Here is another guest post from Ron.
All my life I have thrilled at the sound of coyotes howling and I’ve had the rare privilege of hearing wolves in the wild in Montana. I hold great admiration for these intelligent and adaptable creatures and have donated to many causes and signed many a petition to protect their right to live and hunt in our wild places.
We hear the howl of the Eastern Coyote frequently at White Pine Farm, and thrill to it as always. However, since our sheep have been here this thrill is mixed with a deep trepidation. Coyotes eat sheep! We have never had a problem and the most serious steps I have taken include improving and monitoring the perimeter fence, and on occasion walking into our dark pastures at night and responding to nearby howling with a hearty “NO COYOTES ALLOWED HERE!”
But, alas, there has been an upswing in sheep predation this summer. Our cohorts in sheep raising up the hill lost a lamb, and had two more injured badly. One of the injured may not survive. Other shepherds have lost sheep on Snyder Hill and only a mile or two away down near the village of Brooktondale. So despite my admiration for these creatures, something must be done. The immediate solution was the quick construction of a 50 by 50 foot safe pen (now known as Fort Knox) with a 7-foot fence and 2-foot wire skirt around the perimeter. The sheep have contentedly spent the night there the last week or so, and love bouncing around in the sheep shack. This is not something I really want to do long term though.
Hence, we introduce to you Diego the llama!
I found this handsome boy at an alpaca farm to the north where the owners have aged out of farm work. Diego and his father Reuben journeyed down here in the owner’s horse trailer last week and Reuben has joined the farm family up the hill. I have told a few people about the new member of our farm family and not surprisingly they do not see the connection between coyote attacks and our desire to have a llama.
Llamas are natural guard animals and have been used for centuries to protect sheep. They are bigger, much taller in stature, and have an instinctive hatred for all things canid. Unlike the sheep, they will confront a canid intruder with a loud alarm call and stomping. The wise coyote will quickly look elsewhere for dinner, or risk serious injury or even death. Coyote, 40 pounds, llama 200 plus. This is not good arithmetic for Wily E.
Diego is currently an intact male, so castration is a pre-requisite for integration into the flock. Intact llama males may try to mate with ewes (!). Again, ewe 100 pounds, llama 200 plus. Not good arithmetic for the sheep. This will take a few weeks as the Cornell vet wants his immunizations up to date before surgery. For now he is sadly alone, and not too happy about it. He can see the sheep and seems to want to be with them, but not just yet poor Diego!
It is my sincere hope that he bonds with the sheep as expected, and lives with and protects them for many years. I hope this is the case as not only do I want our sheep safe, but I find myself already growing quite fond of this beautiful, calm animal.
So more later on the great llama adventure!