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Archive for the ‘predators’ Category

Horrified

This past Monday, as my DH was off for the holdiay, we decided to have a late lunch in town as well as pick up a needed part for the ’53 Merc he’s working on. We left the wethers and Loki in the pasture area that had been cleared of snow, eating breakfast, and the girls had the run of the area around the barn. Both groups had plenty of hay to nibble on to keep them happy.

But when we came home, we were not prepared for what was going on down towards the barn. Two loose dogs had walked across the fencingĀ  on the property line we share with the county, on top of the snow, and were attacking the sheep!

I flew down towards the barn to find the boys standing between the dogs and the ewes. Somehow the gate to the corral at the barn was open and they were keeping the dogs from even getting close to the girls. But the price the dogs were extracting from the boys was terrifying.

The first thing was to get the dogs away from the sheep. The larger dog was a black and tan medium dog of maybe 40-45 lbs. That dog saw me and stopped his attack. The smaller dog which looked to me like a cross between a terrier of some sort and some kind of bulldog was still attacking poor Shaun who was struggling, brought down in the mud and melting snow. I had to pull the smaller dog off Shaun, then chased them out the gate to a now waiting husband.

We were lucky in that both dogs had collars with tags and owner’s phone number. Ralph took control of the dogs and calling the owner and 911 while I got the sheep penned inside the barn and started to assess the damages. I ran to the house after penning all the sheep and called our sheeps’ vet, Dr. Rob to come on an emergency. I grabbed B-vitamins, ProBios, towels and some warm water and went straight back the barn to do what I could until Rob got there.

Loki had very little damage – a couple of facial wounds where it looked like one of the dogs might have tried to get him, as well as a superficial gash on one leg. He was the least hurt of all the sheep.

Sven had all the wool from the back of his head and a shoulder torn out by the roots. His ears were both torn but the worst for him was a bite to his right eye. At first I thought the dog had taken his eye completely, but when Rob examined him, he found it to be the lid that was very damaged. We’ll know more when the swelling subsides.

My buddy and rock, Colin, had quite a bit of the wool on his hindquarters torn out and had gashes and puncture wounds to his back legs. He was/is limping as his right hock was nailed pretty well. He, too, had the ears torn a bit and a gash above an eye.

The worst one was Shaun. His wool from the middle of his back to and including his tail was ripped out and he sustained many, many gashes to his haunches. His skin is just raw from all the wool being torn out. Some of the wounds had mud in them from his being downed by the dogs. We got most of the dirt out of the wounds, but Dr. Rob felt it would take time for the body to push the remaining dirt out. It was too deep and would have caused Shaun even more pain to scrub them out.

Both Shaun and Colin were in shock by the time the vet got there.

Had we not gotten home when we did, I’m sure we would have found one or more of the sheep dead, or at the least, way more torn up. I’m certain Shaun would have been dead if I hadn’t gotten to him when I did. Every day since I have been treating each sheep. At first we did massive supportive care with injections of B-vitamins and dosing each with ProBios to support their rumens and keep them from shutting down. Injections of banamine for pain and Draxxin for it’s awesome antibiotic support were given as well.

Right now, the boys have improved to the point of not requiring the banamine but will get another Draxxin injection 14 days after the first one. Draxxin is wonderful and the fact that it works for fourteen days just means less stress for the boys – and me. I still have to watch for wool falling off the sheep due to stress as well as to keep observing the pregnant ewes for signs of stress or abortion of their lambs. I may not know all the answers until April when the girls are due top lamb.

We’re not out of the woods yet, by any means, but I’m hoping that with good supportive care the boys’ bodies will heal. Their mental wounds may not heal so easily. Every time I look into their faces I remember the terror I saw in Shaun’s eyes as I pulled the vicious dog off of him. My mind knows I did all I could for them and there was virtually no way I could have kept loose dogs, walking on top of the 4+ ft. of snow at the fence along the swampy are of the pasture, from walking over the top of the fence onto our property – but my heart is torn over seeing the boys in pain and hurt,…and terrorized. And I am so angry at loose dogs and their owners.

The owner was cited by our animal control officer. On March 8th, he will have to appear in court to please guilty or not guilty. Here in Arizona, the law is on the side of the livestock owner. I really can’t say too much here, for the reason that this will all be decided through the courts. But, I can say that I am so glad we caught the dogs and they had collars with tags on which were active phone and contact information.

The boys are heroes in my eyes. They put themselves between those dogs and the ewes. And I thank God these are Shetlands – sweet, gentle, tough-as-nails Shetlands. And a part of me hopes they gave as good as they got.

This attack did something else as well. No loose dog will be tolerated on this property any longer…ever.

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Yesterday morning while I fed the sheep their morning “tea”, I noticed something. It was a duck constantly calling in the background noise of the early morning. I thought it odd for a couple of reasons but mostly because our stream has dried up from the lack of rain and I couldn’t figure out where this duck was. The calling was insistent and constant.

First thinking that this was a creature who was hurt in some way, I left the barn area and walked out to the dry creek bed, turning towards my neighbor’s place and walking towards the fence line. Only when I got to the fence between the properties did I see a lone Mallard hen, swimming in the remainder of water in my neighbor’s catch-basin (a small man-made pond such as this is called a “tank” here in Arizona). She was frantically moving along the bank closest to me quacking at the bank.

It was then I started to put things together, especially upon gazing into our dried-up stream bed which feeds the tank the duck was in. There they were…as big as life itself. Coyote tracks. I looked around even more and found many, many more tracks all pointing to one thing. A group of coyotes had come in the night and taken this duck’s little family from her. No one duckling had survived. My heart just sank. Being a mother myself, I know how strong a bond there is between mother and offspring. Most of the time I would chalk this up to an act of Mother Nature – these things happen all the time. The coyotes have to live as well and being hunters, they hunt and eat prey. Fact of life.

This year I have seen this band of marauders virtually wipe out the whole nesting population of waterfowl living in the wetlands behind our property. These coyotes are so brazen that, while I was dumping a wheelbarrow full of dirt out by the fence line, one stood within 12 feet of me…just watching what I did and was not even phased by my yelling at it to “Get!” Seeing the plight of Mrs. Mallard just sent me over the edge. Now I’m angry! Had I not put my sheep in the barn at night this could very well have been one of the lambs.

And it’s not only the ducks. People in our neighborhood have begun missing pets like cats and small dogs. I finally figured out what was also bothering me about all of this…it usually doesn’t happen this time of the year. We are in a very dry spell right now. The forests are tinder-dry again as we had a very dry, snowless winter. This may be an indication that animal populations, both predator and prey, are stressed for food and are moving in closer to people to glean what they can in our neighborhoods. Most of the people around us are fairly new to country living and don’t realize one of the implications of this. They see the elk on our roads and in the field behind us and think they’re cute and beautiful. And they are. It’s just that I also see what follows these elk in my mind’s eye…the species who prey upon these elk. In our area that means cougar and bear. I will now carry a very big flashlight and my cellphone with me to the barn should I have to go out after dark. And I’m thinking of making a new pen for Skittles to spend the nights inside the barn with everyone else – behind the predator-proof doors. Even if he doesn’t want to come in.

Note to Self…put AZ Game & Fish on speed-dial.

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