If you own goats, it's important to protect them from predators that may see them as a tasty meal. From coyotes to bears, there are a variety of animals that may pose a threat to your goats. Learn how to identify these predators and take steps to prevent attacks to keep your goats safe and healthy.
Table of Contents
What Are Common Goat Predators?
As a prey animal, there are a lot of predators to goats. Here are the 7 most common predators across the US.
Bear attacks can be identified as they often eat the udders of a doe or female goat.
A seemingly unlikely predator to goats, these birds can be found all over the United States and can be incredibly violent. Some birds such as Ravens, Eagles, Owls, and even Black Vultures will attack baby goats or sick adult goats. This can be rather gruesome as Ravens attack in flocks, and they peck the goat’s head. Depending on the severity of the wounds, this can be fatal.
Bobcats live in 47 states as well as Canada and Mexico. They are opportunistic hunters and given the chance they will attack goats.
These attacks can be identified as leaving significant wounds on the neck, throat and shoulders when they pounce.
Cougars/ Mountain Lion
Cougars live in northern and western South America. They are known for hunting individually as opposed to packs. Cougar attacks can be identified as they leave both puncture and claw marks, typically on the upper torso of the victim. Similar to coyotes, cougars will drag the carcass away, and even bury it to return to later.
Coyotes can be found all over the United States and even into Central America. Depending on your geographic location will impact how this animal hunts. Eastern coyotes are known for hunting on their own while Western coyotes hunt in packs.
Regardless of their hunting style, they look for the weakest, often the oldest, sickest, or youngest. Coyote attacks are notable as they go for the throat to kill their prey. They then will either carry the carcass away or begin to eat internal organs.
Domestic or feral, this is a common predator of goats as they are found all over the states in urban and rural areas alike. Dogs are especially dangerous to young baby goats that lack life experience. However, these can still be a threat even to larger goats.
Dogs have been known to dig under fences to get their prey. They then attack, focusing on the rear and legs. These encounters are often fatal to the goat.
Even your own household pets should be closely monitored until it is determined how they will interact with or near your goats.
Different species of foxes live on every continent except Antarctica. While they are a smaller predator, they are known for attacking baby goats during kidding season.
These attacks can be identified as Foxes usually attack the throat of young livestock, but some foxes kill by inflicting multiple bites to the head, neck, and back.
The Importance of Shelter
Many predators (especially Coyotes in our area) hunt at night. Due to this it is increasingly important that your goats are locked up and safe. Even with a Livestock Guardian Dog this is recommended as an extra precaution.
We let our farm free range their pens from dawn to dusk, which varies depending on the time of year.
While goats only need a three-sided shelter, this is an extra precaution but gives us peace of mind. Even with the top of the dutch door cracked to allow for ventilation, it is unlikely that a coyote or other large predator would make it in.
Shelter is not only critical on the farm, but even in suburban areas where predators are seemingly low. A prime example of this can be when goats are rented out to clear brush and weeds, secure shelter is extremely important for safe and healthy goats.
A stable and secure fence is a key component to keeping your goats safe from predators. Many even recommend an electric or “hot fence.” These are not only helpful to keep out predators but keep your goats in the pen.
As prey animals it is important that goats are not tethered without supervision. This will not allow them to run away and seek shelter if they are in danger.
Keep in mind, coyotes have been known to jump 6 foot fences. So while a fence will not guarantee that your goats are safe, it will definitely help to deter predators.
Motion Sensor Security Lights
Adding motion sensor lights is a great way to deter predators. Coyotes in particular are startled by lights coming on.
So, whether you have power by your barn, or are adding solar power lights. This can be an affordable way to keep your goats safe.
Make Some Noise!
Similar to bright lights, loud noises can scare off coyotes, whether this is a radio, air horn, gunshot in the air, etc. it can scare off smaller predators.
Kidding Season Clean-up
The birth of a baby goat is an exciting time, but it will also draw in predators with the bodily fluids. It is recommended to be particularly diligent during this time and to keep your baby goats in a secure area, day and night.
Also bury, burn, or otherwise dispose of the afterbirth as soon as possible.
Prompt Burial is Key
Despite our best efforts the circle of life happens on every farm. It is important to bury or burn the carcass as soon as possible.
I have heard many farmers leave the carcass in the woods to allow other animals to eat it, thinking it will satisfy their hunger for a period. I would not recommend this unless you have a very large property as it will bring the predators closer into your space.
Guardian Livestock Animals
A variety of animals can help to keep your farm safe. This can be a livestock guardian dog (2 is recommended), a llama, or even a donkey.
Now I know we previously said dogs are one of the worst predators for goats, and that is true. But Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD) are specific breeds of dogs that have been bred for this purpose over hundreds of years. Just like herding dogs have a natural instinct to move the herd around, LGD will protect their farm animals.
That being said I would still recommend in new and exciting situations (such as the birth of a baby goat) that you watch your LGD.
LGD’s can provide verbal warning such as barking, growling, and in some cases will chase off the predators. They also deter them from coming into the area by marking it (with urine).
While we do not have an LGD, we do have several dogs, which we allow to run around the goat pen marking as they see fit.
Donkeys and Llamas are rather large animals and can deter and defend against most predators such as coyotes. Keep in mind Llamas can weigh up to 440 pounds and they stand 6 feet tall, that is mighty threatening when they start stomping and coming towards a coyote that weighs 45 pounds.
Can Goats Protect Themselves?
Goats are prey animals, which also means that they have limited ability to defend themselves from predators. The more goats that you have in your herd, will increase the chance that their defenses will work.
Typically, when a goat sees a predator, they will try to run away to safety. If they can’t make it to safety or are trapped, they will stomp and thrash around in a threatening manner. Lastly, they will charge at the predator with their horns.
Goats are sweet and intelligent animals, and do not have a lot of defense tactics, and will need help such as a large herd, a guard animal, secure pen, and shelter, etc. to live a long and happy life. The secret to keeping your goats safe is not just one of these items but a combination of them.
If you have another predator, you would like more information about it or if you have another suggestion, please leave it below.
13 Surprising Facts About Goats You Didn't Know: From their incredible climbing abilities to their unique pupils, goats are full of surprises. Learn 13 fascinating goat facts here.
Comprehensive Nigerian Dwarf Goat Breed Guide: From extreme heat to freezing temperatures, Nigerian Dwarf Goats are known for their hardiness. Learn how to care for these resilient animals with our guide.
Raising Goats Guide: A Comprehensive Resource for Beginners: Ready to embark on your goat-raising journey? This comprehensive guide is your go-to resource for all things goat-related. From housing and feeding to breeding and health care, we've got you covered!
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.