Friday, October 29, 2010

Dear Coyote: Prepare for a Reckoning!

As much as I love farming, I detest coyotes. I love goats & sheep, and unfortunately coyotes do too. Coyotes have been a problem to our farm for two decades now, and this week they again struck a blow. The graphic picture at the left is all that is left of the Keiko buck I so proudly bought this spring.

Many people in central Ohio are surprised to learn that Coyotes thrive so close to the Columbus metropolitan area. They are, however, a problem throughout our state. In the early 1990s, I first remember my grandfather dealing with coyote attacks on his sheep. Around 2003, there was another group that moved through, killing many of my mother's lambs. This led her to purchase Great Pyrenees dogs to protect her herd. I lost many kid goats in 2008, but that was such a difficult year as it was, since my mother passed on that spring. I instituted several safety measures that discouraged the coyotes: bringing animals into the barn at night, shutting gates to exterior fields, leaving lights on in the buildings. That summer I snared two coyotes. Since then I have had no problems. In fact, I had not even heard the coyote's blood-chilling howl at night for some time.

Tuesday night we had a powerful windstorm in Ohio. The rain left the goats quite unhappy, especially my three bucks that were grazing the north pasture. After the worst of the storm passed through, I checked on the boys to ensure they had weathered the storm. Wednesday when I went out to feed, I could not locate Keiko Dynamite. Boyo Knightley and Sean of Arabia were strutting across the fenceline from the ladies, but Keiko was nowhere to be found. I walked the perimeter of the field and later drove out to use my headlights to scan the field. I hoped that Keiko had jumped the fence and simply was out of my sight.

Sadly, the next morning, when I headed out to let the chickens out of the hen house, I saw something in the distance that turned out to be poor Keiko's remains. I knew immediately it was coyotes. In a panic, I suddenly realized I couldn't find Sean! I grabbed Boyo and moved him into the lot with Abraham the Mule, mourning my beloved boys. Imagine my joy when I realized that Sean had already jumped into the lot with Old Abe! With many hugs, I told my boys to hang tight, and I would soon reward them with numerous ladies!

Now smelling like Boyo & Sean, I mobilized to take action. I was truly surprised that Keiko was attacked. I did not know that coyotes were hunting our area again. This past spring I had seen three foxes. The old farm wisdom is that foxes & coyotes will not hunt the same turf. Thus, I assumed coyotes were not residing within range of Harrison Farm. While I knew that the north field was the most convenient for an attacking coyote, I didn't think any predator would go for the three big bucks. I can only assume that Keiko, being the smallest, was miserable after the rainstorm, and an easy target for a predator to take down. What a loss! I had just purchased the noble Keiko Dynamite last spring to be my new herd sire and I was so excited to use him!

My first call was to the division of animal control. They dispatched an officer to assert that it was not a dog attack. Both the lady at the department and the officer who came out were very pleasant & professional. The officer asserted right away that it was definitely a coyote. Dogs are more random in their method of kill, and will attack across an animal's neck and shoulders. Coyotes are skilled killers that know to strike at the throat. We both took photographs, and filled out the paperwork to notify the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, a call to the Department of Agriculture served to inform me that there were no funds to recompense me for the loss of the goat. The coyote (which theoretically belongs to the State of Ohio) killed my valuable new buck and I am simply out of luck. This is very financially damaging to me considering what I spent on the goat, and crushes the potential for what I could have earned from Keiko's ability over the years.

Truly, I detest coyotes.

Coyotes are wild animals. They are carnivores. I do not begrudge them the ability to hunt. I fully intend to hunt the coyote myself, and I look forward to using my skinning abilities to cut out the coyote's skull for a trophy. I do, however, protest government policies that allow predators to thrive near agricultural areas. I am fortunate that I have only lost one goat this year. I know of ranchers out west that have lost hundreds of animals, especially to wolves which are protected by the federal government. Farmers & ranchers work incredibly hard to raise animals; to have them become food for coyotes is heartbreaking. One of my favorite books about livestock was written by a rancher in Montana and is entitled: "Today I Baled Some Hay for the Sheep the Coyotes Eat." It is a sad, but true part of raising animals.

As disheartened as I am when I see the above picture of Keiko's remains, I look forward to posting a companion photo of his killer!

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