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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Provide diversionary feeding to reduce predation of livestock by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Key messages

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  • Two studies evaluated the effects of providing diversionary feeding to reduce predation of livestock by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict. One study was in the USA and one was in Canada.



  • Reproductive success (1 study): A controlled study in the USA found that diversionary feeding of predators did not increase overall nest success rates for ducks.



  • Human-wildlife conflict (2 studies): One of two studies (one controlled, one before-and-after study) in the USA and Canada found that diversionary feeding reduced striped skunk predation on duck nests. The other study found that diversionary feeding of grizzly bears did not reduce predation on livestock.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A controlled study in 1993–1994 of 24 upland prairie areas in North Dakota, USA (Greenwood et al. 1998) found that diversionary feeding of predators reduced striped skunk Mephitis mephitis predation on duck Anas spp. nests, but overall nest success rates did not increase significantly. The proportion of predation events on large-clutch duck nests by striped skunks was lower in areas with diversionary feeding (11%) than in areas without feeding (24%). However, the proportion of duck nests in which at least one egg hatched did not differ significantly between feeding areas (41%) and areas without food provision (29%). In April–July 1993 and 1994, supplementary food (90–100 kg of fish offal and sunflower seeds) was distributed within 1–2 plots (50 x 200–300 m) in each of 12 areas every 3–4 days. Twelve control areas had no supplementary food. Each area contained 33–83 ha of upland nesting cover and was managed for duck production. In May–July 1993 and 1994, three searches for duck nests were conducted in each of the 24 areas using a vehicle-towedchain drag. A total of 1,008 nests (609 in feeding areas; 399 in  areas without supplementary food) were marked and checked every 6–21 days or until abandoned/destroyed.


A before-and-after study in 1982–2013 in a forested and agricultural area of southwestern Alberta, Canada (Morehouse & Boyce 2017) found that diversionary feeding of grizzly bears Ursus arctos did not reduce predation on livestock. The frequency of grizzly bear-livestock incidents during the spring did not differ significantly during 14 years before (average 0.8 incidents/year) and 15 years after (average 3.3 incidents/year) diversionary feeding commenced. Road-killed ungulate carcasses were dropped by helicopter at sites close to grizzly bear dens each spring during 1998–2013. In 2012 and 2013, 149–160 carcasses were dropped at 14–15 sites in March–April (details for earlier years are not reported). All sites were within a 3,600-km2 area comprising forested mountains adjacent to agricultural land. Remote trail cameras at feeding sites recorded grizzly bears. Complaint data (reports of grizzly bears harassing, mauling or killing livestock) were analysed for March–June in each year before (1982–1995) and after (1998–2013) diversionary feeding commenced.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Littlewood, N.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K., Martin, P.A., Lockhart, S.L., Schoonover, R.F., Wilman, E., Bladon, A.J., Sainsbury, K.A., Pimm S. and Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for terrestrial mammals excluding bats and primates. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.