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Oh crap!

February 24, 2010

He thought no one was looking.

Note to self:  don’t let the dog kiss you after his afternoon snack 😦


But the real Oh Crap moment was realizing with our recent warm weather, the cover crop would really start to take off.  That’s a good thing right?  Well, yes.  But, I have strayed away from too many cover crops because the succulent grass really attracts the elk during the winter, and I don’t want the elk getting habituated to the garden.  The elk are hard on the fences, as in the term permanent fence means nothing to an elk.  And the worst thing is that if the elk are hanging out in the garden and the adjacent pasture, their only predator – cougar, is not far behind.  I know I have been told to get over it and just live with the wildlife.  But, in all reality I DO live with the wildlife everyday.  A cougar siting here is not news and greeted with a SO WHAT attitude from Fish & Wildlife.  However, when a cougar showed its face in Seattle around Labor Day weekend, the park was closed and the cougar was hunted with dogs, treed, tranquilized and moved to a “wild” area.   Sorry, we can’t let our dogs chase cougars here and tree them, it is AGAINST THE LAW. I think we all need to learn to live with wildlife, or suffer the consequences.

So enough ranting on that subject!  To keep the elk and therefore the cougars out of my yard, (which really makes me feel a little better during late night barn checks, BTW) I have to take away the feed that is bringing them in.  I can’t afford an 8 foot high woven wire fence that would be the only deterrent.  My choice is to graze the cover crop with the sheep, and to let the cows out of the sacrifice area/feeding shed into the adjacent pasture.  This will set this particular pasture back and lower its productivity, I will have less manure for the compost, but it will be placed in the field by the cow themselves.  So as in all things in life – one change over here, causes a change over there.  We just have to continually decide which is the path to take.  C’est la vie.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2010 9:36 pm

    Interesting to think about the different wildlife challenges we all have. I wouldn’t have thought of elk being a problem, but it makes sense that they would be out in the country for the very reason you cite.

    All I have to contend with are raccoons, which I hate passionately, and a lone skunk that trucks on through my backyard at dusk in the summer. I wouldn’t mind the skunk (now that I know better not to let the dog out under any circumstances if he acts a little overexcited) but I want to keep bees someday, and skunks are bad hive-destroyers and bee eaters. And I just don’t know what to do about the damn raccoons. I once was standing at my workbench in the garage when I saw a raccoon walk between the garage and the car in the driveway- this was like 4:00 in the afternoon, so I was surprised to see it. I ran after it and threw my hammer at it (because that was what was in my hand at the time) and was miffed at myself for missing it. I envision probably getting in trouble with the law over them someday, but I sorely hates raccoons!

    • February 24, 2010 10:08 pm

      Paula, the elk are pretty but they really do a lot of damage – just imagine cattle everywhere that did not respect the any fence. That’s an elk. They are pretty tasty too 😉

      Sorry about your coon and skunk troubles, that is not fun! Our blue dog is a header and he would hold the skunks so we could dispatch them, but our old female (RIP) was a heeler, and she would go right up behind those darn stinkers and get us all sprayed! After we figured that out, she didn’t get to go out either!

  2. February 24, 2010 10:56 pm

    Every time I haul a load of manure to the compost piles the dogs are there like kids waiting on the ice cream truck. Always makes me wonder why folks spend so much money on dog treats when a sack of crap would bring so much joy into a canine life.

  3. A.A. permalink
    February 24, 2010 11:56 pm

    Thanks for this post and the other recent ones I haven’t thanked you for. This post got me thinking about the unexpected, and that’s always very helpful.

    We had an elk or two visiting our kitchen garden last fall and the fall before that, but both years the visits only started once the hunting season opened. They were trying to stay safe. It was strange, though, that they didn’t eat into the kales and cabbage heads either time. The hares were the only ones after the rutabagas and mostly anything else that got eaten. The elks just did some trampling damage, that’s all.

    • February 25, 2010 6:30 am

      AA, at first it is a sight to see such beautiful animals. But that wears off, after fixing their damage. It’s not like they are starving, they just develop a taste for good food, and I can’t blame them for that.

  4. February 25, 2010 12:01 am

    Evil person wot I am, I was thinking “hm, is it elk season about now?” There’s a bison/elk farm not far from me, in England of all places, and I’ve had elk last week for the first time in years and I forgot how good it was!

    Raccoons can be dealt with depending on your state ordinance; you could get a professional trapper to trap and dispatch of the racoons, and put down ammonia soaked towels in areas you want them to stay away from (but keep in mind you’ll want to keep them in bags or something so the ammonia doesn’t leech into the soil). In spring and summer the raccoons are out feeding their kits so even though there’s one raccoon you can see, there’s probably a few babies you can’t. Therefore worth considering whether you want to eliminate or deter.

    The major problems here are deer (though they’re tiny here in the UK), foxes (also tiny) but mostly, birds. Every fruit is netted if you want a decent harvest, some people garden completely under net. I never understood the netting until I saw a flock of pigeons descend on an allotment and strip it within an hour. I have NEVER seen birds do that before in my life, so now I net my cherries and strawberries.

    • February 25, 2010 6:33 am

      Rose, tsk tsk! Elk is pretty tasty, but I would rather leave the elk and deer for the cougars, then the Herefords don’t look so appealing!

      The birds aren’t too much of a problem here. Berries of all kinds grow wild here so there is plenty of food. I had read an interesting study that the lack of ample water is part of the reason birds eat the fruit – although, I think like us they know a good thing when they see it.

  5. February 25, 2010 4:16 am

    Haven’t heard word around here about cougar yet, but they found one in Chi last year, so I imagine there must be a few making a quiet comeback. I need to research the laws here. I’m told if animals are caught going after my animals, I can shoot them. But – don’t know. Right now there is almost no cover on my farm, so little chance/worry except for the coyotes, racoons, skunks, rabbits, voles…… from big to small, there’s a lot out there. But – as I add trees and hedgerows, I know I’ll increase the wildlife problems along with the benefits. Lots of woods here (my 40 acres are only 5 miles away, my niece lives on 70 wooded acres just 4-5 miles away, and lots of others in between). If cougars were a real presence they’d be getting the deer, and the deer are jealously watched by folks owning these patches of woods. I’m learning that folks around here don’t like to see anyone else eating their meat supply, lol!

    • February 25, 2010 7:39 am

      Hayden, that is true that you can shoot any wildlife that is taking your livestock. The problem with some predators though is that they are very stealthy. Having our calves born in late spring after the deer and elk have their fawns and calves helps. The cats don’t really want to hunt out in the open but they will if their numbers are so great that there is no readily available food. We don’t hunt because we want to leave that food for the cougars.

      The rest of the smaller animals don’t really seem to be a problem. Chicken predation was cured by electric fencing and winter housing. Free range winter pasturing is just asking for trouble. It’s all an ongoing tug of war between wildlife and humans. However, here if a coyote eats a cat in Portland, people freak and it makes the news. But they need to remember, they made the laws. It is now illegal to hunt cougar with dogs, since that is stressful to the cats :D. However, most people have no idea what it is like to be stalked by a big cat or know that they are right there all the time. It’s pretty safe in city setting, but out in the woods, it’s a different story. Hardly a week goes by here that there isn’t a hiker lost in the nearby National Forest. You know what comes to my mind, when I think of them bleating out there is the woods… . Temple Grandin made an interesting observation about the nature of cougar attacks on humans in our modern times. We run, and pioneers did not. Running or bicycling gets the cats attention and kicks in the predator/prey response. That being said, our dogs are at our sides at all times, especially in the woods, and I don’t run either.

  6. February 25, 2010 4:49 am

    My dogs, you can never tell what they have been eating;) We don’t have that kind of wild life where I am and I have to say, I am kinda glad!

    • February 25, 2010 7:42 am

      Lisa, I know these guys are hilarious, the “good stuff” they bury is pretty gross. Cougars are quite majestic, and pretty but I am not too fond of them.

  7. February 25, 2010 11:38 am

    I, too, am glad we don’t have many of them here. We do have lots of bears, though.

  8. Nowhere, Kansas permalink
    March 1, 2010 12:52 pm

    When we lived in New Mexico, we watched the deer gracefully leap over any fence we could put up, and then go out and find that the elk had simply knocked it down! I swear they don’t even know it’s there, they just walk through it. And no matter how beautiful cougars are, they are large predators with all that actually means.

    • March 1, 2010 1:51 pm

      NK, so true, the deer wiggle through, go under or over, and the elk just push their way in. The only effective fence we have seen is an 8′ woven wire, the last time I priced the wire it was $900 per 33′ foot roll. Too expensive for the 2000′ feet of fence we need – it’s easier and cheaper to make the area repugnant to them by grazing it. The cougars are beautiful, I just prefer to see them from afar – like on PBS, not stalking us at the wood landing!

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