Tuesday, August 07, 2007

bye bye sheep

I did mention we have to find a new place to send ram lambs. Well, maybe we won't have quite as many.
I called the Conservation Department to ask about a kill we had over the weekend. Although we are missing two rams this year....this was the first kill we had found. Our main group of rams is across the creek bed....presently dry creek bed....from the rest of the sheep. I have a small ram pen up by the road that has in the past supported three rams. This year we are feeding them hay, as everything is burnt. I have one older boy in there with two yearlings. The older boy fights all the time with another his age in the back meadow. Thus the separation.
Some years we have had over twenty rams in the back meadow. All summer and winter they have been safe. This spring we missed a yearling ram. Here one night, gone the next day. Believe me, if there was a trace of him, wool or anything we would have found it. We spent three days tramping through their pasture, the woods, and down the creek looking.
Every evening we take a bucket of grain across the creek and call the rams. They come running to get a mouthful before a bigger ram pushes them aside. Easy to count, next to the fence. Eight older boys, and five big ram lambs. Whoops.
There are only twelve.
At the end of the day, we penned the rest of the rams at feeding time, and started looking. Now often, a ram will get his horns caught in the fence, or find some barbed wire or electric fencing to tangle with....we were expecting to find a ram. Nope....what we found was three areas with tuffs of black wool. As if mr ram was pulling it off in his mouth. And the intestines. Whoops again.
I am sure I don't remember biology from high school. So I am at a loss to tell you what parts there were....but, I am guessing a paunch....which looked like a water balloon, and a pile of other things that appeared to be a stomach with something else attached. No sheep carcass....no bone fragments...no hoofs....no blood.....no horns....the only thing that had flies were the parts that were from inside the body.
Now it is dry....there are marks in the dust...but no clear footprints....no evidence that a herd of coyotes were feasting. No marks on the other rams. No barking dog in the middle of the night.
There were a few paths through the weeds on the other side of the fencing...but no sign that a partially wool covered body had been dragged thru. So we decided to come back in the dark and light the place up with a gun. Both flashlights and gunfire. By the next day, I began to think about the remains of my ram lamb. His name was navy, OK, so he was black. Something in the back of my mind didn't seem to fit. What we had found looked similar to what our cats leave in the yard. The dogs are always prowling for those innards. Dogs will eat them....cats won't.
I called the Conservation Department folks to get some information about this unusual kill. Now we have had coyotes find a sheep carcass....we used to throw them out in the trash pit. We live out in the country....and there is no dirt. What we found was wool everywhere as body parts were dragged all over ...not to be gross but coyotes don't finish everything....I had to pick up parts from everywhere. Now, we have a big compost pile near the front of the pasture...fenced with high fencing, so that our dog doesn't explore it for a nice chewing bone. Missouri doesn't really want to admit they have cougars. But the sightings have been well documented this year....so mr conservation didn't deny they were here. And yes, it seems that cats...cougars and bobcats do remove the innards before they make off with their prey. Dang!
Unfortunately, I didn't snap a photo that first night. I was told there are fellows at the main office that can tell what killed just by how the kill site looks. Well, by the time I went back with a camera....there was nothing but the chewed grass laying in the dirt. Something had made off with the surrounding stuff.
So now, we are still going back to light up the night by the rams....but I have mixed feelings about exploring the woods on the other side of the fencing. I keep forgetting to look up. Our vet takes a big gun when he goes in the woods these days. Of course, he has seen what cats and bears can do. He tells me a big cat can jump 40 feet. Well a bobcat could take a ram lamb down. Unfortunately, what we have seen here does not have a short tail. Something about the size of a big ram lamb , but with a long long tail....whoops. Here kitty, kitty.
Well, I am sorry to bother you with such un-nice stuff....but if anyone has had a kill that looked similar....or different. I would be interested in trying to understand what is out there in the dark....Do coyotes eat everything....or do they run around like dogs chasing down another victim? My kill experience has been limited to chickens....Fortunately.
I'm checking the paper for a sheep auction to attend....Don't want to take my sheep where it's dirty. Send some rain this way when you are done with it....the orange days in the forcast here only go up to Saturday....maybe in another month we can get another 1/8 inch of rain to fall.


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