Use ‘shock collars’ to deter crop damage by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict
Overall effectiveness category Unknown effectiveness (limited evidence)
Number of studies: 1
Background information and definitions
Using electric shock collars on mammalian herbivores is a form of aversive conditioning. A shock is administered if the animal wearing a ‘shock collar’ approaches a pre-determined area, containing a crop. The potential for the technique to be effective may be assessed using captive animals in controlled experimental settings. Whilst not directly assessing the effectiveness of the intervention in reducing crop damage, such studies may provide evidence as to the potential for shock collars to alter animals’ behaviour in a way that could potentially be applied to wild herbivores in crop production areas. If the intervention is successful, it may reduce incentives for carrying out lethal control of such animals.
Supporting evidence from individual studies
A replicated, controlled study (year not stated) on two pastures in Washington, USA (Nolte et al. 2003) found that using electric shock collars, along with playing loud noise, reduced damage by black-tailed deer Odocoileus hemionus to tree seedlings. As the loud noise and electric shock were part of the same treatment, their relative effects could not be separated. In areas where shock collars were triggered, damage to tree seedlings was lower (0–1 bites) than in areas where shock collars were not triggered (0–25 bites). Three deer, fitted with shock collars, were placed in each of two 1.5-ha pastures. Within each pasture, four 20 × 20-m plots were established. In each plot, 16 red cedar Thuja plicata seedlings were planted at 1-m intervals. When deer entered two of the plots, they received an electric shock and a loud noise was played through a speaker. When they entered the other two plots, they received no shock and no noise was played. Deer activity was measured by counting the number of bites taken from seedlings over a 21-day period.Study and other actions tested