Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Under Seige

After nearly fifteen years of relatively peaceful co-existence, the local coyotes have called off the truce.  There is a group of at least three young toughs who have gone rogue and become sheep killers.  They are likely litter mates that were born early this year and they seem to be lacking in older adults who might teach them some caution.  They attacked the sheep last week, right in the middle of the afternoon, and killed two lambs.  That might not seem like a huge lose to some of the big farms, but to a small farm like this, it is devastating, both emotionally and financially.

I find it hard to blame the coyotes as they have been under intense hunting pressure in the past few years and this is how they respond.  They breed faster, spread out, expand their territory and become more aggressive.  It is why coyotes are the only predator who's numbers and range have grown rather than declined in the past thirty years.  The harder we try to eliminate them, the more of them there are.

In addition, there is something really pressuring the coyotes right now.  We aren't sure what it is, but they are acting very out of character.  While we all hear coyotes almost every night, they are generally shy and it is very rare to actually see them.  These coyotes are coming out in the middle of the day and they are very brazen, fearless and difficult to deter.  It took both of us AND Connor and Bess to chase them out of the field one day last week.  That is not at all normal.

I respect and admire coyotes.  I also understand why ranchers and farmers hate them.

The question is: What to do?

Bess is doing her job and trying her best, but she is only one dog and can't protect an entire farm twenty-four hours a day.  She is grossly outnumbered and she has to sleep sometime.  Late Sunday night she had a big showdown with a large pack, at least 10-15 coyotes.  Her hysterical barking and the coyote's frenzied response had Farm Buddy heading out in the middle of the night, armed with a single-shot .22, to help Bess out.  She was afraid they might kill her.  One guard dog, no matter how fierce, is no match for an entire pack of desperate predators.

The sheep are going out only with supervision for the time being and we are trying to figure out what to do.  We have talked about different fencing options, adding more/different guard animals, finding hunters to go after them....I suspect though, that the problem won't go away unless and until the coyote population stabilizes once again.  We can only hope that everyone survives that long and then hope that the truce will be resumed.


  1. Oh that is scary. Here our coyotes have interbred with dogs and/or wolves and are large and aggressive. They were here for a while but moved on when the rabbit population depleted. Now that the rabbits are rebounding the coyotes are coming back. It's one reason why I bring the horses in at night.

    would adding donkeys to the sheep herd help? Around here many farmers have donkeys as guard animals.

    1. FB woudn't let a donkey within a mile of her farm!!! ;)

  2. Brave Bess! Kinderhook Farm in the Berkshires has two Maremmas (well, one is a mix) : Ollie and Sarge. Maybe Bess needs a little more help?

  3. What a nightmare. Poor Bess. Poor Farm Buddy. Poor ewes. Gah!

  4. that's tough for all of you, stay safe

  5. Around here we are having a problem with coy-dogs. There are also coy-wolves. Coyotes are interbreeding. They're no longer shy and they're much larger. They also are learning different hunting techniques. I'm afraid this will be an on-going and permanent change in the predator situation.

  6. Very serious. Could it be that, for some reason, their usual food supply is inadequate? Is the bunny population down? Bess is definitely outnumbered, and needs reinforcements.

  7. Our coyotes have always been aggressive and are slightly less so in the summer months. Their summer food supply must be scarce for them to be hunting in broad daylight.
    We also had an issue when we had coy-dogs for a while. Coydogs are a cross of dog and 'yote which are extremely fearless.
    So far the mules have been a good creature to keep an eye on things.
    However in the winter the coyotes will walk right up to our Dexter Cattle fence and peer at them.
    Our horned cattle are very aggressive to coyotes so we are lucky.

    I hope things settle down soon!

  8. I am so sorry to hear that the coyotes are on the attack. Luckily ours are pretty much still wild and shy here but based on the number of things I'm reading where they are in people's yards snatching dogs I think we have issues all across the country. Not sure what the answer is either.

  9. The last two or three years, the rabbit, woodchuck,fox, and coyote population has decreased around here.But now we are seeing more Fishers. I don't know if they are the reason for the decrease or not

  10. In Australia we use donkeys to guard sheep and goats from wild dogs. Maybe put them in with the sheep and see how it goes.

  11. Donkeys are NO match for a pack of coyotes. Donkeys will often go after the animals they are meant to protect. I recently took a donkey into the rescue (Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue). After nine years as a goat guardian she attacked and maimed several kids.I will not adopt donkeys out to be used as guardians. It rarely works well in my experience....I'm sorry for what you are going thru Kris. I too have a love/hate relationship with the coyotes I love them, but hate when our worlds collide.