend, that is, over the long term, become as diverse as possible, literally expanding the diversity of what can happen next” are empowering.

    I started into Fred Pearce’s new book last night, The New Wild, Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation. Relevant to your thinking, and refreshing in the face of armies of well-armed invasive species weekend warriors seeking purpose and armed with weed-spades, spray, legislation and agency and NGO clout.

    I am hopeful that your management and the assemblage of life you’re encouraging at Circle Ranch is working to help the land work harder and move the needle into the deep topsoil, deep life, deep water zone. Keep it up and thanks for the communiques.”

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