Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bagpipes and Coyotes.

What do they have in common, you ask?  Both stir strong emotions - especially in shepherds.  Last night a large pack of coyotes got extremely close to the sheep pen.  Alarmingly close.  I was furiously finishing a knitting project and enjoying the peace and quiet, when they started.  The dogs jumped up, the cats ran, and I beat a quick path to the back deck.  I turned on the flood lights and Scrappy and I ran outside.  Bernie had decided she was better off in her crate.  One second of all that noise and he took a sharp left (in the direction opposite to the sheep) and tore into the chicken yard, barking furiously.  I don't blame him.  He was greatly outnumbered.  I saw Hoosier cushed on the ground between the sheep and the fence.  Cushed (lying down in llama-speak).  Either he has nerves of steel or he's as smart as a turnip.  I clanged some metal objects together and the pack finally took off.

And so started my night.  Kay and I called each other to keep abreast of their location.  I could hear her Maremmas barking their heads off.  Hmmm.  Maybe I should turn Hoosier in for a Maremma.  In any event, the coyotes kept this up for quite a while.  I made sure the new hot wire was turned on and then loaded the .22.

I finally hit the sack around 10 and was thinking about the similarities between bagpipers in 1500 Scotland, coming down a hill, pipes wailing, piercing through the sounds of war and causing blood to run cold in the veins of their enemies, while whipping their own forces into a bloodthirsty fury.  As for me, at the first sound of a piper, the tears well up in my eyes and I am crying within seconds.  It stirs something very deep and sad in me.  Not so, the coyote songs.  The cacophony of the coyote pack, with its shrill yips, howls, barks, and other ungodly sounds, sure can make your blood run cold.

It was a long night.  This morning, it was raining.  I was so relieved, because I knew that all the sheep and their erstwhile guardian would be in the hoop house.  The dogs and I took a short walk down my road and it soon became clear just how close the coyote pack had gotten.  The dogs were whipping around, noses to the ground, all around the barn and down along the road.  Thank goodness those tasty morsels (aka the goaties) were safely locked up for the night.  I hope the pack moves on.  I know the importance of predators and keeping the balance.  But it seems that we are heavy on coyotes and light on natural prey - rabbits, etc.  I will keep my rifle loaded.


  1. OMG-are you OK? that would have scared the wits from me.But I suppose your use to it and being by yourself.You tell a awfully good tale but scared the bjeepers out of me

  2. Judy - Honestly, it scared the bejeebers out of me, too. With all that noise, it sounded as if there were 20 of them. I was so relieved when they finally went away.

  3. That sound really does make you shiver! Last winter our area was very over-populated and the county was having a real problem. Many pet owners were losing their dogs and cats. Our neighbor keeps a couple of donkeys just for coyote watch too. I hope they have moved on and don't continue to keep you up all night. Would your dogs actually take after them? Our lab would which scares the heck out of me!!

  4. We have coyotes around the area too. Their yips make my flesh instantaneously produce goosebumps--and we have no livestock to speak of. Must be a lizard-brain thing. Most folks out here have cows...I've always wondered if they'd try for a full-fledged cow. Probably they'd only try for the young, old, or sick ones, but it's still scary to think of.

    Glad you guys chased them off... I hope they stay the heck away!

  5. They get pretty bold around here too. They have chased Buddy, our 100-plus pound Anatolian mix, several times. They usually only stop when one of us yells at them. Jerry has "popped" a couple and they don't come around quite as bad as they used to. Glad you and yours are okay!

  6. Every night for two weeks I hear the huge pack of coyotes running from north to south then in a couple hours they are yipping from south to north. They do this till 6am! The pack is larger than ever before and shrilling too. I wish now the wolves will come as then the coyotes will leave. Keep locked an loaded.

  7. Yikes! You lived my worst nightmare. Unfortunately it isn't always a dream. ((hugs))

  8. There is something so unnerving about the sound of a pack of coyotes. They just sound so... unnatural.
    Glad everything turned out OK. I hope they move on soon.

  9. They sound simultaneously gleeful and bloodthirsty. Makes me clabber- you know, like bad milk.

  10. Ok, now was the llama supposed to be cushed? I know nothing about how llamas protect, and I am guessing that this was not one of the ways? Or was he off the clock. I guess he is in the llama local union?

  11. Ya -- what's a Maremma? ....and you didn't run out there without the gun the first time did you?? Way too scary!

  12. Just keep packin' heat, Sweetie, and all will be safe!

    I don't mind hearing a pack of wolves howl but I don't like the (hysterical?) sound of a pack of coyotes!

    I think a talk with your guard llama is in order??

  13. I'm glad everything turned out ok. I'm with MamaPea, just keep on packing heat, darlin!

    And as far as bagpipes, good lord I'm a sucker for those. I thought I was the only person in the world who got all teary when I heard them play. Glad to know I'm not alone. :)

  14. Oh, it's so GREAT to hear someone mention Maremmas! That's gonna be my next dog. I have a friend who got a female pup this summer, and she's amazing. I've never had a thing for white dogs, but with their special coat, the dirt doesn't really stick and they seem to stay almost brilliantly white. You might have to put me in touch with your friend when the time comes (re breeders, etc.). It's not like they're a dime a dozen.

    Very neat and "real" experience with those pesky coyotes. Makes one glad she has dogs, doesn't it . . . even if one of them IS "worthless". ;) As for the guard llama . . . wellllll . . . !

  15. I'm behinder in my comments!

    APG - That worries me, too. I don't think that Scrappy would take off after them - he doesn't like to be more than 20 yards from me. But, Bernie is a different story.

    RM - I love that - "lizard brain". If there is a large enough pack, they will try to take down a larger animal - especially if the animal is older or weaker. Law of the jungle and all that, but NOT with MY sheep!

    Candy - If I was a good enough aim, I would pop a few myself - if they were a direct threat to my livestock, that is. I try to use the non-violent approach first and hope that it works.

    Nancy - Locked and loaded I am. These packs are getting pretty large. I know they circle their territory, so I hope it's a large territory!

    HG - I'll say. I was on pins and needles all night last night, waiting for their return.

    Judy - It really is eerie - and it sounds like there's millions of them!

  16. Kay - Only you would clabber! I may borrow Phoebe if Hoosier doesn't snap-to.

    Jane - In my experience with llamas (albeit limited at that), they are standing and shrieking when danger is at hand - with their "charges" bunched up behind them. Maybe he has a more laid-back approach. Could be his Bolivian heritage...

    Sylvie - A Maremma is a breed of livestock guardian dog. They are similar (in color) to a Great Pyrenees, but incredibly smart, loyal, and fierce. Kay and Nick have two of them.

    dr momi - Nope. I just ran out unarmed because I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Next time I run out armed.

    Mama Pea - I think Hoosier is sore because I hot-wired the perimeter fence so he can't lean all over it. Isn't that sort of like biting off your nose to spite your face?

    Mama Tea - I used to have a record album (remember those?) of bagpipes that I would play alot. At the time I had an Irish Setter, who would sit in front of the speakers and howl along.

    CM - We will find you a puppy when the time comes! They are wonderful dogs. Next time around (close your ears, Scrappy & Bernie), I will have a Maremma outside and a Deerhound inside (and a Dachshund, because I am a glutton for punishment).

  17. Oh gosh, you had me on the edge of my seat, reading this. Coyotes are nothing to mess with. I'm not familiar with Maremmas. We talk from time to time about getting a dog. I should look in to this breed.

  18. Glad round one is over, but stay locked and loaded - don't want anything to happen to the animals or you, keep something with you when you are out doing chores at night - I'm with Mama Pea, even thought coyotes are smaller, the still have that pack mentality and you never know about illness. Stay safe!

  19. Leigh - I would highly recommend this breed. They are a spectacular dog - and, in my humble opinion, the best livestock guardian dog around.

    Erin - The .22 is loaded, locked and resting reassuringly behind the bedroom door. Which is always closed. I never know what the Boyz will get into.