Saturday, 16 November 2013

Life and death at the sheep corral

What a morning this has been.
A morning filled with stress, blood, death, shock, surprise and of course sympathy
As you all know by now, we are Predator Friendly, that  means we do not employ any lethal means to "get rid" of  predators.

One of the methods we use to prevent predation are guardian dogs.
These dogs are large powerful dogs that are bonded to the sheep. They have a nurturing and protective nature towards the stock. But,  when the stock is threatened these dogs have a whole repertoire of behaviour and actions to discourage the predators from entering the area of the stock.
Most times they bark, posture, mark their territory, chase
and if the threat continues they will interact and fight.

We like to keep our dogs safe and value what they do.
We never "encourage" them to chase or hunt.
Instead we just let them do what they feel they need to do to keep the sheep safe.
We have heard them rumbling in the bush
Our Fena got beaten up pretty badly by a pack of coyotes a few years back

We have seen the dogs at work,
 however not like we did today.

This morning when we went to let the sheep out of the night corral we were shocked at what we saw.
A large coyote had got into the night corral with the ewes.
(One side of the night corral borders a page wire fence, we had no dogs on that side of the fence).
The coyote was on the inside of the fence in with the sheep.

 We have been locking the guardian dogs on the outside of the fence believing that this would provide the sheep with the most protection, as the dogs could patrol a larger area.
We never thought that a coyote would be that bold as to go into the night corral with the sheep.

The coyotes have been very active and coming in pretty close recently.
Just yesterday I decided to add Vuk to help the females out a little and moved Lucy to the lambs.
With the added pressure,
we like to switch the dogs around to ensure the safety of the stock.

inside the fence was one big, mad coyote.
On the outside of the electric fence were Vuk and Fena.
This coyote was snarling, hissing and growling at our guardian dogs

Coyote facing off with the dogs. The coyote is on the inside of the sheep corral and the dogs are on the outside of the electric fence. 

We debated what to do,
 how to get the coyote out of the sheep corral?
We needed to watch what we were doing as this coyote was upset and we did not want to get bitten,
or have the sheep hurt.
So, we opened up the electric fence and tried to guide the coyote to the opening
(on the other side of the dogs).
Eric tried a few times to get the coyote to move out of the corral however it kept turning back

Within a instant things changed
and there was nothing more we could do to give the coyote a chance of escaping.

When Vuk realised that the electric fence was off
he jumped over the fence to the coyote.
The coyote decided to jump out,
Fena grabbed it in mid air and swung is around.
Vuk jumped back over, and grabbed the coyote by the throat.
Fena had the coyote by the stomach and within a minute the coyote was dead.

Now, I know this is why we have guardian dogs,
they did their job,
what they did probably has saved quite a few sheep's lives.
However, I cannot help but feel some sympathy towards the coyote.

She made a wrong decision and died because of that.

What I can say is that it was quick.
The dogs did not badger the coyote at all,
they did not just nip at it,
nor did they unduly rip it apart,
their was no malice in what they did.
They dispatched it and then went about their business.

The dogs had just killed the coyote.
Us, being predator friendly has to do with our attitude and approach.
We will not shoot, trap, snare or kill any predators.
Our dogs do, what they need to do.
Of course, I would have preferred that the coyote did not chose to jump into the night corral  with the ewes.
Sure, I hoped it would respect the space of the guardian dogs and move on,
 however it did not.

The coyote overstepped the boundaries and died because of this.

I think part of the shock is that you never expect this kind of interaction to play out
right in front of your eyes.
We know that these interactions can occur,
and this is why we use the guardian dogs,
to keep the sheep safe and to encourage the predators to go elsewhere

I feel double about this incident as
I feel sorry for the coyote,
however, I am also proud of how our dogs reacted.
They did what they were bred to do,
and the sheep are safe in their care.


  1. What a hard thing to see Louise. I know how you feel, its a sad day when anything has to die. I am thankful that your dogs dispatched the coyote with speed and efficiency and she didnt have to suffer. Sometimes these things happen and it never gets easier to see. Since getting our LGD's many years ago, we have not had to shoot any predator, and I am thankful. Occasionally they do have to engage and they take care of the intruder with accuracy. Thank you for sharing this with us. Cindy

  2. What a sad thing to have to experience, and so much inner conflict for us farmer and lovers of all life. I know on one hand you must be very proud of your dogs, and on the other, quite sad to carry this memory, and for the fate of the coyote.

  3. Predator "Friendly"? Actually, that is nothing more than a glorified dog fight that the rancher instigated. The story said that one dog had the coyote by the throat, and another had it by the stomach. I would venture to say that in the time it took the coyote to die from such a traumatic mauling from two large dogs, it suffered some serious pain. If the coyote had to die, and I have no problem with that, I would suggest shooting it with a .22-250 or other high velocity caliber rifle. the coyote will die almost instantly, and most likely never feel a thing. The end result is the same. The sheep are safe and the coyote is dead. It's just that my way is more humane.

    1. Thank you Jim for your comment. We do not own a gun, so that was not an option for us. The night corral is more than a half mile away from our house. We did not instigate this in any way or form. We opened up the fence to give the coyote a chance to get out, it chose to jump over then fence. The coyote was dead within about 20 seconds from the moment it jumped. I do find it objectable that you say we instigated this, no we did not, the coyote jumped into the night corral, it made the wrong choice We did not sic the dog onto it. It is not a glorius dog fight at all, it was traumatic and if we could have changed the outcome we would have.

  4. Jim, if a coyote is that determined to go into a corral with sheep, its pretty much signed its own death warrant. Not all LGD conflicts with predators end in death. Many do not. We can't always be there with a gun. The only thing I would have done differently would have been running dogs inside the corral with these sheep, not just on the outside, that is why, I am a proponent of running different breeds together in a pack for complete coverage. I would have had some dogs in the corral (in my case, Spanish Mastiffs). And Jim, there's many a time its the other way around: the predators kill the LGD. It's life. This was not a 'glorified dog fight'. It was simply life, going on here on a ranch where things are born and die all the time.

  5. Thank you for all your comments. I would just like to add this expereince did touch us on so many levels. This type of event does not normally play out right in front of your eyes We do know that using guardian dogs that this could be the end result, however mostly the predators chose to go elsewhere. For people interetsed in the details, the coyote was dead within about 20 seconds once it jumped the fence. The coyote had some escape opportunities, it could have jumped the page wire fence away from the dogs, it could have run through the opening in the gate once we opened it up. It stood up and was threatening the dogs, it was standing, posturing on the fence. I know a post like this will offend some people, however it is what it is and this is what played out in front of us. Sure, we can pretend that it did not happen and make it "prettier" ending, but living with the amount of wildlife we have, the outcome for the sheep or the dogs or the wildlfe does not always have a happy ever after. What I do know is that we enjoy the wildlife, we value their importance to our ranch and we our best to co-exist, however somethimes things do not have a fairytale ending and that is what I wanted to share.

  6. we had someone saying we should have shot the coyote. I am sorry I have no gun and would probably kill a sheep in the process, that is how bad a shot I am. also do I think guns have a huge impact on the people looking at all the disasters we are having in the schools in the states. I just wished the coyote would have escaped. It would probably have gone vegetarian after this experience.

  7. You can't always be there with a gun anyway. The dogs are 24/7. Bad shots cause a lot of suffering as well. A coyote hit poorly can escape and suffer for days. The main reason I prefer having dogs is that for the most part, the coyotes just treat our land as an island to avoid. I prefer not having a problem than trying to solve one with a rifle.

  8. Kudos to your wonderful dogs, Louise, they did exactly what they were supposed to do, with no unnecessary bloodshed. As I read through your blog I was getting more and more nervous about the outcome, and was very relieved to hear that your sheep escaped unscathed. As for guns, we own several, but getting a perfect shot into a herd of animals and killing only the intended target is no easy task. I wouldn't be brave enough to attempt such a move, for fear of killing or injuring one of my goats.

  9. Just a partbof life on a ranch. One day a birth, another day a death.
    I am very thankful for your dogs.


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