Large wild carnivore predation on domestic livestock and the associated financial losses may increase efforts toward lethal control of carnivore populations. Livestock-guarding dogs could provide an effective alternative to such lethal control by mitigating depredation losses. Although this information is available in North America, the cost-effectiveness of guarding dogs has not been studied in other areas experiencing large carnivore depredation such as South Africa, where the socio-economic context is very different from that of North America. We assessed the costs and benefits of 97 livestock-guarding dogs working on 94 farms in South Africa between 2005 and 2011 by reviewing data collected from questionnaires on perceived depredation losses prior to and during guarding dog placement, rates of guarding dog behavioral problems, removals, and pre-senile mortality. Perceived livestock depredation ceased in 91% of guarding dog placements, with gross mean annual financial savings US$ 3,189/farm. Estimated annual program costs per year of the livestock-guarding dog program were US$ 2,780. However, 16% of guarding dogs had reported behavioral problems, with inattentiveness cited as the most common problem. Twelve percent of guarding dogs were removed from the program because of behavioral problems. Premature death was observed in 22% of guarding dogs, most often due to snake bites. Participating farmer tolerance toward cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), as well as cheetah-sighting frequency, appeared to increase during participation in the livestock-guarding dog program. If further corrective behavioral and snake-aversion training were implemented, guarding dogs may offer a cost-effective method of non-lethal predator control and could potentially contribute to the long-term mitigation of human–carnivore conflict in South Africa. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.
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