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Guest Blogger: Coyotes on the Ranch by Susan Spence

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Who dreams of the wild wild west?  Everyone!  We have a fantastic author here with us today by the name of Susan Spence.  Susan is the author of the historical fiction, A Story of the West.

Coyotes on the Ranch

By Susan Spence

One thing we live with in rural Montana is coyotes. For many they are a plague. In fact ranchers, as well as the government, have spent a lot of time and money attempting to eradicate them. I know they can cause problems, but my husband and I make every effort to get along with them.

There was a book that came out a few years ago called Don Coyote. It was written by a rancher in Oregon who was upset with the government’s poison control program. Did you know that they used to fly airplanes over both public and private land spreading poison pellets? Dayton Hyde, the author of Don Coyote, described how afterwards, he would ride through the forest and it would be completely silent, the ground littered with dead birds and other animals. He decided there had to be a better way to deal with coyotes and began studying them and even protecting the ones on his ranch.

If we caught one going after our animals, my husband wouldn’t hesitate to kill it, but the fact it’s there doesn’t mean an automatic death sentence. One thing we realize is that despite all efforts to remove them, they are still around. Also, most of them don’t cause problems. Many of them avoid humans and livestock and those are the ones we want around. If we killed them just for being there, who knows if the next one to move in wouldn’t become a nuisance.

A few times we’ve seen coyotes and foxes from the house, which is too close, as we don’t want them coming around the barnyard where our chickens and other animals roam freely. In those cases, my husband quickly pulls out the rifle, which completely freaks out our dogs. He then shoots towards, but not at them. When they hear the shot and the bullet raises a tiny poof of dust as it skips behind them, they get the message and are gone in a flash.

We don’t worry about them around the calves because our cows are excellent mothers. One day I was coming up the drive and a coyote crossed ahead of me, trotting in the direction of our cattle. I watched as the mother cows immediately went into defensive mode, positioning themselves around the calves. The coyote wouldn’t have stood a chance against them, but was just passing through anyway.

When an animal dies on our place, we haul it off a ways and let coyotes, as well as foxes, eat the carcass. We’ve disposed of chickens, cattle and goats this way. Most would think we are asking for trouble, believing our actions will draw undesirable animal species in. We see it differently. As Dayton Hyde pointed out, a well-fed predator is less likely to cause trouble than a hungry one. So they are more than welcome to have what we don’t use.

Of course we don’t take anything for granted. Part of our dogs’ job description is to keep coyotes respectable and to chase off any that come close.

So far this approach has worked, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t continue working. We believe we can share our land with others and not have to worry about anything causing trouble if we simply set a few boundaries.

Susan Spence has always been intrigued with life in the west in the 1880s. She researched historical accounts and first-person narratives as she prepared to write A Story of the West. A lifelong resident of the west, she currently lives in Montana on an old sheep shearing station with lots of furry critters and one partially furry critter. This is her first novel, and she is busily working on a sequel due out in late spring. You can visit her website at www.writing-ranch.com.

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