Coyote threatens lambs
Whenever I finish a posting for the Soggy Bottom Farm blog, I wonder what my next post could possibly be. Previous posts seem to cover all the material that the farm has to offer. But a posting is no sooner made than something unexpected happens and a new topic spontaneously arises.
This time, the story began to emerge when earlier in the week, I noticed that one of the newborn lambs was missing. I looked in the stalls and in the paddock for any and all signs that might give clues to the missing lamb. No evidence could be found of anything that could be related to the lamb’s disappearance.
Then, early Thursday morning, with the morning fog still sitting on the pasture, a coyote calmly walked up to the sheep-pen gate and squeezed under it on his way to the sheep stall in the barn. Clearly, this was not an innocent, friendly visit.
I hurried to the garage, slipped on my boots, and grabbed my walking stick with the intent to disrupt any mayhem the coyote may be causing among the sheep. Before getting to the barn, however, I saw the coyote hastily leaving the pen with the goat in hot pursuit. The ewes were close behind the goat and mustering their own display of aggression.
But the coyote no sooner put the gate between him and the aggravated caprines than he lay down and watched the aggrieved animals mull around in the pen. The goat went back into the barn; the ewes remained outside to give the coyote their best menacing stares. Rather than attempt to chase him off, I went back into the house and grabbed my camera.
It was somewhat disturbing to find that the coyote paid me little attention as I walked out onto the porch to get his picture. Meanwhile, Jean sought to frighten him by shouting out the open window and banging on the window frame. Our apartment is only 25 yards away from where the coyote was laying. By all rules of wild animal furtiveness, the coyote should have bolted and fled when we confronted him so openly.
But the coyote was lackadaisical in assuming a sitting posture and watching the sheep. Occasionally, he looked back over his shoulder at the distant farmhouse. Seeing the coyote’s interest in the farmhouse, I called Ellen and told her to let the dogs out.
The dogs, now in the yard, immediately sensed the coyote’s presence, if not its location, and began barking. The coyote took off at a trot for the exit from the pasture. Libby located the coyote, escaped the yard by squeezing through the fence, and gave chase. The coyote disappeared into the brush on the other side of the creek.
Video Clip – Coyote responds to the dogs. Libby gives chase (at end of clip).
Ellen, apprehensive that Libby would get hurt in a tooth-and-fang entanglement with the coyote, followed Libby across the pasture and into the hayfield. Barley, too big to get through the fence and hampered by a lame hind leg, remained in the yard and barked. Eventually, Libby returned from across the hayfield unscathed and proud of her brave defense of the farm. Ellen followed her back to the farmhouse.
I think that this episode pretty well answers the question of what happened to the missing lamb. And, it portends that the coyote is going to be a threat to our remaining lambs for the next few months. We have a long acquaintance with the coyotes on the farm and have taken the attitude of live-and-let-live as long as the coyotes did not prey on the farm animals. However, we knew that eventually, we were going to have to confront this issue. Now, we must decide what we are going to do about it.