Well, this week it’s all about animals!
First, an update on the black bear. He showed up at our neighbor’s place, sniffing around their goat pen. (They have two adorable dwarf Nigerians.) The husband fired a warning shot to scare the bear off, then he called FWP (Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.). A game warden came out and looked around, but did not recommend setting a trap.
Then the bear returned and helped himself to a chicken snack, which does not bode well for the bear.
Tuesday he showed up on our ranch! John was in the goat barn when he heard Belle, who was just outside the barn, growl. She had never growled before, so he stepped around to the outside and found himself ten yards from the bear!
He waved his arms and shouted, “Shoo, bear!” but it was non-plussed. Finally, he drew his pistol and fired a warning shot into the ground. Even then, the bear was in no hurry to amble up the hill and out of sight.
Later that afternoon when I was home, we saw the bear again, striding along the South ridge of our property, in view of our house. At that point, John called the FWP Bear Manager for our district (yes, there is such a thing!), and we are still waiting to hear from him. It is busy season for bears, and I suppose he is on more urgent calls.
Montana law states that a person may shoot a bear if it attacks a person, domestic dog, or livestock. Unfortunately, we have heard two single shots in the draw since Tuesday, and we have not seen the bear since then. So we don’t know if he is still out there or not.
As a precaution, while in town I purchased a baby monitor with a 1500 foot range. We put the receiver in the goat barn, and the parent unit in our bedroom.
We always carry our pistols with us on the property for protection; now we are carrying bear spray, as well. Friday we made a trip to town, and John purchased shotgun shells filled with 1/4 inch rubber shot. If needed, we could use this to scare the bear, rather than killing it. (Bear spray is a form of pepper spray to be aimed at the bear, if necessary. It is NOT like a mosquito repellent that you spray on yourself! Seems like every summer we hear about a hapless tourist who does not read the instructions and sprays it on him/herself!)
Thursday night at midnight we heard an unfamiliar noise on the monitor. It sounded like something was fiddling with the hasp lock and caribiner that we have on the old chest freezer that we use for storing goat chow. The bear?
We both grabbed our pistols, wrapped up in robes, and stepped out on the front porch. From there, we can see all of the coops and the barn. With John’s strong flashlight, we could see into the outer area of the goat barn where we keep two old freezers filled with hay and grain. Thankfully, no bear. But maybe a sighting like this would have moved us up on the FWP bear manager’s priority list.
I talked with an FWP representative today about their bear policies. Basically, there are no hard and fast rules; good judgement prevails.
FWP feels as we do, that people have moved into the bears’ territory, not vise versa. As such, they encourage citizens to be “bear aware,” take precautions, and avoid creating situations that create “bear attractants.” Common sense: don’t leave animal food out, enclose your animals at night, clean your grills after using, close your windows and doors when cooking.
If a bear starts becoming a geniune nuisance, getting into trash and or livestock, FWP will trap it, tag it, and relocate it to a more remote area. If a tagged bear shows up again in a populated area and demonstrates destructive behaviors, it may have to be euthanized. Every case is considered individually.
The woman I spoke with highly encouraged us to put electric fencing around all of our coops and the barn. She said the bears are very crafty, and electric fencing is about the only effective deterrent. Frankly, I am surprised they can feel the charge through their thick fur. So, electric fencing might be in our future.
We also had a friendlier critter show up this week: a sweet little grey kitty that we have dubbed “lil’ KK” (as in Kitty Kat.) She showed up under our front porch, and as soon as we called her, she came out. Of course, we fed her some tuna, and of course, now she shows up regularly for food. I never thought I’d be buying cat food again!
We think maybe she is working us and another neighbor (or two) for food; clearly she is not feral. She rubs on our legs, and when I sit down in a chair on the porch, she hops into my lap. I need to contact our neighbors to see if anyone claims her; if not, a trip to the vet is in order for her shots. How much does it cost to spay a cat these days? I can’t hold her still long enough to see if she has a scar.
And then we have a house guest for a week and a half: meet “Grit!” Is that a great dog name, or what?! Grit’s “parents” are good friends of ours, and when they go out of town, Grit comes to “Camp Craig.” He and Belle are big buds.
Grit is a blue heeler, a very popular breed here in Montana. They are bred to herd cattle, and they are known for nipping at the heels of cattle to keep them moving. They are also known as Australian Cattle Dogs, and they can also be a rust color, known as a red heeler.
Ms. Bunny is out and about a good bit. It’s funny, we never see more than one or maybe two at a time. You’d think by now we’d be overrun with bunnies. Realistically, I think the owls, hawks, and eagles keep them in check.
Remember my friend Sherie? An eagle actually tried to fly off with one of their farm cats! Fortunately, it was not able to get away with the cat, but while I was there, the sweet kitty was missing a patch of fur on its back where the eagle tried to grab it.
It’s just a fact of nature that any free ranging animals are subject to free ranging predators.