6 years farming > one wednesday morning
Farming in New England has many hardships, some are unique to New England and some are the same ones found across the world. We’ve been very lucky in the past six years of having livestock. We’ve lost chickens here and there to the occasional fox or hawk, due to our own negligence, but we have never lost a sheep to a predator. Something I was very proud of. To me it showed that we could live side by side coyotes and bears without having to fear for our sheep. In late summer and early fall I’d still get nervous when the local pack would wander through and we’d hear their yips and howls. I knew that if they were hunting they’d be silent, so the noises they made were welcome, even if it did keep me up with my spot light scanning the pasture for coyotes. The coyotes had plenty of food available to them in the woods that surrounded our house and they respected our electric fences. We lived in harmony. However, due to the hunting of coyotes, it has led to the pack being unstable. A common theory by coyote experts is that once the alpha female or male is killed the other females in the pack become “open” for breeding. In the following year more females will have pups which means more mouths to feed. They’ll look for easier prey, typically livestock. Another theory is that maybe they were looking to teach their pups to hunt. Whatever the reason, we lost our first sheep to a predator on August 17th. I went to check the flock during morning chores and found the body of a ewe lamb that would have been 1 in December. After taking some quick pictures I called the NH Fish and Game office in our county to ask them what to do. They sent out an official to take pictures and document the kill along with giving recommendations to keep the rest of the flock safe. They also suggested leaving the sheep alone to see if the predators would return and to set up game cams. We left it for two days and nothing has come back. On the third morning we buried her in the pasture and left the game cams up but nothing has come to bother any of our animals. Our chickens and turkeys that all free range are all accounted for and after a month of quiet we are starting to wonder if it was a fluke or if the coyotes will be back at a later date. Regardless, it made us change our habits and all the sheep get locked in the barn at night to keep them safe. Even more so as we have 3 new lambs.