A Weiner Dog and a Switch

That’s what the trapper told my father-in-law when he inquired as to how he would get a mountain lion we thought had killed one of our pregnant ewes this past week.  We found out, he really wasn’t kidding about the wiener dog, and the switch was actually a thunder stick.

Now, this is one of those touchy subjects, something most people don’t really have to deal with in their day to day lives.  Hunting a mountain lion who has killed one of your livestock, and of course, plans to do it again is hard on some people’s hearts and minds.  But then, so is knowing that what you buy in the super market in little packages was also a living and breathing animal.  This is part of our circle of life, predators and prey.  Unfortunately, we lost a beloved ewe one that has grown on our hearts since she moved her from the city.  She was one of our “City Girls” and was halter broke, sweet and produced some beautiful lambs crossed with Raider last year.  I was hoping that she would produce a ram lamb for me this year to use as a breeder in fall, unfortunately her lambs were lost along with her: Chicory Lane Emma.

I had discovered Emma’s mangled body after going on a search for a dead ewe or some sort of mishap because I had seen our LGD, Abby, carrying around a dead and part eaten lamb in her mouth.  I wondered if someone had aborted and was still having trouble or… What?  I ended up searching around the barn thanks to Abby’s encouragement the night previous with a lot of barking.  I believe that the ewe was killed earlier (and so did the trapper) after seeing how much of her was really eaten.  It’s just that the cat had probably come back to feed once again and that’s when we noticed Abby’s alert.  Now, Abby is an excellent LGD especially toward dogs and coyotes but lacks that take charge personality that would lend her to really fight.  We’re now on the search for an already trained male LGD with a more fierce attitude.

Anyway, I found Emma’s body and quickly noticed that there were intestines near by (something a cat won’t eat) and also noticed pine needles scratched around the body though not covering it.  That, to me, was a dead giveaway.  Cats always like to bury things, especially their next meal.  I then noticed that my 2.5 year old daughter was skipping and running around up to 50 yards away from me (we were near our barn,) coming toward me, moving away and I thought this cat could be very close by watching this whole thing.  I grabbed my daughter’s hand and we cautiously made our way back to the house.  I was thankful for our dog’s companionship at that moment – I have always been one to watch my animal’s reactions to the situations and or environment to see what is happening because I know I cannot rely on my own seeing and hearing or smelling.  We quickly called the Fish & Game and talked with some helpful men.  Not long after the Game Warden met us and looked around the site.  He was questioning that it was a cat (though I think that is a smart tactical move on their part – so as not to get your nerves on end.)  He then called our local trapper who has been a Federal Trapper for many many years and he’s definitely an expert in his field.  He came out the next morning (Tuesday) and also doubted we would find anything because of all the rain we had (another tactical move.)  I kind of doubted he’d find anything too and he mentioned we may have to wait this one out… That would mean another lost sheep and more heartache for us.  Let alone the possible confrontation of cat vs. me or someone else close by.  That’s a very scary thought.

Our Trapper went up to the scene by himself, looked at the carcass, then let his first pack of three hounds out of his truck.  I watched from the house, waiting for my mom to come over so she could watch my daughter for me.  The hounds moved around the barn, relieved themselves, and looked around… Soon, they were baying and barking running from our corner fence line out to a little bit of shrubs and bushes on the side of a ridge behind our property line.  Not long after those dogs had left and the baying had started that I heard the tail gate of the truck drop a second time and the second pack of three hounds came charging out and running in the direction their friends had gone.

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My mom had come and I took off out of the house, with my camera in hand.  I walked up the dirt road that goes to our neighbor’s houses beyond ours and crouched beneath a pine tree trying to look in the direction of where the dogs were barking.  Hubby had to make a trip to the Bay Area so I had him on my cell phone and told him everything that was happening while it happened.  I knew those dogs had treed something by their excitement and barking.

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Finally I had heard a shot, and the fog started to lift a little so I could just make out the pack of dogs circling around the fallen cat.  As soon as I heard the shot, I heard a large crashing through the bushes, obviously from the cat falling out of whatever she had perched herself in.

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The photo above is the same at the one above it, but I zoomed in so you could see the pack and our Trapper.

My Hubby then started telling me to start hiking up there!  He told me to hang up and call him back when I could, so I started moving.  I met our Trapper when he just reached the bottom of the hill, the cat in tow.  My first impression was that she was pretty small, I had envisioned an animal much bigger though maybe my head may have embellished my mind’s eye a bit.

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I thanked the Trapper over and over again, and then started asking questions.  He said that the cat was about average for a female and was around 65 lbs.  He also said that her coat was not in very good condition and that by the looks of her and of the carcass she had left by my barn, she was planning another attack soon.  He also said she hadn’t left the area and had probably been watching me for a few days… Doesn’t that give you the warm fuzzies?  And as evidenced by the picture above… He really wasn’t kidding about the wiener dog and you’ve never met such a dog in your life.  She was so funny and so very big in her own mind’s eye.  Our Trapper also told me that a male cat is approximately 100 lbs. heavier and the biggest he’s ever shot was 172 lb. male.  Can you imagine how huge that must have been!?  I think if I ever came eye to eye with a cat like that (nevertheless, one like this little female), I would have had a heart attack before he could have gotten to me.

So the Trapper took his dogs back to the truck and pulled the truck up to the cat.  I told him I’d baby sit while he went.  I took lots of photos and looked at her claws.

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As you can see, they’re quite large.  So is her paw compared to mine.

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He loaded her up in the back of his pick-up, filled out some paper work and the permit we were issued by Fish & Game and then left.  I’m sure he was off to take all the stats at our local Fish Hatchery where she could be properly weighed and all nails and teeth accounted for.  I am curious to find out more about her, such as age etc. so I hope we are able to find out form our Game Warden. 

So this leaves me with the thought of how many people will read this post and be slightly offended or what your thoughts are in general?  I post things like this because it is real life and my blog is especially about farm life.  This is what happens when you own livestock, and when there is a cat stalking you or your animals something needs to be done about it.  There are a lot of cats in our wilderness and we do have a lot of wild land left here all around us for them to roam in… It’s just that sometimes the cats find the convenience of pastured animals or even house dogs and cats to be very inviting. 

And another thought, we live in California… and most think it’s the land of the fruits, nuts, and flakes but despite all those who think California is one big beach and one big city… Obviously you don’t know how large California really is.  There is a lot more country than there is beach or city.

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About mudranch

I live in the country, I love to take photos, I'm a shepherdess, I adore my husband and daughter, I walk in the will of Christ.

Posted on January 27, 2010, in Jacob Sheep, Life, Nature and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. Glad you are out of harms way! Very scary to have a mountain lion this close. I totally understand why you needed the animal off of your property!

    I always wonder in these types of situations why aren’t these animals taken deep into the Alps and released? I know that they can roam hundreds of miles so maybe they are too tempted to return?

    Our Mountain Lion population is dwindling in CA and I hope we can continue to explore new ways to keep our properties and families safe while giving these beautiful creature the space they need to live healthy lives.

    Thanks for keeping it real Joan!
    :)

    • Thanks Rachelle – that’s what I aim to do is keep it real. I don’t just want all sweetness and light because then that wouldn’t be portraying life as it truly is. There is good and bad all over, unfortunately.

  2. Not Emma! Darn!
    While I love wild animals and domestic dogs, my sheep are under my protection and we do what we have to do to protect them. It is part of raising livestock.

    • Exactly my sentiments Linda. I was also very bummed it was Emma… I had hoped for some lambs out of her. :( It was funny… I found myself thinking, “Why couldn’t it have been so-and-so…” :) You know, the ones that are bound for butcher anyway. Oh well.

  3. wow. gives me chills. I have to admit, Lily and I were both sort of wondering “but what about the cat?” but as soon as I read that it had been watching you for a few days…and the thought of Annie (!) encountering it, well. I do know you have to protect your livestock too…our predators here are only fox and hawk, and not nearly as destructive. wow. I love the wiener dog! that is too funny. A hot dog hunting a lion.

    Well, enough excitement for you for the time being. I hope the rest of your lambing season is uneventful!

    • Thanks for the well wishes on lambing Kate – I anticipate things will be happening soon! There are some girls out there with large bags already! :)

  4. Wow! Sleepy Trinity County. You did the right thing Joan. I have wildlife cameras set up at our place in Hayfork 24/7. The cameras have caught mountain lions, 2 at a time, and lots of bear very close to our house and barn.

    In Marin County we often ride our horses within the Point Reyes National Seashore. We have seen many mountain lions, usually at dusk, while riding in the park. Last October we saw 2 lions hunting together! They were chasing a deer it was really amazing. Over the past several years the park service has killed off over 400 “exotic” deer. They took a lot of items off the menu for these cats. There has been an explosion of cat
    sightings in this area by hikers and equestrians. Solo rides are now discouraged by my husband.

    I really enjoy your photos. Stay safe.

    Kristi
    Proud guardian and trail partner of Kiger “Chula”

    • Very interesting info Kristi – and thanks for chiming in! Blue said that there were cats all over this country and often watching us we just cannot see them at all. That sure made me feel really good, ;) especially seeing her hair color compared to the dirt she was lying on… Almost exactly the same color. Their camo is incredible.

  5. The weiner dog is hilarious! Does she actually participate with the other hounds in baying and chasing?

    I agree with Rachelle in regards to keeping it real. I find myself shying away from some subjects on the blog due to how people might react. Living in the country with livestock isn’t all warm and fuzzy. Good job all the way around!

    • Yeah – she really does. He said that she “got away from him” and was taking off toward where the hounds went. I would imagine he’d hot foot it after her. :) She was ferocious toward the cat though, once it was shot. Quite humorous for sure, to see her getting after it! :)

      Thanks for the kudos on keeping it real too – I sometimes question posts that I do but then I wouldn’t be completely honest about myself and my life so I post as I am lead to do. I am glad I brought this subject up and of course am interested in all takes that people have on it. While I love all creatures great and small (I believe most farmers do, otherwise why would they raise animals?) and do believe we need to be good stewards but also believe there are boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed. Like my mom says, I have an internal compass. :D

  6. Good kill. . . . life is about choices, and that cat (although beautiful) made a bad choice. Protect your own Joan. . . love you.

    Unkie Jim

  7. As the Sheriff says in “Cars”, ” NOT IN MY TOWN”!

  8. Any cat that has lost its fear of people is dangerous. I totally agree that it had to be killed, sheep are easy pickings and you had to be safe. I would love to hear more about the cat, age etc. as I’m surprised it was in bad condition with as many deer around as there are. I think that most cats, in good health, will prefer wild meat and without them the deer become like rats. I’ve heard that young males, when they leave their mom and are hunting for themselves, will try almost anything that moves in their hunger. So solo rides and runs are not a good idea if cats have been seen.
    Getting another LGD sounds like you’ve found a great solution, and anything that tried to get Annie would have to go through Hank first – so he will give you peace of mind as well as he gets bigger. Glad it all ended well except for poor dear Emma. She was a special girl.

    • That’s why I’m interested in her stats too Dianne – I am thinking she was older and getting desperate. We certainly do have a lot of deer here, especially because people feed them and they don’t migrate out of town all year. Thankfully we have a nice group of gals who ride together so hopefully that’ll deter any cats attacking when we start to go out again once the weather clears a bit. Hank will definitely be a big asset to protecting Annie when he’s bigger. I’m not so sure he’s capable of much now but it won’t be long. My collie, Henry, was always with me and protected me many times. He would have had no problem fighting a cat for me… I think he would have walked through fire.

  9. I’m so sad to hear it was Emma. It is sad that the cat had to die but I think we all understand that the safety of your family comes first. When you bring in sheep you bring in perdators from the area also. Wild animals can be so un-predictable at times especialy when very hungry that you don’t want to WAIT AND SEE. Please don’t let your guard down just because the cat is gone because there will always be more perdators. I think coyotes are the worst. They are shy but as soon as your back is turned they come in and can get very bold. It only takes two to take down a person and we have had several bad attacks here in Washington lately. If I lived in your area and had sheep, goats, poultry etc. I would always carry my firearm with me when I was outside by myself.

  10. I agree with everyone else, necessary but sad….

  11. Wow, that is some scary stuff. I live in southern Indiana, less that a mile from a naval base that likes to release animals on the base, usually for hunting, but the animals never stay on the base, they always find a way through the fence. From what I have been told, so far they have released rattlesnakes, timberwolves, and at least one black panther. I myself have seen the panther and the rattlesnakes, and have heard the wolves. I know there are more animals that I don’t know about, and non of them are local to my area. This is why I don’t hike or ride my horses in the area without a dog and a firearm. So I understand the fear and caution you are experiencing, and I wish you the best and I completely understand what you did, you have to do what is necessary to protect your family, and that includes livestock.

    • Wow Stephanie! A panther!! That’s nuts, and I’m surprised that sort of thing is permitted over there… Crazy. You’re a smart lady, carrying the way you do over there. Sounds like you have quite a problem.

      • Luckily I was in my truck when I saw the panther, and I hear the wolves while I am sitting on my porch at night. I have also heard of them letting out bear. I don’t know how they can do it either. I think they let out the predators trying to take care of the over population of white tail deer in the area.

  12. Oh I love this post, keep it real! I was fascinated to read the weiner dog part, as we have some weiner crosses who think they’re cow dogs. Even with us on horseback, they keep up with the big dogs. They like to take the lead and are very ambitious little dogs.
    We have a lot of lions around this part of Arizona. I don’t see them while riding, but livestock gets killed, and I’ve seen plenty of horses that have been attacked and lived, but bear scars.
    I used to shoe for one lady in a remote area and she had a lion problem. Very rugged territory. She had a hunter come out several times, and when I went to shoe there, she would show up at the barn with a pistol on her hip. (not uncommon around here, people carry openly) She also had a young daughter at that time and kept her close by. I had no doubts if a lion dared show, she would shoot it quite handily. Very confident woman, that one. She’s a Lifeflight nurse, a special breed of people, IMO.
    I’m also fascinated by the lion hunters and their hounds. We see a few at the vet clinic in town come in with various injuries, and photos of them hunting are in the office. The lion hunters themselves are quite the characters.
    I loved your description of him dropping the gate, and each pack coming out. That just gives me a thrill! I bet it was incredible to watch the whole thing.
    Thanks for a great post! Great pics too!

    • Thanks Mikey – I sure wish CA would allow people to carry openly… I think CA is a different country, we’re so weird and controlled. AZ and NV I am always envious of. Yeah – I don’t believe we’re out of the woods as far as cats go for now. I’m taking every precaution for a while and hopefully won’t ever let me guard down too much that it’s unsafe. We have a good little wilderness behind us and a large mountain that comes right down to our property that is owned by a private lumber company so there’s lost of space for them to be up there.

      Our lion hunter was a really cool dude… He offered to come back and help out with coyote problems and ways to keep them out of our pastures. We have a HUGE problem with them, but they don’t scare me at all. They’ve snuck up behind me when I was a young teen at my parent’s house but I turned all predator and chased the suckers… They made me so mad I went crazy! LOL

  13. Thanks for telling this tale! I still enjoy reading your blog from the confines of San Diego many months after stumbling into your world while searching for Kigers. It is my dream to pack up and head north in the near future (I’m originally from WA) and I realize the consequences that can occur when entering wild areas. You may enjoy a book “Mountain air: The life of Gordon Stuart, mountain man of the North Cascades” I used to live in the relative vicinity of this fellow (if you consider one valley and ten miles of bushwacking close) and the accounts are fascinating. Mountain folk are a different breed – need any teachers in your neck of the woods? :)

    • Thanks for commenting Siri – yes that is certainly close in my book. You’re not far away until you’re about 3 hours in my book. A valley and 10 miles of bushwhacking is certainly “local.” :) Yes, we have teaching jobs open many times in local elementary schools and our HS which is in Weaverville.
      ~Native Mountain Folk… A rare breed. ;)

  14. Joan, thank Heaven you and your precious daughter have stayed out of harm’s way! I don’t condone unnecessarily killing animals, but there is a time and a place for everything, as you well know. This was the time, and this was the place. Loved the photos, and especially the one with all the dogs. Small dogs often don’t know that they are small, do they? Thank you for keeping up with your blog, I really enjoy reading about your lifestyle. A little different than mine, living in the Portland OR metropolitan area.

    • Thanks for stopping in Linda! It’s always very good to hear from you… I always enjoy your Christmas letters. :) That little weiner dog certainly thought she was something much larger than what she was! She was a crack up and so big in her own mind. :D

  15. wow Joan, that pic of the tooth is hardcore! maybe you could ask if you could keep one (maybe i’m weird for thinking that would be a cool momento)

    • That would be kinda cool Molly but here in CA (maybe all of USA?) they are very strict on not keeping anything from a mountain lion. I know without a doubt that they would not let me keep one. They’re pretty protected creatures.

  16. Sorry to hear about the loss of Emma! That must have been very sad to find her body.
    I don’t think I could have stayed around and watched the hunt and see the dead cat, but I think having the trapper get her is the right thing to do! She was obviously dangerous and found so close to home, she was staying near her next meal. When trail riding, I forget there are lions out there. I’ve always worried about bear, but lions are far more dangerous! I hope you don’t have future problems with cats.

  17. An animal who is not in very good condition is desperate. And you were very right to be concerned for Annie as she’s probably still small enough… It’s sad that this happened, but I think we all understand.

  18. Glad your all safe and sound now, sorry you lost Emma, but it could have been far worse…

    You did the right thing Joan, protecting your family and your flock x

  19. Oh, Joan, I am sorry to hear you lost Emma but glad to hear they got the cat. The way it sounded I thought they were just going to brush you off. With the cat hanging around like that, things could have turned out much worse. It’s good they let the dogs determine whether the cat existed or not instead of their human leanings. I guess it goes to show how little even the experts know sometimes.

    There has been a large male cougar spotted within a couple of miles of my farm. Knowing the range such cats can cover makes me very nervous. I wonder if we have federal trappers here. The fish and wildlife number now lives by my phone. I don’t want Lindsay going out to the barn alone at night anymore either. Not taking any unnecessary chances here.

  20. Since you asked …
    I suppose I wouldn’t have gone for this post if I wasn’t up for a little violence, based on its title. (Weiner Dog and a Switch? Huh?)

    The issue of endangered predators being killed by livestock owners is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Each individual case is understandable, but livestock has a lot more land than the wildlife these days, and not just predators but their wild prey can suffer from the imbalance. So I guess I’m one of the people you were afraid would be offended. I have butchered my own meat though, so I’m not squeamish.
    As you say, this is real life.

    I appreciated your post, it added some useful perspective. Some livestock losses might be considered due to laziness – people not keeping guard dogs, or leaving stock to range without supervision, and then complaining when they lose a few.
    I hadn’t thought about the fear factor; to have a big predator messing around that close to your house would be scary indeed. I understand healthy cats are more discreet, and stay out of adult peoples’ way.

    Small kids can be a target, and may need to be taught to stick close to the big people if predators are common in the area. Or do the ‘gods must be crazy II’ trick and act big. No need to panic, or stay inside the house all the time – and a weapon doesn’t have to be a gun. One friend’s ranch had a hoe at each corner of the house for rattlesnakes.
    If you give your kid the tools to understand wild animals without fear – even a stick-sword or a squirt-bottle can help, and pepper spray is used against bears in Alaska – the difference in attitude and awareness can keep your family safe and encourage healthy predators look for easier prey.

    I’ve heard ranchers who react to this kind of fear by snarling with bravado, wanting to exterminate anything that moves. I think there’s a big difference between irresponsible or vengeful killing (e.g. leaving out poison that kills neighbors’ dogs and truly wild critters, and may never catch the actual livestock killer), vs. hiring a competent trapper to track down the guilty (individual) culprit. A good trapper knows how to target an individual, or a specific species, while avoiding indiscriminate killing.

    Cats are very smart, and they learn from patterns in their territory – many wild cats can live for years near people and never cause problems, because they learn to leave people alone. Cats understand about tracking; the easiest way not to get tracked down and killed if you are a cougar, is not to leave tracks around the other top predators’ nesting territory. So I would hope that your problem was due to the individual cat’s making a bad choice in tough times.

    Relocating big predators is no kinder than killing them, and can be worse. Big cats and pack canines have territories, and if you relocate a problem child into others’ territory, either they will kill each other, or the problem predator will bring down the locals’ attention from the new area, possibly sparking a heavier reprisal against the local animals. There may be a few wild areas without predators where such a creature could be relocated, but I think it would be wiser to stock such areas with well-behaved and healthy predators that will teach cubs to respect the two-legged people.

    I also appreciated your detail on why you suspected it was a cat kill. A lot of people insist on blaming big cats or wolves when the kill is obviously a pack of neighborhood dogs, not wanting to believe Fido has a dark side when he goes out at night even if his darling little tracks are all around the scene. Your observations sounded accurate, and a good tracker can make many more observations that can prevent wildlife becoming a scapegoat for the truly irresponsible owners.

    I do feel, just like people who can’t handle butchering are welcome to buy chikkin nuggits, people who can’t handle having wildlife around may not be cut out for living in the country. Taking steps to defend yourself is good sense; and I sympathize with those who have unusual predator problems. But if you are constantly afraid, and every time you see or hear coyotes you want to get rid of all of them, it might be time to move into town. We won’t run out of meat if a few ranchers give up the tradition – there are plenty others (and it sounds like you are one) who take good care of their animals and can tell the difference when a normal predator becomes a problem individual.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences, I look forward to reading more.
    Not being a rancher, I don’t have much call to go spouting off on the subject on my own, so thanks for raising the issue. I hope this was your last big cat problem for a while!

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