Predator Control

Disclaimer:  This is a highly controversial issue.  I am not stating this is how everyone should deal with this issue.  I am simply sharing with you how we deal with it.

Predator:

noun
1.     Zoology.  Any organism that exists by preying upon other organisms.
2.     A predatory person.
By this definition, predators can be either animals, bacteria, plants or even humans.  For the purpose of this article, I’ll be addressing predators of the animal kingdom.

How Predators Affect Us

Specifically, us, on our farm and homestead, we have a variety of predators that eat off our livestock and our crops.

Deer, elk, and moose eat our grain, barley, sanfoin and alfalfa in our commercial fields.  But they also get onto our shared living space to share the produce of our gardens, orchard and berries.

Skunks and raccoons are our biggest concerns with our chickens.  One night, a skunk got 11 chickens–and it would have got more had we not caught it in the act.

Eagles, falcons, owls and many other birds of prey are also a threat to our chickens.

Snakes will eat eggs.

Raccoons are incredibly intelligent and can open doors, stack things to climb, and get pretty much anywhere you don’t want them.  They also eat from the garden and can open many feeding barrels and boxes, and just eat the feed straight out of it.

We also have foxes, coyotes, and mink.

Mice and gophers will eat out of our fields and gardens.

Bears and mountain lions…I need not elaborate on these.

Other people’s dogs are the number one threat to our livestock.  When you live in the country, everyone takes their dogs with them and don’t generally watch them. We have lost chickens this way.

 

How We Deal With Our Predators

If you aren’t used to having to deal with predators, your first instinct might be “shoot them!”  But it shouldn’t necessarily be.  Honestly, I have been emotional and wanted to at times–but deep down I know this isn’t the best answer.  Are times when it would be the answer?  Yes, however we’ve only had to do that once–and it wasn’t easy.

The only time that we have or would shoot a predator is when it is a serious and imminent threat to life.

One morning I woke up and there was a mountain lion resting fifty feet out my door.  The chickens were still locked up from the night before.  I went to the other door and got the dogs in as quietly as I could (good thing I don’t have carpet…).  We all stayed inside all day and watched the kitty.

He never advanced on any of the barn animals.  The next morning, he was gone. He has never been back that we know of.  There was no need to shoot him.

Had I been in a situation where he was between me and my family and the door, or I had been worried for the safety of my child, it would have been a different story and I wouldn’t have hesitated.  For the most part, these bigger predators don’t like to be around us any more than we like to be around them.  As long as they don’t get the taste for meat, they move on and don’t come back in most cases.

 

As for the deer, elk and moose that eat from our fields, well they can eat a lot of hay and grain.  The deer come in large herds.  Shooting one isn’t going to make that much of a difference.  Really, you just deal with it.  Plant as much as you can, and know that you just aren’t going to be able to harvest it all.

The best defense for a predator is to be prepared.

If you plan to have a garden, you need to have fences.  If you want chickens, you must have a secure area for them to go to.  If you live in an area with larger predators, you should have a safe place for your larger livestock to go to.

If you aren’t ready to protect it, then don’t get it.  It sounds harsh, I know.  But it’s much better to have your shelter completely built and secure before you obtain your animal.

The night we lost the 11 chickens above?  That was a night that I came home late from work to find a friend had dropped off her chickens in a cage for me to watch while she went on vacation (seriously).  Not knowing where to put them, we put them in our most secure Quonset with food, water and some roosts.  Early the next morning, I woke to a rooster fervently crowing and trying to get in my back door.  When we went to investigate, the skunk was in the action of killing them while they slept.  Had we been prepared, this wouldn’t have happened.

 

I realize other people have much different situations.  Fences are expensive.  If you can’t afford food or fence and you need a garden to feed your family–then it’s a different story.  You do what you can do.  (Read about deer fences here.)

And if you regularly have access to a store, then you may not understand how protective someone could be over their garden.

We all have different situations.

I would encourage you not to shoot unless there is a threat to life, or you don’t intend to (legally) eat the predator.

Identifying who the predators are on your homestead, and how we deal with them.

I would love to hear how you protect your homestead from predators.  Please use kind words and don’t put down myself or other reader’s comments, or they will not be published.

 

19 Comments

  1. Good point, that we don’t always have to shoot. We lost 9 chickens to something while on vacation. We didn’t have a secure coop and it really was our fault. The remaining lone chicken became a pet until something got her as well. The only other huge pest in Interior Alaska besides the pesky mosquito is the infamous moose. It seems no fence can keep them out and so far we’ve heard to just plant extra and pray over your produce. Prayer works! Also, we plant very close to the house. Flower beds become salad gardens, potato plants are beautiful when blooming, it’s being practical and enjoying the edible beauty. The only thing I’ve ever had to shoot was our neighbors Rottweiler. It’s a long story, but it tried to attack me on my property. The neighbor also understood the gravity of the situation and didn’t blame me. A lot of this is people understanding their own personal responsibility and doing their best. The dog lived, amazingly and my children and I could safely use the outhouse again.

    • I didn’t mention moose, did I? Arg. Most of our moose problem is that they just walk through the property. And you nailed it, if there is a fence, they just go right through it. They scratch the trees, but we haven’t had a problem (that I know of) with them eating anything. I like all your suggestions, and it brings me hope when you say your neighbor understood the situation–amazing the dog lived!
      Plant extra…that’s all you can do sometimes, yes. But the Lord provides, and there is always just enough, isn’t there? 🙂
      Thank you for your added suggestions.
      Blessings,

  2. I do know that dogs can be a problem for neighbors. We have had our dogs at the neighbors, but luckily they were understanding about it. BUT our dogs have saved our livestock SO many times. We have had coyotes come close and have had our dogs chase them off. There’s also donkeys, mules it llamas that are excellent guard animals for larger livestock. Especially for those that do not want dogs

  3. Good information here… we have a “homestead wannabe” in the city while we wait to be able to afford moving to more property, so we aren’t dealing with the big things here, although I am interested to learn before we get there. Here, we deal with rabbits, squirrels, possums, birds and more… which is enough. Squirrels LOVE my tomatoes and eat/ruin them, chew on the deck furniture and Christmas lights, dig up plants, make holes and more… they have been tough to deal w/ as we can’t even “ping” them w/ a bb here… since we have lots of people here, we try to scare them away whenever we can which helps. Skunks scare me… and I have heard of one being seen only a block away.. we try to keep things as cleaned up as possible. Thanks for a great article.

    • Honestly Joy, I’ve always thought it’s the littlest critters that are the hardest to fight on a day-to-day basis. While the bigger ones can do a large amount of damage in just one day, they are easier to pin out (if you can afford the materials and time to build structures correctly). We have tiny ground squirrels on our dry farm and they can eat the equivalent of an entire field of wheat every year–we just plant anyway and take the loss (and hope some badgers move in to keep the squirrel population down.)
      You can smell a skunk a mile away, and you know it’s close if your nose is on fire (even when they haven’t sprayed). If you look at the banner at the top, that little guy is about 2 days old. I only got that picture because he was asleep–I could hear him snoring from my door, and he was still snoring when I got the picture–very hard to wake-up. They are easy to catch because they aren’t afraid of anything and you can walk up to them without them caring. I don’t know if that holds true in the cities, but at least out here, they don’t really care if they are around us or not. I’ve caught them sleeping in my gardens many times.
      Build well and keep dogs 🙂 .
      Wow. Never had anything chew on my furniture. You must have great patience. I don’t know how I’d deal with that–other than have good dogs.

  4. Wow you have an amazing amount of predators to deal with, you need to move to Australia :-). Our biggest issue is foxes here and I am going to admit that we have no hesitation in shooting them. Not only can they decimate a chook house, they can kill lambs as well. They don’t eat the lambs, they just kill them and take the tongue (gross). Our chickens are always locked up at nights but a fox will dig in too. Our chicken pen is totally fenced in and has mesh walls and roof, we have had friends loose heaps of chickens because they didn’t have a roof on their pen and the foxes climb trees and go in over the top, so you need to make sure you don’t have branches hanging over the pen. Possums can eat fruit off the trees but they are protected and you can’t shoot them. Our oldest son has about 6 dogs and we find just having them around keeps predators at bay. The hunting season here is during autumn, winter and early spring, they don’t hunt in the summer due to snakes, and at the beginning of the hunting season we notice more foxes around. My son went out last night and there were 2 hanging around near our chook pen. (a chook is a chicken). In the states north of us – Queensland etc they have more predators than us. Thanks for sharing this great post, I love hearing about your life. Blessings

    • Ya know, we have foxes and coyotes too (and minks–ug) that will kill chickens, but honestly, they just don’t come that close. I have seen a few foxes living quite close, but they’ve never bothered us. I wonder why now that you mention that…Maybe they like the other things around here better than our farm animals? Donkeys are good to guard cows too.
      I did not know that about the lamb tongues–I wonder why? It’s been nearly 9 years since I’ve been out of the states–and not to Australia yet–I want to come! (Just gotta convince my hubs who has never been anywhere but here in the middle of nowhere.)
      Our coops are raised (off the ground), with serious floors because a raccoon will dig until it gets in if it wants.
      We are down to one dog and need more again. A good dog around here will sometimes chase something…and not come back. It’s always hard (on me especially since I grew up in the cities not ever dealing with that). But I comfort myself knowing whatever got it didn’t get one of my kiddos.
      Our friend took a trip to Yellowstone last year and while they sat at the table with their family dog, a wolf ran right up, grabbed the family dog by the neck and took off. (She assured me it was not graphic at all.) Her 12 yr. old son ran after it (so scary!). Finally found the boy. Mom and kids are still having nightmares–but at least it wasn’t a kid.

      • I think Yellowstone is off my “must visit” list now, that sounds a bit scary. I know there are places up in the Grampians National Park that they tell you not to feed the kangaroos because they can get quite nasty and they can really hurt you if they want to fight with you, but we don’t really have to worry about other wild animals, other than snakes in season. There are stories of pumas in the National Park bought over here by American Service Men and released to run wild. They lend nicely to wild cat stories around here :-).

        • I enjoyed a trip to Yellowstone once. I think people just need to be aware of their surroundings. You know, if you see a bear or buffalo, don’t try to get close enough for a picture. That’s where people/tourists get in trouble… The wolf thing is not a common occurrence in Yellowstone.
          Was the puma release planned? Or did they just float a boat to your island with giant cats on board for…fun? I can’t imagine! I can’t imagine what it would be like to get near a kangaroo. I think I’d imagine them to punch a lot?

          • Yes I can imagine the touristy thing being a problem, that is what is the problem here with the kangaroos, everyone wants a picture with the little to really big ones, but they are dangerous. I suppose when they fight each other it looks a bit like boxing and I am sure they would scratch too (no fair fighting).
            I think (if I’ve got the story right) that the pumas were mascots and instead of trying to take them back they released them in the bush. When you come for a visit we will take you to a camp where they have a whole room full of newspaper cuttings and photographs, so the proof is there :-).

          • I’m so glad you said “to a camp” because I was kinda scared you were going to say “to see the pumas.”

      • Packs of coyotes will lure your dogs off and kill them. We often have coyotes come within a hundred yards of our property at night and carry on with yips and howls in an attempt to get our young dogs to come out to them. When the coyotes come around we will bring the pups inside or place then in their pens. Most of the older dogs will not go out to the beckoning cries of the coyotes.

  5. Great post, thank you for sharing it! We have bears to deal with on our property but they can be fun to watch!

    – Nancy

  6. This article was not a guide to predator control. It’s more like a guide on how to keep predators well fed and happy. I had a badger kill 44 of my 50 chickens in one night. When he came back the next night for the remaining 6, I put an end to him.

    • You are absolutely right on one thing Nyle: this isn’t a guide. The word “guide” isn’t found once here. The first bolded section after the predator definition is titled: How Predators Affect Us and talks about my specific situation. The next section is: How We Deal With Our Predators. There is no section where it says it’s a guide to how you should control a predator. And honestly, I hope predators are fed and happy–just not eating my animals–which is why we believe you shouldn’t get them unless you can keep predators away from them. It sounds as though you were unable to keep yours away from them and that’s unfortunate.

  7. I listened to a great interview on NPR about a man who raises geese. He said that he doesn’t do anything to protect his geese and that they are free range. He estimates that he loses about 15-20% of his flock. He calls it “gods tax.” However, his geese will call out to wild geese that come down and join his flock adding to his numbers. It might seem hard to have a viable business when you lose 15% of you inventory, but they are free range. The fact that they are free range and have a divers diet makes them taste better. As such, he can charge more for them.

  8. We have about one hundred acres of land and most of it is forested with hardwoods. Our garden and orchard is fenced with four foot high welded wire panels. We also have four large dogs of unknown breeds that live within these areas. They do a very good job of keeping everything from deer to rabbits out. Our barn cats take care of the smaller vermin. Our chickens are also fully Inclosed in wire with a twenty four inch skirts around the perimeter to keeps the critters from digging under. We have a small lake which is stocked with catfish, black bass and brim. There are many natural springs in the wooded areas and that keeps the lake level up to the spillways, even in the hottest time of summer. This land has been in my wife’s family since the forties and our grand kids are learning how to appreciate nature, hard work and respect. The same way our parents and grand parents taught us.

    May you all be blessed and succeed in your indevors.

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