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J Environ Manage. 2004 Feb;70(2):129-43.

Modelling the costs of fox predation and preventive measures on sheep farms in Britain.

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Environment Department, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK.


Economic analysis is a useful tool to aid decisions on what to do about wildlife impacts, such as those of vertebrate predators on livestock farmers. The case-study of lamb predation by foxes in Britain is used to develop a theoretical economic model, with the aim of determining a financially optimal solution to minimise the total costs of livestock predation at the farm-level. Total costs include output losses and expenditure on preventive and control measures, in this case indoor housing and lethal fox control. The model is tested empirically with data from a questionnaire survey of sheep farmers and field data on fox population densities in Britain. Regression analyses are used to determine the relationships between lamb losses and expenditure on indoor housing, fox population density and other non-management characteristics. The effect of fox abundance on the cost of fox control is also assessed. Marginal analysis is used to determine the total cost-minimising solution from the farmer's point-of-view, in terms of how many ewes should be housed indoors and for how long, as well as how many foxes should be killed in addition to any lethal control already carried out. Optimal solutions vary according to farm characteristics, including flock size and the regional location of farms. In all cases, to minimise the costs of predation, as many ewes as possible should be housed. However, it is not worthwhile housing them for more than a day after lambing. Efficient fox predation management does not necessarily mean that lamb losses should be reduced to zero, and additional fox control is not worthwhile on the majority of farms. The analysis provides a framework for future evaluations of wildlife impacts and cost-effective management of these problems.

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