Living with Wildlife

4 09 2008

It’s important to know who is living in your house and your yard especially since some of them may be carnivores. You may think that just your dog and the feral cat down the way are residents, but a little careful observation can tell you otherwise.

We make it a habit to walk down to the river and enjoy the sites and sounds of the backbone of our valley. Every morning the landscape has changed slightly and it’s always interesting to see who has visited the beach during the night or who might still be there. We’ve seen eagles, mergansers, Canada goose, buffleheads, mallards, cormorant, otters, beaver, coyotes, raccoons and the occasional elk. Since the sand is a good witness, we also know that there are bobcat, possum, various rodents, and, once, a deer.

Living in town is no different really. Remove the water birds and mammals and add in skunks, rats, and many more feral dogs and cats. Even here in the woods, dogs are our greatest threat to our own pets and chickens. Shortly after we got our chickens and had them in temporary housing, they were attacked by a pack of three dogs from a ways away. As you can see, they nearly chewed through 3/4″ plywood, but luckily our hens were safe. The sheriff warned the owner of the dogs that we had the right to shoot them on sight. We haven’t seen them since.

We also now have a robust chicken run that is reinforced with chainlink along the bottom. See the previous post for a picture.

Wild animals are a different challenge. Most won’t bother our Newfoundland dog, few will bother our cats, but more could get to our chickens or their eggs. We let them range during the day, but make sure they are enclosed at night. Kale and Maija almost always slept inside. On some hot nights, we would let them be outside, but it just takes once for something to get to them. That policy is now forever changed: All pets inside at night, no exceptions!

The bobcat came, hung around a couple of weeks, and has since been somewhat scarce. I know it’ll be back though so I act accordingly. We can’t do anything about our feral cat Ralf, but we make sure that she only has food out during the day. She has many places to get shelter and is, by far, more wily than our house cat Kale ever was.

We love having all the wildlife around and do what we can to make our acreage good habitat for them. We do like to stop short of feeding them our pets however! Since there are also bear and cougar around here, we have to be concerned for our own safety as well.

RELEVANT LINKS

More information about living with bobcats from WDFW.

More about bobcats, tracking, a great narrative about an escape and good description for identifying a bobcat kill site.

Predator identification

What killed my chickens?

Watching Wildlife from WDFW

Mammals of Washington from the University of Washington

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