Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wildlife Woes

We’ve been having daily run-ins with the wildlife around here. I don’t often write about it because I know it probably is not of much interest to anyone else but us here on our little farm and our neighbors.

In late August, we started hearing the coyotes almost every night. Now it is up to an all out chorus every night, at least five times during the wee hours. You folks in the suburbs and cities can call the cops to complain about the neighbors and at least get a bit of satisfaction that way. We here can do nothing but send the dogs outside to bark at the wildlife and hopefully they will leave.

I know that the coyote pups that were born in the late spring are getting older and are starting to need to eat more than when they were just nursing from their mothers. I also assume that their mothers are teaching them some life skills before they throw them out of their nests. (Not much different than we humans treat our children, right?) Hunting and eating are the basic needs of any wild animal.

Last Wednesday, just after sunrise, I heard a coyote that I figured to be right outiside my chicken pen. I ran outside, bare feet and in my pajamas with dogs just ahead of me. There he was, just behind the chicken pen. I yelled at him and the dogs rushed him. He took a slow look and after a minute, with the dogs in hot pursuit, loped off down the field. Usually these guys tear off. Not this guy. I kept yelling, the dogs kept barking and he slowly walked down to the bottom of the pasture. He got to the lower part of the field and just gave me a long stare. I yelled again “go away” and he just kept staring at me. After a 2 minute stare-down, he turned and ran into the orchard.

I started to go in the house, a morning already a little too full of excitement for me without a bit of coffee in me. The dogs took off to the front of the house and lo and behold, there was another one there – watching my every move. They ran him off and I went in the house.

This past week, it’s been hard to sleep. The coyotes sound like they are under the bedroom window yipping, hooting, howling and all. The Farmer thinks they are having fun with our dogs teasing them. Almost everything is securely fenced in at our house right now. The pigs are in a fence that is (I think) too high for the coyotes to climb. The chickens are housed in a pen that coyotes shouldn’t able to get through. There are four rogue chickens who refuse to be cooped up. If they are so desperate for freedom, I just figure nature will take its course.

Our sheep are a couple miles from here so we don’t actively worry about them in the middle of the night. But we always have that under the radar worry, like waiting for a child to come home late at night, once they have gotten their driver's liscense.

Tonight I got home late and The Farmer told me that he had hayed the “wheat field.” (It’s not actually a wheat field but a hay field – the name comes from 50 years ago when a crop of wheat was once grown on it.) He said there was a very large tan coyote in the field with him. The coyote kept circling him as he hayed. After a few times around, he ran off into the woods.

He suspects this is the guy who has been killing the lambs down at our greenhouse barn in Bernardston. (We've been keeping the lambs separate from the older ewes so we can feed them a bit better.) We lost three lambs one night about two weeks ago at dusk, just as The Farmer was arriving to put the lambs in the barn for the night. On Friday, after the sheep move, the kids and I went down to check on the lambs. There was a dead lamb there. The Farmer had found the coyote under a tractor with the lamb just after he had just killed the lamb at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Usually they aren’t so bold to kill in broad daylight. Maybe they are really hungry or just very aggressive. We’re looking into even better fences. Jeremy, the guard llama, isn’t keeping the coyotes away – ever since his tangle with the 2000 lbs. of metal in July. The coyotes must know he isn’t as strong anymore. Or else they figured out he wasn’t really a threat, just an overgrown funny looking sheep.

That’s life, living on the farm.


Meg said...

I am amazed by this story as the exact same thing is happening out here in Idaho. The coyotes are terrible this year and extremely bold ... they just sit and stare at me and wait for me to go in so they can continue their dinner at the chicken and lamb buffet they seem to think that I am running here. The "wild" chickens have taken a real hit this year. The only thing that has worked has been shooting them ... then they hold off for about a week before they come back. Good Luck!

Lora said...

I agree that the coyotes are bold. I was walking in a field in CO with my then baby in a carrier on my back and the two dogs off-leash when we saw three coyotes. One of them ran across the field toward screaming at the dogs the entire time. He came right up to our Doberman and they touched noses before Jake turned and headed back to me. I was freaking out the entire I am with two dogs and a baby on my back - like I'm going to be able to run! We never saw them again in that particular field but I couldn't believe how ballsy they were.

hopalong682003 said...

We live between San Diego and Los Angeles, but quite a bit inland. Normally, it is a rather sleepy suburb, but with the combo of fires and more housing developments, the coyotes are quite brazen now. In fact, I don't really like walking at night anymore, because I will see them walking right behind me...rather than running away. They must think that I'll lead them to food, but it is disconcerting. I hope that all of your critters can stay out of harms way.

Lynn said...

The coyote circling the Farmer as he hayed might well have been looking for small mammals the haying disturbed.

Anonymous said...

I have been wondering about Jeremy the guard llama and hoping that he is doing okay.

I live on the edge of town and I listen to the coyotes 'talking' late at night in the orchard not far from my house.

Kathleen C. said...

Hmmm... What else can you do aside from high fences?
Poor Jeremy. Can you get another llama to help him out? More dogs? Electric fences?
I'm clearly a non-farm person. But I sure hope a good, do-able solution comes up.
I wonder why the coyotes are so aggresive and un-afraid? Are their usual food sources disappearing? Or are the farm raised just easier?
Balancing wildlife is something the non-farmer may not think about often, but it's part of the life.

Totally unrelated to coyotes... That was a wonderful interview in Interweave Knits! I very much enjoyed reading it. You came off very fun and funny and utterly charming.

bob y said...

Can you make a fur coat out of their coats?

Gammy aka Peggy said...

My step-father was "treed" on top his tractor by some coyote and coydogs a couple years ago. It has gotten so bad here in KY. I have a couple boys, if you call 29 & 23 boys, who would love to come up and "help" with that problem. :)

Diane H K in Greenfield! said...

Sorry about the lamb losses. The Farmer and I had a long discussion about fencing when I met him at the Twist.

We're hearing a lot of coyotes at night over here in the valley, too, lately. It's the nearly grown pups, I think. Our fencing is good, so I'm not worried for now.

Joanne said...

Now that I think about it, my problems with drunk college students (I wrote about it on my blog) might be easier to deal with than the coyotes. Thanks for pointing this out!! I hope you and yours stay safe from this onslaught and that no more lambs or chickens lose their lives. I live right near Peggy (Gammy) and we definitely have coyote problems in KY, just not in town.

Marcy said...

The young ones are bold. They haven't yet learned to be fearful of humans and things human. Unless they learn that fear, they will be a problem forever.

I'm not usually a proponent of shooting things, but where livestock lives are concerned, I am. If the coyotes are so close and so leisurely, it ought to be pretty easy to teach them some manners.

Or in the alternative, have you considered a guardian dog? A Maremma, perhaps? That would teach those coyotes what's what.

penny said...

well, if i find coyotes here in brooklyn then they've definitely crossed the agressive line. i have noticed on trips back home (to the end of LI where I grew up very near farms but never on) that lots of wildlife seems to behave different this year. By us it could be the new construction, but I don't know.

I hope that things work out well and I think of you, Julia, the Farmer, and your sheep, cats, etc often. I might not be a local neighbor or one that can completely relate but I do enjoy your notes of life on your Farm and home. Thank you.