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Safari at Mud Ranch

It was a long night last night, not only was the moon shining brightly but our dogs were barking incessantly.  I had wandered out in my bare feet with pajamas on shining our LED MagLight around.  I had  noticed the rams were in a bunch to the right of me and the ewes out in the big pasture were in a bunch on the hill.  Just a little after I scoped things out, tip toeing on our shaled drive way, I made my way back in to finally fall back asleep.  I hadn’t seen a thing but knew our dogs were upset, I figured a pack of coyotes had moved through.  In my sleep, I remember hearing the thundering of horse’s hooves at one point but didn’t wake enough to go out.  Hubby said he heard the twang of a fence being jumped and assumed it was by some local deer coming in to chew on our newly planted fruit trees.

Moving right along, I did my normal morning chores threw some hay at the “dudes” (rams) and was going to pull my truck forward to park the horse trailer that was still attached.  I then thought to myself that I’d better weed-whack the spot where the horse trailer was normally parked before putting it there so decided to leave the truck and trailer where it was.  Annie was playing around as I was thinking this all through until I announced that we should get in to Mommy’s Rover and go borrow Papa’s weed-whacker.  We jumped in the Rover and set out for Hubby’s shop which is just across our main town’s road on an adjoining piece of property.  I poked my nose in to tell Hubby where we were off to and noticed that our Pastor and his wife were visiting.  We hung out there instead of going to Papa’s and then after the tour of the shop our Pastor expressed that he’d like to see our barn.  We set out for home in my Rover, kind of like we were on safari, but didn’t know it.

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My little Rover has a set of four jump seats in the back and three seats in the front.  Annie had the passenger, I had the middle, Simon was driving and our Pastor and his wife Barbara were in the back.  We cruised home, parked in front of the house and were talking right there in our drive.  Our dogs, who were still on high alert, came over to greet us quickly and as soon as they came by our sides something very large jumped out of the big pine between us and the ram’s pen.

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My truck and trailer, being parked in front of this tree blocked our view of what was really going on.  We ran around the back side of the trailer only to see a Mountain Lion running as fast as she could but ran in to the fence.  She then followed the fence around which brought her right back toward the house.  She then leapt up in to a smaller pine where our dogs stood at the base barking.  062910_6113

She peered out at me from the second set of branches up, growling and glaring.  The dogs stood at the base of the tree and weren’t letting her down.  I kept telling them what good dogs they were and was hoping and praying that their presence along with mine (and my yelling) would hold her there.  She stayed and growled.  Hubby ran for a gun and came back.  She was shot quickly and accurately but the blast knocked her out of the tree.  She fell quickly and with adrenaline pushing her she ran past me toward the house where Barbara and Annie were staying “out of the way.”  As it turns out the Mountain Lion was running right toward them!  Barbara scooped Annie up in to her arms as she ran around the other side of Hubby’s Rover and held Annie close between it and herself.  The cat went speeding by on the opposite side headed for our wood shed.  Hank, our collie, was right on it’s tail barking the whole time and Abby, bless her little pea pickin’ heart, headed for the culvert to hide in because she hates gun shots.

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Here’s how close things really were.  The large pine to the right of my trailer (truck is still hooked up and right there next to that tree) is where she jumped out of while we stood on the left side in the shade talking.  She ran straight to the right once she jumped out and ran in to the opposite fence of the ram pen then curved around back to the left. 

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The corner of the house is literally right out of the picture.  The little house there with the moon on the door is our pump house and there’s the truck right next to the trailer.  This is about where we were standing when she jumped out of the tree and also about where I was standing bare footed in the middle of the night shining a flash light around.  Barbara and Annie were standing just a little further down the hill when the cat was shot and when she came tearing at them.

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And here’s the little Rover that Barb and Annie hid behind as she zoomed past.  There’s the wood shed she actually fell at with Hank on her the whole time.  All right here, out my front door.  As a friend on Facebook mentioned, it’s like the Wild West! 

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And here’s this year’s Christmas Card.  This is about where she fell, just behind the woodshed.  Hank didn’t like her dead or alive and was pretty serious about it too.  We’re so proud of our dogs and were very protected as far as that cat dropping and running.  The Game Warden made it here this afternoon and said that it’s about a two year old female, excellent condition and around 80 lbs.  She was large.  He also said that normally when they shoot they aim for the head so that it’s a sure quick drop but Simon was thinking to shoot like you would a deer in the heart/lung/liver because it’s a larger area to hit and more of a sure shot.  He certainly didn’t want to make her mad.  The Game Warden said that we were lucky that when she fell she just ran away and didn’t attack our dog or anything else near by (me!) because normally they land fighting.  I am thankful that we were being protected and thank God for that. 

And just so I don’t sound so cold hearted, I do think it’s sad that she had to be shot but in my mind there was no other way.  She was very much in our territory and very much hunting our sheep and posing a huge threat to us.  This was a very serious situation that I’m glad ended happily for us humans involved.  A big cat is nothing to take lightly and the Game Warden confirmed my comment that if we’ve seen this many in six months time, how many are we not seeing?  He said yes, they’re much like mice… If you see a few, there’s probably a lot that you’re not seeing.  Amazing.

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My hand and hers for comparison.

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And the “safari photo” with my Rover – note our grateful sheep in the background.

A special Thanks to Curtis for the photos.

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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