Hello blog readers. Here I am for another guest blog. I figured since the whole coyote problem has surfaced, I should provide more details. For fifteen years, I have maintained a good relationship with the coyotes. I admire and respect them, and they used to (I think) have pretty much the same attitude towards me. I am not sure why there is a problem this year, but there definitely is.
Here is how it started. One sunny afternoon, I was clipping the pasture on half of my field behind the barn. I was on my tractor, using a seven-foot sickle-bar mower. I noticed the sheep grazing on the other side of the field in the tall grass, which was due to be clipped the following week. After about an hour, I noticed the sheep running to the barn, and I wondered what that was all about, but I was not alarmed. When I was done clipping, I went to the barn and checked the sheep, and all looked fine. I did not count them, as they are REALLY hard to count!
The next day, when went they went outside, I noticed one lamb hanging back. She looked fine, but she was walking slowly. To my horror, when she went past, I could see how her whole side was ripped open. After much searching around, I was finally able to get a vet over, but the lamb had to be put down, as her injuries were too severe.
At that point, I got an accurate count on the lambs and determined that another was missing, never to be found. Now, you are probably wondering where Bess was during the attack, and I will tell you that she was in the house! It was a brutally hot afternoon that day, and I was using a sickle-bar mower! I NEVER have any dogs or cats outside while using such equipment.
Of course, I was horrified that this happened and felt very responsible and guilty that I had let my sheep down. I then began my stint as an official shepherd, watching those sheep every second that they were out grazing. Last Thursday, I decided that it might be a good idea to shoot my .22 gun off, just to make a scary noise. First I did a perimeter check with Bess and Kelsey to check for any invaders. Finding nothing, I put the dogs in the house again because it was very humid, and they were very hot from their patrol around the farm. I then took the gun and went to let the sheep out and watch them. After about an hour, they had drifted about 200 feet from the barn, so I ran in the barn to check my 100 Freedom Ranger chicks. Immediately, I felt nervous about the sheep, so I ran back out to count them (for the billionth time). All of a sudden, I saw a ewe pick her head up in alarm, and a coyote came streaking out after one of my lambs at about one hundred MPH.
There I was with a loaded gun in my hands screaming and running as fast as I could towards this coyote, who totally ignored me!! Finally, I stopped and let a shot off, which did make the coyote take notice, and he left. Luckily no lambs were hurt. The next day, my neighbor that has land adjacent to mine lost a lamb (he began a flock three years ago, when I gave him a couple of ewe lambs). So now I am totally shook up.
Bess really does her serious patrolling at night, and she does not stay with the flock, as I have not raised her that way. If you remember, I mostly wanted a guard dog to guard the farmstead, keeping the chickens, border collies, and me safe. I always fall way too much in love with my dogs to have a dog that stays with the flock all the time. I am very happy with Bess, and to be totally honest, I would rather lose the whole flock of sheep and herd of cattle than have something happen to Bess. That is just the way it is, although I do very much care for my sheep and cattle and will do my best to protect them.
I agree with Kris that hunting the coyotes down is really not the answer, so I have got to do a lot of thinking and develop a new plan to keep everyone safe. A donkey or a llama are possibilities, although I have heard both very good and bad things about both of these options. All of your input regarding this matter is welcome. Meanwhile, I will watch over the sheep while carrying a loaded gun, although I probably will not aim to hit any coyotes. The sheep know I am aware of the danger, and they know I have got their backs.
Now let's hope Kris posts lots of pictures of Bess, Kelsey, scout and the farm just to cheer us all up.