Our Second Predator Experience
Yesterday (September 7, 2016), I pledged that I needed to put more of an effort into this blog and do a better job of coming up with different sorts of content to write about. Well, within a few hours, a new homesteading story began unfolding. The beauty of life sometimes is you can never really truly know what can happen in the next moment. Yesterday we had our second “predators of the farm” experience.
Before you read on, I will forewarn anyone who is sensitive about this type of thing that, unfortunately, things did not end well for this particular predator. Nothing awful, or gruesome, or anything like that, just another (hopefully rare) aspect of farm life. And no, I am not happy about it.
Mere moments after finishing up writing a blog post about guineas, I heard both of my dogs barking out back. The fact that both of them were barking (and pretty seriously at that), is important because our oldest dog barks at imaginary (to us at least) things and sounds pretty much all the time. I quickly ran out to find that they had treed a poor raccoon up into our large crepe myrtle.
The chickens had been free ranging all day, so it was pretty obvious why the raccoon paid our homestead a visit. But now, thanks to my dogs, it was stuck in a tree and my number one goal was to make sure it stayed there until Logan got home and we could figure out a solution (my hope was that the solution would be something other than what I knew Logan was going to suggest). I still had no idea if any chickens had already fallen prey to this visitor or if the dogs had gotten into a physical tangle with it. I must say, though, that I was feeling pretty proud of the girls’ shepherding skills. I mean, this is why we have farm dogs, isn’t it?!
The next thirty minutes to an hour consisted of a bark and stare-down contest between the raccoon, the dogs and myself.
Essie, my older blue merle, was so worked up from barking and jumping she was literally foaming at the mouth!
I was slightly concerned she might kill herself from excitement (haha). And the raccoon...it was NOT happy. The poor thing thought it had found a chicken buffet, but it got itself into a world of trouble instead.
When Logan finally arrived home, the debate I knew was coming began.
Logan: “We should definitely shoot it.”
Me: “But isn’t there ANY other option?”
My side went something like: Do you think if we set a live trap with bait below the tree, when it comes down it would take the bait? Or what if we put a large box below the tree and knocked it out with a stick into the box, and then someone could throw a lid with holes over the top of the box really quickly before it escaped?
Logan’s side went something like: What if it doesn’t go into the trap, and it simply runs away? What if, in the process of trying to get the raccoon into the box, one of us gets bitten? What if it has rabies? What if it doesn’t fall into the box at all, and it gets away? It is very likely that it will escape. If it escapes, it will be back. It knows the chickens are here now. That is why it came here in the first place. If it comes back (which it will) it will kill our chickens, hurt our dogs, or both. You have to choose whether you want this raccoon to live or our chickens (and guineas...and ducks).
I knew he was right. As a final attempt to try to spare its life, I called an unbiased friend, hoping somehow he might have some magical solution. The conclusion was the same. I am sorry it had to be this way raccoon. :(
What we hated most about having to kill this animal was that we couldn’t even put any of it to use. We did the best thing we could think of and placed it in a field, where hopefully it can at least serve as food for scavengers. We saved its tail to use as a memorial in some type of dreamcatcher or other craft, and because, well, I am crazy.
It truly broke our hearts that we had to take the life of this animal, simply because it ventured onto our property, trying to live its life. It breaks my heart that its last hour or so was spent stuck in a tree, most likely terrified. But I have to remember why it was here.
Nature can be a cruel place. Our society paints predator animals as cute, fuzzy and lovable creatures. And for the most part, I can see what they are saying. Humans have wreaked tons of unnecessary havoc on many of these animals and I 100% agree that there is no place in this world for that type of behavior. But most of our society sees us, human beings, as being separate from these creatures, separate from nature.
This is where I disagree. As humans, we are part of nature too. We are just another animal living on this earth. Do you think a bear who had just caught a rabbit for food would allow a coyote to come take it simply because it thought it was “cute?” That’s asinine.
On this homestead, we are trying to live in tune with nature. 95% of the time we can live in perfect harmony with our fellow creatures also residing in these woods. That is our ultimate goal. But sometimes have to defend our animals, our livelihood. No, killing other animals to defend ours is not enjoyable. But it is part of being a natural creature on this earth. It’s part of being a human being.
Farm life is definitely not for the faint of heart, but I would choose it every time.