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Ranchers switch from traps to guard dogs

MARSHALL, Calif., April 27 (UPI) -- Ranchers in a California county said dogs have proven to be a successful alternative to traps in keeping coyotes and other predators away from their sheep.

Marcia Barinaga, who keeps 230 sheep at her ranch in Marshall, said her four great Pyrenees -- known as one of the most trusted livestock guardian dog breeds -- can likely be credited with keeping her business thriving, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.

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"There is a mountain lion that has been seen on our ranch quite a bit, and we hear the coyotes every night," Barinaga said. "I see coyotes on the ranch all the time. But we have lost no sheep at all to predators."

Barinaga and other Marin County ranchers said they were inspired by the county's Livestock and Wildlife Protection Program, which uses money formerly set aside for federal trappers to help ranchers buy guard dogs and build fences, night corrals and lambing sheds.

"There is no other program like this that we are aware of in the country," said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, a national non-profit aimed at promoting non-lethal methods of predator control. "We believe it sets a model for other communities to emulate and tailor to their needs."

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