We consider ourselves lucky to live in the middle of such wilderness. Our property lies north of town, on the east side of our narrow valley, in between the Arkansas river and the Four Mile area. It was once rumored that Four Mile had the highest concentration of mountain lions for the entire state. I don’t doubt that this rumor is true given the amount of cat sign I have seen on morning trail runs in this area. In the dead of winter, I like to run with a whistle in my mouth and blow on it every 30 seconds or so…just to announce my presence. But morning runs aren’t my biggest concern when it comes to predators. The biggest challenge is trying to farm at the edge of such a wilderness area. Especially due to the fact that we live close to the river. The south side of our property is touching the edge of the highway system by which almost every animal in the Four Mile area travels to get water. This is also the edge of ‘our’ mountain lion’s property. He hunts here in the winter, most likely dropping a deer every other day. Sometimes he leaves pieces of his kills on the RR tracks, sometimes he makes a kill right in front of the neighbor’s kitchen window, sometimes the smell of cat urine is so strong it makes me want to vomit, sometimes we see tracks on the driveway where our kids ride their bikes. It is simply, a part of life.
Bears are another animal we have to watch out for here in the valley. Earlier this season, my husband (who works for the County Fire Department) was on a call where a bear had trapped himself inside a car while trying to get at a box of leftover pizza left on the floorboard. I have witnessed a staring contest between one of my horses and a small black bear, with only a dozen feet between them. Recently, we came across some bear scat on the property. I’m not overly concerned at this point. We do have to be careful about trying not to leave anything around the barn that might interest a bear. But to be honest, bears and lions seem to be the least of our worries.
We see or hear coyotes on a regular basis. It can range from several times a day to a few times a week, but they are always around. Our initial plan was to purchase a Livestock Guardian Dog to help protect our flocks. We were lucky to find a pup in the valley to our immediate south earlier this summer. The Dude. He is a Great Pyreness x Anatolian Shepherd cross and at 5mos old, he weighed 70 pounds. He knows his job instinctually and spends his days chasing coyotes off the property and watching over the hens. But that doesn’t entirely keep the coyotes at bay. Lately, when I feed in the morning, there is one particular coyote who hangs out near the cow paddock. Can he tell she is near to calving and waiting for an easy target? I also found a small pile of feathers in the same area. It became clear to me why this coyote kept coming back…he had been successful. So, this morning, my husband took his rifle out through the cow paddock and killed the nuisance coyote. It’s not a decision we take lightly. We would prefer to coexist with all of these creatures, but sometimes that is not always possible. We hung and skinned the coyote, then continued with preparations for the new calf. Hopefully Deluxe can calve in peace now and we can get back to business as usual. Oh my.