We believe sweet Joseph the lamb was attacked by a coyote between 4 and 6 yesterday afternoon. Full daylight (!!).
The coyote conundrum intensifies.
The subject heading is actually misleading because the sheep and Diego the llama are not yet integrated.
Undoubtedly that was part of the problem.
We’ve been getting Diego’s vaccinations up to snuff so that we could then have the poor guy castrated. We’re in the waiting period between shots #1 and #2.
Diego was in the upper northwestern pasture (his usual territory for the moment). The sheep had the run of most of the meadow. We’re not sure about timing, but I was doing wage work, Ron went for a walk, I left for yoga, Ron came back to do farm chores around 4, he started making dinner around 5:30, I got home at 6:10, and we were eating dinner around 6:30 when Ron noticed that Joseph was limping.
Limping is often–usually–nothing. The sheep seem to twist their feet and ankles semi-regularly, but it sorts itself out after a day or two. He was grazing so we figured it wasn’t that bad. We finished dinner and immediately went out to check on Joseph.
I got there first and tried to look at his back left leg. I noticed a strange wet substance on his leg like he had walked through grass with a lot of rain. Not a good sign. Ron got there, and because Joseph is so calm and trusts us so much, Ron was able to walk up to him, pick him up, and flip him on his sheepie butt. This is how you check out sheep.
Poor Joseph immediately flashed a puncture wound about the size of a quarter on the inside of his back left leg.
Not. A. Good. Sign.
Ron gently felt his leg and we saw some more scraping wounds on the inside of the same leg. More. Not. Good.
I came inside, called Cornell vet (meaning their after hours answering service), and waited for the return call. The vet called back within 15 minutes and we asked him to come out. Unfortunately, after hours = extra $$.
The vet was at the farm within 30 minutes. While we were waiting for him, we struggled to catch Joseph. Initially, Ron had taken Joseph into the greenhouse after we discovered his wounds without any struggle. But both Joseph and the rest of the sheep were upset. They really don’t like when one of them is missing (see: poor sweet Spot).
Ron decided to put him back in Fort Knox with the rest of the flock. But while we were waiting for the vet, we had to nab Joseph again. Not so easy this time given his suspicion and 10 other suspicious sheep. Too much running around and avoiding us–even Joseph with his wounded leg and serious limp. One of Cinnamon’s twin boys somehow ran up my back and leaped over my head, knocking off my baseball hat, in an attempt to escape as I was bent over trying to grab Joseph.
Finally, a tray of corn did the trick. I walked into the sheep shack with the corn. Most of the usual suspects followed me–Cinnamon (of course, aka Corn Girl), Tagine, Half Moon, one of Cinnamon’s boys, and Joseph. Ron shut the door behind me, then we juggled the door to allow him in, and Ron was able to nab Joseph pretty easily in the confined space with only 5 sheep (and Cinnamon happily munching the entire tray of corn despite the strange behavior and events going on–again, see Corn Girl).
Ron carried poor Joseph back into the greenhouse and I stayed with him. He was a bit wound up at first, standing up at the window/walls, but I grabbed him, gave him a big bear (sheep??) hug, and he calmed down. I plopped down on the (dirty) hay, held him, and kept petting him. He just stood there letting me pet him until Ron and the vet got there.
The vet inspected poor Joseph, started shaving the wool off his leg, and ended up finding 6 wounds, the worst of which was a large, 3″ wound in his back thigh. Exposed muscle in the wounds needing stitches. Small amount of muscle damage in two spots. The vet stitched up the larger wounds, gave him penicillin, pain meds, and some anti-toxin something, and gave us directions on how to take care of him the next 5 days. It took about 90 minutes from start to finish.
Joseph was pretty calm through the whole thing. Ron had him on his back or side on his lap. Joseph kicked his back legs a bit now and again, and sometimes wiggled, but we were able to keep him calm and quiet for the most part. I’m sure the fact that we spent much of 12 hours in the greenhouse with him the first day he and his twin sister were born helped.
We heard coyotes howling at one another around 10:30 when we tried to go to bed. Ron spent the night in his sleeping bag near the sheep. I tossed and turned in bed, not sleeping much. We haven’t let the sheep out of Fort Knox yet this morning. They are confused. Cinnamon is mostly guarding the door and baaing at us when we go outside. But the sheep are fairly calm and have less room to run around, which is good for Joseph’s recovery.
Joseph is putting some weight on his back leg, which is a very good sign. He even did this immediately after surgery last night. Joseph was standing up, nursing, and bright eyed this morning (but still hobbling), which makes us feel much better. The vet expressed a lot of optimism that Joseph will eventually make a full recovery. Of course, for the next week, he will have severe limitations and is therefore quite vulnerable. I assume he won’t be at 100% for some time after that.
So, given that what we hoped wouldn’t happen occurred last night (although not as bad as we feared–KNOCK ON WOOD), we have decided Diego’s integration needs to be accelerated. To today. The risk of him mating with a ewe is less than the (known) risk of coyote attack so we plan a gradual and supervised introduction to the sheep today.
A lot rests on poor Diego the llama’s shoulders.