I'm so confused and frustrated. We've been fighting the coyote battle for two years. It was two summers ago when we started losing lambs. Since we had never lost an animal, other than poultry, we thought that first little lamb had been washed away in a flood. When we lost the second one, we started to think coyote. After the third, we knew it was coyotes. We tried changing some things with fencing and the guard dog, but after losing six lambs, we decided to start staying in the pasture all night. For a week, my oldest daughter and I took turns staying out there with a gun. But when the coyotes never came near, my youngest daughter started sleeping out there in a tent. Until the middle of October, she slept in the pasture with the sheep. By the time the cold weather forced her inside, the coyotes had moved on.
Last year, after we lost a 4-year-old ewe, we realized we were dealing with a bigger pack of coyotes than any dog could be expected to handle, so we got llamas. Although one ram was attacked a week after the llamas' arrival, he survived. We also moved the sheep from a pasture with electric wire to a pasture with woven wire. We didn't think that little lambs would be sticking their heads through the fence to eat -- but why not? Goats stick their heads through the fence all the time.
And that is confusing. We've only lost one goat to coyotes, but we've lost 11 sheep to coyotes over the past two years. And it's not like my goats are in a safer situation than the sheep. Until late last year, the goats were in a pasture next to the sheep with electric fencing. The goats are notorious for going through the electric and heading down to the creek to graze, which would make them an easy target for a hungry coyote. Do the goats have a guardian angel, or do coyotes prefer lamb to chevon, or is it just plain dumb luck?
My happy excitement over finding White Feather's ram was short-lived when only a couple hours later, Margaret was again only counting nine lambs. We haven't been able to find Naira's black and white spotted ram. And now we can't find one of the yearling wethers. For the past couple days, it has felt like school for sheep as we do morning and evening attendance, rather than simply counting the lambs. But then you ask, what's the point? If they're gone, they're gone. There is nothing we can do about it. We have the ewes and lambs locked up in the pasture with woven wire now -- along with two big llamas. And I know coyotes will attack during the daytime. The farmer four miles away has seen them attack his lambs in the middle of the day. We've seen them grab chickens and geese in the middle of the day.
Most types of traps and poisons are out of the question, because I'm afraid of my own dogs or cats being killed. Mike made a live trap last year, but in the morning, the meat was gone, the trap door was closed, and there was no coyote. Somehow they managed to free themselves after being caught. A couple of people have told me they know men who hunt coyotes. "Give him my phone number, and tell him to call me," I said. I'm desperate.
It was bad enough before we got the llamas. Lambs would just disappear. But the coyotes are not giving up. Now, I have to deal with injured animals. It feels like your insides have been ripped out when you see the result of a coyote attack. After the initial shock, there are days of worry, second-guessing, and guilt. Of the three attacks that the llamas stopped, two of the animals had to be put down anyway. I try to console myself by saying that at least the coyotes didn't get their dinner, but I'm starting to believe that doesn't make much difference to the coyotes. They know where the buffet is, and they keep coming back.