In 1977, the Bee Gees wrote “Stayin’ Alive”, one of the key songs in the movie Saturday Night Fever. That song title well describes the trials and tribulations of protecting our antelope (Addax, Blackbuck), exotic deer (Fallow, Axis), chickens, and ducks. After acquiring these beautiful animals, we feel heartbroken when we find a dead one in the field.
Before we get too far in this story, the best way to know if you have a problem is to look up in the sky and see if predator birds (e.g., buzzards, Caracaras, crows) circle around. Then, go to that area and likely a dead antelope or deer sadly awaits you. After too many heartbreaks, we embarked upon the “Stayin’ Alive” quest.
Even before getting the animals, we built 1.5 mile of fencing around a 60 acre section of our beloved Madrone Springs Ranch. In getting the antelope, we learned that 4’ high fences should keep the animals inside the area. Unfortunately, we learned all too quickly that the animals stayed in, but the predators (coyotes, fox, skunks) happily jumped over the 4’ fence to get to our animal friends. We lost this round, soundly…
If you read the “owner’s” manuals for donkeys and alpacas, it explicitly says that they should protect our animals. Sadly, Holly and Frenchie (the miniature donkeys), and Mo, Mia, Mo-ette, and White Walker (the alpacas) refused to read the manual and also refused to protect our antelope. We lost round two…
Having built the 1.5 mile fence, we got to do it again…this time adding panels to increase the fence height an additional 4’. We now believed that coyotes and other predators should not be able to jump over. With our newfound optimism, we doubled down and bought Fallow deer and Axis deer—beautiful and graceful animals that we truly adore. Unfortunately, the coyotes had their own “owner’s” manual and dug underneath our new high fence. More circling birds….more dead animals…Round three was a complete failure.
If the animals want to tunnel underneath the fence, we would make it far more difficult for them. So, back to the drawing board. We now laid 1.5 miles of chicken wire on the ground along the fence line. This added three feet of tunnel that would be required for coyotes to enter our animal buffet. We succeeded in keeping coyotes out! However, we also succeeded in trapping coyotes inside the 60 acres. More circling birds…you now get the picture. Round four succeeded and failed in big ways!
Armed with night vision binoculars and rifles, hunting the predators did not work. I tried electronic calls, smelly meat, and anything else I could think of. I set live traps and did catch a few coyotes, raccoons, and skunks. But, the killing fields continued. So, when the amateurs fail, we turned to a professional—trapper that is. He came armed with new types of traps and the know how to make it work. One week and multiple dispatched coyotes later, we declared success. And with that success, we decided to grow our chicken and duck population, and perhaps unwisely, let them free range during the day. So, no more coyotes or raccoons killing at night, but we now found dive bombing hawks and crows dispatching chickens and ducks during the day. Round five…an incomplete success.
I need to sleep and cannot walk around the 60 acres all night long protecting our animals. Why not “hire” someone to do it for me? Or, get Stormy and Dorian (Great Pyrennes/Akbash mix). These two guardian dogs (brothers) work for cheap (a few cups of kibble per day) and happily patrol all night long. Round six—too soon to tell, but looks promising.
We love our animals and get tremendous joy when they have babies. Sadly, we feel the pain of each lost one. Fortunately, mother nature enabled enough babies to enter our world, that the herds grow, and with each round, we make the song title more and more likely: stayin’ alive. We hope that the song and our ongoing movie will have a happy ending!
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