Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Nothing good

Our predation issues are still not resolved. First we had two big lambs killed and entirely consumed, in one event. Then things were quiet for a full week.

Last Friday morning’s early sheep check led me to a just-killed 90-pound lamb - nothing much eaten but the liver. Once again the scene was so fresh it must have just occurred - blood everywhere, upset dogs. Rant took Luv’s Girl to the ground for coming near the kill, which he was guarding but wouldn’t touch. Things were very tense.

On Saturday, I found another completely consumed lamb along the river - just blood and the pealed-back pelt. I called in all the kills to our Wildlife Services guys, who were responding to major wolf problems at the time. One outfit had 37 sheep and one yearling steer killed and one injured guard dog. A pack of six wolves were killed in order to stop the depredations. The next day, a pack of five wolves were killed after killing three guard dogs and 45 sheep. Our problems were much smaller in comparison, but we were also working really hard to try to minimize losses as well. The sheep were spooky and things were in a general state of unrest.

Sunday morning, an adult ewe - a big, beautiful Rambouillet - was killed. Only her udder was eaten. We could see where the ewe had been attacked, tried to flee, and was eventually taken down. A single bite to her throat was her blessed ending.

The last two nights, federal trappers have set wolf traps in attempt to catch the guilty predator. They have been unable to determine whether it’s a bear or a wolf - it’s one or the other.

I hate traps, but because this predator issue has continued to drag on without resolution, agreed to the trapping effort. In order to do that, the dogs had to be contained so they didn’t get hurt. We have a hay stack pen located right next to the highway in that pasture, so we started locking the sheep herd in the pen at night, with the dogs inside with them. It’s a scary situation, because if a predator gets in the pen, the sheep can’t escape. None of these decisions are easy, and they all have pitfalls.

This is me sitting in the pen, giving everyone good night kisses. Yes, I'm a sheephugger too.

With two nights of trapping, nothing has been caught. This predator is either not appearing for some reason, or won’t come to a bait. Nothing has been killed for a few days, but we’re nervous about the days ahead. Two guard dogs, three guard burros, and a pasture of horned cattle that don’t like canids hasn’t been enough to protect our herd out here in the sagebrush, hundreds of miles from Yellowstone, even when our presence is added to the mix.


Anonymous said...

Are you allowed to shoot wolves yourself if you catch them attacking your animals, or are only the government agents allowed to do it?


Cat Urbigkit said...

The rule is that if we catch wolves in the act of killing sheep (there must be proof such as bloody livestock), then we are allowed to shoot. But in reality, we never see the wolves while we have high-powered rifles in our hands, ready to fire. I've still never caught wolves in the act either. You are not allowed to kill a wolf simply seen feeding on a carcass.

Because wolves are still federally protected here in Wyoming, it is our preference that wildlife officials kill the wolves - not us. It ends any possible debate about whether the circumstances were legal or not.

The way that things are now, wildlife officials are becoming knowledgeable that we are doing all we can to resolve the problem. We never leave a carcass, use the guardians, night pens, etc. The more they know about what we're doing in this circumstance, the better.

Anonymous said...

Do you see wolves at anytime in the area? It would be very hard for me to see them and not be able to "encourage them to stop deprivating" if I was in your shoes. Best of luck and I LOVE reading your posts!


Cat Urbigkit said...

We see wolves every once in a while, and yes, every single time, we have sleepless nights. Wolves down here this far are headed into trouble, as a general rule. When we know there are wolves in the neighborhood, we do a lot of target shooting, just to make plenty of noise so that our place would appear to be an unpleasant place to be ...
Thanks for the kind words on the posts.