Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE97-184
Mr. Valonen and his son grow strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. Over the years their blueberries especially have suffered serious depradation from birds. Growers commonly use netting to keep birds away from berry bushes, but at more than $3000 per acre, netting is nearly prohibitive.
The Valonens thought that it might be possible to use dogs as an alternative means of bird control. They experimented with two breeds– Finnish Spitz and Australian Cattle dogs. They used dogs of both sexes. They used one adolescent; the rest were mature animals. Each dog was kept by itself in an area of 1½ to 2 acres of blueberry plantings, and its behavior was observed over the season, as the berries ripened. Random clusters of blueberries were marked and counted beforehand, to permit quantitative assessment of the degree of protection provided by each dog.
The Valonens obtained the best results from a mature female Spitz. She was less distracted by people, and animals such as woodchucks and mice, than were the other dogs, and she appeared to have a natural inclination to prowl around her area. She did tend to lie down and rest during the hottest part of the day, but that really didn’t represent so much of a problem, since the birds are less active then, too.
Control was far from perfect, but the Valonens believe that with the right dogs and proper training, it will be possible to focus the animals’ attention more completely on birds, and so increase their effectiveness.