Monday, January 28, 2013

Meow

I just handed in my story about Catalina, an uncommonly fast turnaround for a pro like me who likes to forget everything she thought and felt while reporting a story and then try to piece it together again months later when she's completely lost interest.

So, we have a serious bobcat problem. On Saturday, a bobcat took a chicken from our yard. The other chickens started yelling, I ran outside, saw the cat slithering over the fence with a dead chicken in its mouth. Well, well, well, I thought, what a brave and naughty little animal. I was not overly upset. I decided it was a female who was pregnant or had cubs (kittens?) and I would not begrudge her a chicken.

This morning, the bobcat took another chicken. Same routine. I felt less magnanimous and the bobcat became a male. I thought, at least he didn't get Rhoda, our favorite hen, and I'm sure he's full now, but tomorrow the chickens are staying in their coop.

You know where this is going. Rhoda. That was about an hour later. I was working on the Catalina story and heard the chickens yelling. I threw a watering can and scared the cat away before the kill was complete and Rhoda died on the patio while I patted her feathers. A minute later, as I was putting Rhoda in an empty feed sack, the chickens started freaking out and I saw the bobcat had jumped back on the fence to our yard and he just crouched there staring at me, which felt like the bobcat equivalent of giving me the finger. I threw a pot at him and he jumped off the fence onto the street. I ran out to the road and chased him into the shrubbery and blackberry vines across the street, way deep, far, far, far, and by the time I came back up and had walked in the front door, the chickens were again screaming and I went out and the bobcat was heading over the fence with the third dead chicken of the day.

A temporary solution is to keep the chickens in their coop for the indefinite future, which they will hate, but if they had bigger brains I know they'd agree that dying is worse.

I got to thinking. Would a hungry, ballsy bobcat try to take down a goat?

According to the internet, yes.

I have no idea what I'm going to do, but I really hate this empowered bobcat killing things on our patio in the middle of the day. I would call animal control, but let's just say there are some issues related to our beloved goats that I would need to think through beforehand.

We had a rat problem about a year ago. I didn't talk about it much as it was shameful and vile. I put out traps and never caught a single rat. I locked one of our cats in the coop and she never caught a rat. There were more and more rats down there all the time, rooting around in the chicken coop, scuttling down weird little holes, and, once, running right across poor Mark's foot. I would see 4 or 5 rats at a time and it became so disgusting I started thinking about getting rid of our chickens.

And then one day Mark and I realized we had not seen a rat for a month. And now it has been many months. It was one of those blessed and mysterious gifts from the universe.

But I don't think it was a gift from the universe anymore. I think it was the bobcat.

15 comments:

  1. Just from your tweet, I thought, wouldn't it be weird if chickens were also involved, because my bobcat history includes a chicken massacre not unlike your own, though less sequential. We used to keep chickens (I live in a SoCal canyon) until an unwell bobcat decimated our small flock, and killed other animals in the neighborhood before being trapped by CA Fish & Game. I'd gotten a look at him during his terror campaign, and he was clearly ill. I thought maybe that was responsible for his supposedly uncharacteristic boldness, or desperation. The Received Wisdom is that bobcats are shy animals, but who knows. So sorry about your chickens.

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  2. How about a bobcat trap? You could then drive him far-far away and drop him off. Hopefully, he would not be back home before you...

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  3. Ooh, he is a crafty and daring bugger. He will not stop until there's nothing left to eat, and I would put big money on him taking one of your goats. Especially when they kid. Have you considered electric fencing for the chicken pen? I don't know if it would work, but that's what my friend uses who raises and sells meat chickens.

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  4. My chickens are confined to their coop and protected run after 2 dog attacks that luckily didn't do any real damage. I let them out only if I can stay right with them now. They are coping. We keep joking about putting up an electric fence to keep the dogs out.

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  5. One chicken a day has been my bobcat experience. One brazen bobcat mom took a hen from my elevated flower box outside the kitchen window. Then our duck, X-wing, was taken just outside my son's bedroom window with the music blaring around dinner time.
    I loved my chickens and ducks, but the bobcat lived here first. My egg selling neighbors just told me we have a resident mink who leaves the chickens alone if they leave the radio on.

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  6. Maybe hide the goats and call animal control? Get a neighbor to call animal control? The goats can have a sleepover at someone else's house?

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  7. I have absolutely no bobcat experience. As awful as having a bobcat killing your animals sounds, I would like to see a bobcat. Think hard on the goat issue, and call animal control. This hungry bobcat will never leave until there is nothing left to kill. It's his nature.

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  8. I wonder if bobcats are like deer in respect to human urine as a deterrent...

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  9. Do you have a dog? I mean, maybe I shouldn't be suggesting that you get yet another animal to join the fam, but perhaps if you got the dog as a puppy, it could learn not to attack the chickens and goats. Kind of like The Fox & the Hound.

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  10. There are breeds of dog that are friendly to chickens and watch over the flock. Perhaps an option to add to your homestead.

    Also, as I take the time to comment, I want to commend your great book and your witty food-related writings. I am a fan.

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  11. As a homesteader, I can tell you bobcats do not stop until the food source is gone. Your best bet, given you situation, is an electric fence around the animals. You can order them from places like Premier Fencing on-line.

    Bobcats are not particularly afraid of humans (nor are deer) and the only dogs big enough to not become lunch for a bobcat would be a Mastiff or a Great Pyrenees. As for the rats, I'm not so sure it was the bobcat - more likely a neighbor poisoned them. The bobcat would have preferred chicken over rat from the start. Chickens are slower.

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  12. Just a word of advice, never chase a bobcat anywhere at anytime. You may to big for a meal, but they have sharp claws and very sharp teeth. Had he turned on you when you were chasing him, you would be in a serious medical condition. If they feel threatened, they will fight back. They will attack almost all animals, unless they are just too big, like a fully grown cow, although they will take down a calf. Your backyard is a buffet to the bobcat and he will return and he will continue to get at the chickens and goats and cats and anything else that looks tasty. Do not try to trap a bobcat, that is a job for professional. I don't know if you have guns, but I wouldn't try to shoot him either, they are quick and who knows what you might hit accidentally. If you don't want to call animal control, you have to remove the food supply. I don't know how many neighbors you have, but you should let them know so they can protect their cats, dogs, etc. and any small children that might be playing outside. And I doubt the bobcat got your rats, they may have smelled the bobcat and left the neighborhood, so to speak. Please be careful.

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  13. Wow. I lost one to a really big and ballsy possum a few months ago. It was entirely my fault, as I had forgotten to close the coop that night. I caught the possum the next night--cornered him and picked him up by the tail, actually--and drove him to another city. But a bobcat is another story. I would try to trap him and also put up electric fencing. But you won't feel safe unless you catch him and remove him, I bet.

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  14. My Border Collie is friendly to my chickens, other than sometimes trying to herd them. She keeps our main predators, raccoons that weigh up to 40 pounds, well away. We did lose a couple last year to owls, as we live in an oak woods, but otherwise have kept the flock numbers steady at 12. If a dog isn't the answer I would definitely go with electric fencing, although that may also be a zoning issue. Good luck to you!

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  15. Get a gun.shoot the thing bury it and be done with it.

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