Coyotes, Cougars & Bears, oh my!

       THANK GOD FOR OUR GUARD DOGS!       GuardDogsLast night was a really wild night.  It seemed like the dogs were practicing their barking skills all night long.  There are so many times we get up from watching TV or get back out of bed to check the fields around our house because of the tumult they cause in the middle of the night.  Sometimes we think they are just playing a game, are bored, or scared, or lonely and need something to do.

Inevitably on the nights we are so sure they are just causing a commotion, we find telltale paw prints the next morning – a lot closer to home than we would like to have them.  Once again such was the case Thursday night – big coyote tracks breaking through the frozen snow inside the fenced pastures, venturing close to our goats was a clear indication that we had visitors – even though we humans could not spot them!  Chloe, our Maremma herd dog, barked herself silly all night long, but she knew what she was doing.  If not for her protecting those goats, more than likely we would have been missing someone from the herd this morning.

But we know now – after our discovery – that she was hard at work making sure the coyotes stayed a safe distance from our small herd of goats.  We have seven young goats and seven adult goats.  They all have horns so they are somewhat able to defend themselves and yet coyotes are known to be very determined, especially working as a group.

I am sure that Chloe spent much of her evening doing exactly what she was bred to do and we didn’t have to teach her anything.  When we got her, we put her in with the goats and they became her family.  She eats, sleeps, plays and coyoteguards them with her life.  We often find it humorous because when we go out to feed them, she even tries to eat the hay we put into their feeder.  The look on her face is priceless as she looks at us with hay hanging from both sides of her mouth, as if to say:  “I sure don’t understand how these goats think this is such a fantastic meal that they push and shove one another out of the way when Dad brings us dinner.”

This is not the first time she has protected them from predators.  A couple of summers ago we had a huge mama cougar sleeping on a lower branch of one of our pine trees.

cougar

It was so arrogant that it just lolled away time on the branch not even  100 yards from where the goats were grazing in the pasture.  Hubby finally took aim at it with his .223 and scared it away.  He didn’t have a cougar tag then but we have learned that we get one every year now because the cougars don’t seem to be even a little afraid of us.  They just lie there and watch us as we go about our chores.  I guess we have been pretty fortunate that they have not been starving or we probably would have had more of a problem.

Finally, to round things out as far as variety, we have had several visits from the neighborhood bears as well.  They seem to have been young and not particularly large, but a threat even at that.  bearThere was a small one standing upright in the road just above our driveway three years ago, a fairly large one charged our fence  in the feed lot two years back and again just the other night my husband could smell one in the pasture below the barn, near the creek.

So far we have been fortunate enough that we have not lost any of our animals.  There are not just goats to be concerned about.  We also have 40+ chickens, eight turkeys, two cats and a house dog.  Between the two guard dogs, Chloe (Maremma) and Rambo (Great Pyrenees), things around here have been pretty well protected.  We figure it is a pretty fair trade-off (the barking for the safety) but I’m not sure the neighbors would agree.  Although when you stop to think about it – the dogs are actually protecting other residents as well as ourselves.  So we are hoping they will give us some grace with our alarm system!

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4 thoughts on “Coyotes, Cougars & Bears, oh my!

  1. I want to get goats next year and have been considering a Maremma. It worries me to have a dog who is supposed to bond more with the livestock than with me, as I don’t want them to feel unloved compared to our two house dogs. I need to learn more.

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    • You just have to find a balance between praising & loving your Maremma & confusing it. Too much bonding makes them want to be with you over the goats & not enough could make them unapproachable. Ours tries to “herd” us everywhere we go & loves our time together. But she is such a gem when guarding. Their natural instinct is awesome. She has been with our goats since she was 3 months old & does a wonderful job. At first the goats were a bit leery of her but once she spent a couple days & nights with them all were comfortable. Now sometimes we have trouble finding her because she blends in so well with them. Often we find her curled up in the middle of all of them, just silently watching all that is going on around the herd. But she knows her place & soaks up all the lovin’s and then goes back to work. She gets her attention mostly at feeding time (either hers or the goats) and seems to do well. She is really good with all her barnyard friends! Such a cute personality.

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