Sunday, November 17, 2013

Don't Fence Me In

In spite of my efforts, Bruno continues to climb out of the pasture when he deems it necessary. I totally understand his intentions as there have been so many dogs as well as  predators around due to his having been confined and unable to patrol and repel them. A lot of the ranch dogs have now figured out that the Maremmas can’t enforce anything through a fence, so they stroll through my backyard and terrorize the chickens with impunity. One of my Jersey Giant roosters has found he feels safer staying with the flock...that is, the sheep flock. He often perches on the back of one of my ewes, they don't seem to mind much.

Little more than a week after Bruno was stopped from patrolling, a cougar has moved in and is lurking around the houses. It was in the boss’ back yard, in spite of all the cowdogs they have, so close to the house that his wife could hear it growl. Now it has been eating the dog and cat food out of her shed. She has called in the state trapper. It was then spotted one morning behind the house closest to us, which is next to my sheep pen. It apparently was strolling along, unphased by the 16 barking dogs on chains just feet away from it. I’ve been told multiple times it is not afraid of dogs, but I feel it begs the question, why is it not eating my sheep and the rooster that lives with the flock?  I suspect it is because the smaller dogs, even in packs, barking and posturing, are not as intimidating as 2 dogs equal in size to him, that would seriously take him on. Instinctively the Maremmas use only as much force as is necessary to achieve their objective, which works well for me, as I don’t have to worry much about them injuring the working dogs on the ranch, but they will use lethal force if necessary. I’m reasonably sure they have held cougars at bay here before as there were those nights they were barking all night when I went out and found them wayyyyy out in the back, and pondered what on earth was willing to face off with over 200 lb of angry dog...only to hear there were cougar tracks at the pond nearby, the next morning. Their dam brought a dead cougar home for the pups to chew on before they were 3 months old, so it isn’t that unusual for the breed kill even a mountain lion, if it is called for.

The only way I could keep Bruno safe from being caught in a trap, was to lock him in the house with me. That had me up all night as I had to let him in, and out, and in, and out as he barked or had other needs.

The fence in the little pasture the sheep have been living in, is only 4’ high and the cougar has been down where he could easily spot them. He’s been spotted 5 times, usually in the daylight, so far. He has not successfully been trapped or treed in spite of everyone’s best efforts.  Cletapotamus was guarding alone as he doesn’t force his way out of the pasture. It’s not a good situation as it would be risky for him to protect the flock AND combat a cougar should it decide to try its luck. Bruno is the better combatant of the two dogs and is normally the perimeter guard but giving him access to the sheep also puts him in danger of escaping and being caught in a trap, so there was my dilemma.

Normally, the Maremmas are free to pursue a predator. This has been a huge game changer and the ‘bad guys’ keep coming in closer and closer all the time. One of the trappers who is our friend has gotten 59 coyotes in just a couple of weeks. Great for the trappers, but not good at all for me, my dogs or my livestock. I will be glad when either the cat or the state trapper are gone for good. 

My friend and I proceeded to drag home t-posts and all my insulator posts and wire. We pulled field fence off of the old line that is falling down and attached it to posts we pounded in the ground, making our teeth rattle. All 4 sides of the pasture were hotwired. The last two mornings I have awakened to a beautiful sight, that is, TWO dogs in my sheep pen. It’s good to know that both the sheep and the Maremmas are safe now that Bruno is back to work, even if he's locked up in a small pasture with them. At least between the two dogs, nothing can breach their defenses and the sheep are secure.

Madge was so happy to see him, she spent the morning laying near him in lieu of joining the rest of the flock. 

All the sheep and Cletapotamus welcomed him back. It’s always good to see the ‘kids’ getting along.


  1. I'd love to see your dogs working. They seem to be simply amazing creatures. A cougar?!? Yikes.

  2. Wow. That's scary stuff having a cat living so close.It must be feeling pretty bold to have been spotted so often in the day time. Here's hoping for the successful conclusion to that!
    I'm glad you were able to come up with at least a partial solution for Bruno, and I bet Cletus is relieved to have the extra support too. What do you think of the Jersey Giants? I've always wanted one.
    Your pictures are beautiful as usual!
    Take care and keep your head on a swivel, Kristi

  3. I was kind of surprised to see that an electric wire will hold the dogs! It is good that Bruno can be out on patrol again, as it is. I sure hope that big cat moves on or is captured quickly. Pretty scary to have one so close and so BOLD. I helped pound fence T-post once. Once was enough. Not only is it teeth jarring ... it is blister making, muscle aching HARD work. It amazes me that you are able to do this! I would guess you are feeling pretty good these day. YEAH. :) big hugs to all...

  4. Glad to hear Bruno is back outside where he wants to be, even if it means stuck in the sheep pen for now. They are such beautiful dogs, that I would never think they would do the job they do.

  5. Loved the picture of Madge and Bruno together. It is beautiful, but then any picture that the dogs are in is beautiful! I am glad they are back together and will be happy when that big cat is caught or gone. Can he not be shot? I would think if he is a threat to livestock he could be shot although cougars are such beautiful animals that it almost seems a shame! Better than losing livestock though.........Ginny

    1. Thanks Ginny. Madge is now in the lambing shed, hopefully she will lamb soon. The cougar could be shot, yes, if they could get him treed, but they cannot tree him and the only way they could track him was with hunting dogs and no one wants to risk hitting a dog. No more luck has been had trying to trap him. I wish they would all just go away and let me let my dogs out again. They would take care of the problem, one way or the other.

  6. Every time you post a picture of your mountains, it really just takes my breath away. What a beautiful, beautiful place you live in. I am hopeful for you that the trappers either have success or give up soon. I understand your frustration in knowing what a wonderful job your dogs do when they are able to work, but yet not being able to allow them to do it. Be blessed, Staci

  7. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving day although we should give thanks every minute of every day. We had our gathering missing the one absent but after that meal none of us could ever be Oliver Twist...We went around the table and let those who wanted say why they were thankful. It is gratifying that we all mention the Lord first and those we love second. We set a place for Devon. Where he is, it's just an ordinary day. Alex said a prayer for the guys that still don't like him, friends he doesn't know but still loves, and those he hasn't met yet. I thought that was cool. I can drive legally now, so you better watch out. God bless you. Dex