Sunday, July 19, 2015

With Difficulty

I've been wanting to write a blog post for a few days, but I am torn about which event to describe. With difficulty I'm starting a blog post and even now I'm not sure which topic I will take.

Do I write about the wonderful happy dog-working and friend-visiting trip that I made to Nevada over the Fourth of July Holiday?

Or do I write about the sad events of last weekend when one of our sheep got killed by a mountain lion?

I think I will start with the bad stuff and get that out of the way. A month ago (now five weeks ago, actually) a lamb disappeared without a trace. We suspected that a mountain lion took him, but we had no proof because there was no evidence whatsoever of any predator taking the lamb. He just disappeared. I talked with the county trappers but there wasn't much they could do with no body, no blood, no nothing.

Last weekend, I went to check our sheep and work my dogs, and I found one of the older ewes missing. Actually as soon as I walked to the pasture gate I could sense something was wrong. I just knew. Before I even counted them I knew one was gone. One gets that sense after a few years with taking care of livestock. There should have been fourteen ewes, and there were only thirteen. I counted again and again and finally started looking through their faces, as I know them all. The matriarch was missing. Ryme and I went for a walk and I found the old girl, dead. She was dragged up against the fence in the classic scenario for a mountain lion kill. Her legs were pulled through the fencing and partially chewed. I left everything as it was, in hopes that the trapper could view the scene and take information from it to narrow down our predator.

By Sunday morning the ewe had been moved. Her body had been pulled through a hole now made in the fence. I had to look for her but finally spotted a horn sticking up through the  leaves and other debris that the lion had pulled over her to bury her partially. Now we knew it was a mountain lion because that is what they do with their prey.  About six or seven years ago, a mountain lion took a yearling ewe of ours out of the night pen, and buried her nearby in a similar fashion.

The trapper told me that there are a lot of mountain lions around our area. He also told me that this county is literally inundated with coyotes. I guess we have been lucky, the past few years because we have not had any predator issues in some time. So now this particular lion is gone but he could have relatives in the area. I was told that mountain lions are not necessarily loners, when they are young. We're putting our sheep in at night until further notice. It is and was sort of creepy to feel like a lion is watching you.  I respect them, but would much prefer that they dine on wildlife instead of our sheep. The trapper was able to show me where the attack happened, and then the drag marks from there quite a ways to where I found the ewe. He could differentiate the paw prints of the lion vs. the elderly guardian dog, who had been pacing back and forth over the dragged area, no doubt anxious in the aftermath. I have learned a lot about mountain lions in the past week.

I felt really sad about the ewe who was killed. She was one of the trio of our three oldest ewes, and a real character; not always easy to deal with but definitely the leader of the pack. When we worked our dogs with her in the group, she always made it a challenge. I am sure this is probably what got her in trouble when the lion came their way. She was a good old girl and will not be forgotten.

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