Over the past month we have lost seven animals. What to do when predators threaten your livestock is not a simple answer. We have a bobcat infiltrating our coop and hutch fortress. There is other food, it’s not the depth of winter. This big kitty is growing fat on our duck and chicken. Here in photos below you can see the lure of a half-eaten chicken we found (sadly still alive) last week at dawn that we used as bait to get it on a game camera.
We were shocked to see it was a bobcat, not a fox raiding our birds. These creatures are generally much more elusive and the coops are right in our front yard. This is especially troubling seeing as I keep a cat that catches mice, rats and squirrels that get into our coops, grain and house insulation.
As a lover of wildlife this is a fine line for me to walk. This animal has substantially impacted my flock which I use to make money and feed my family. It’s a bad time of year to relocate the cat as its territory is clear here and it may encroach on another top predator in a new location. Winter is coming and time will be tough if it has to start over in a new territory.
We contemplated electric fencing—but I simply cannot afford to set up a system around all the separate coops and hutches. Using electricity as a solution defeats the purpose of my homestead’s mission. The coops are glass-topped solar heated to keep the water from freezing in winter. This keeps the chicks warm on the top level (that I hatch year-round) aided by the older birds perched under them at night who lose body heat which raises upward. It’s a good system, and better for the environment overall. We also have small children and a cat I’d worry about touching an electric fence—and I tend to be both forgetful and clumsy. In the end I decided installing electric fencing is not what to do when predators threaten your livestock.
I have gone above and beyond to ensure my livestock security and this bobcat defeats me each step of the way. This bad kitty pulled welded wire fencing apart and metal cages open, pried a 2″ thick board off the coop, pulled a chicken half-through a 2″ welded wire cage bottom and dug under chainlink. It’s strong and very persistent, coming out before we put up the animals or after we’ve let them into the pens for the day. There are too many birds to stuff into the house before they are ready to go in on their own.
More fencing is going in over the weekend and rebar will be pounded in every three feet to my chain link pens that hold the turkeys. The top of each pen is even fenced over with cattle-grade welded wire. My coops are made of 1.5″ solid boards and the bottoms are fenced around. This big cat has pulled one board off. I’m adding an outside perimeter picket fence around all the coops and smaller fenced in pens.
So far we have evaluated what to do when predators threaten your livestock by:
- checking our coops are secure.
- looking for holes or soft spots in the flooring.
- pinning, nailing and pounding rebar into fencing to make it more securely attached.
- letting our animals into fenced pens only when it’s light out.
- peeing on the perimeter of our yard, fence and near the coops.
- asking for dog hair to scatter around the area the cat was potted.
- setting baited traps.
- asking other people for their thoughts, ideas and experience.
- minimally free ranging only the geese (who rely on greens in the yard for food).
- flipping the outdoor light on and watching whenever there is a noise outside at night.
What it comes down to is my ability to farm and provide for my family vs. one big cat. The cat has got to go. The Maine Warden Service recommended everything I have already done, which did make me feel better about this decision. It has come at the same time each day and come up the ridge along the same path. Tomorrow I’m staking it out from the coop roof. I will update on how our family figures out what to do when predators threaten your livestock.
Originally Published on on October 17, 2017
By Amanda Jo Emerson