Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Marauding bobcats and duck mysteries

Since my last post, it's been quite busy around here. On Saturday morning, there were three bobcat attacks on chickens (that we know of); I witnessed one of the attacks, which happened so fast I didn't have time to get a photo. Good grief, are these cats speedy! Ironically, at the time I was starting to clear out some blackberry and thimbleberry bushes, in an area where we suspected the bobcats were hiding out, waiting for some innocent (OK, clueless) chicken to stray too near. I heard the turkeys start up their ground-predator call, and looked up just in time to see a large bobcat jump out of the bushes and tall grass about 60 feet from me and grab a New Hampshire pullet. I have to admit that, although I was naturally upset that another of our birds was attacked, I also felt an awe for the beauty of this animal and the speed and efficiency of its attack and retreat.

At the same time, David was down in Sequim, taking another of our hens (don't laugh) to the vet. It had clearly been attacked by a bobcat also, and had a deep laceration across its shoulders. David had tried to close the wound with Superglue, but it was too difficult to get the edges of skin to stay together. It's a valuable laying hen, so he took it in to get stitched up. The vet also gave us a solution to use to clean the wound several times a day.

I ran in and called David right after the attack I saw, and he headed home. I went back out, with something of an adrenaline rush going on, and my camera in hand, on high alert for more signals from the turkeys that the cat was still around. (I assumed that while I was inside telephoning, it probably ran back into the woods, although I was only gone barely two minutes.) When David got back and had put the stitched-up hen inside, he came back out and we decided to try to flush the cat out of hiding, if it was still there in the bushes.

It took only a minute. I was on the south end of the area in question, David on the north. He started hacking his way through the berry bushes with the Swedish brush hook, and suddenly a large bobcat emerged from the bushes about 30 feet from me. It saw me and changed direction, racing away to the west toward the edge of the canyon, the most likely place here for its den to be located. Although I had my camera on and ready to shoot, I only managed to get a very blurry photo; man, that thing was fast! I also noticed that its feet made no sound at all as it ran. Amazing creature.

Shortly after this, I noticed one of our two New Hampshire roosters walking a bit awkwardly. He also seemed to have some loose feathers around his shoulder. Being somewhat hypersensitive to bobcat attacks at the time, I had David catch the rooster so we could examine him. Sure enough, puncture wounds on both his shoulders! The poor thing was clearly in shock. We brought him inside, and for the first day or so we didn't know if he would make it.

At this point, we looked at each other and decided that whatever else was on the agenda that day, we needed to make it a priority to do what we could to protect our birds. Over Saturday and Sunday, we cleared an amazing amount of berry bushes and low-hanging tree branches out the area, mainly around where I had seen the latest attack. We don't expect to completely eliminate the problem, but we figure we need to do what we can to make it harder for the cats to sneak up on the birds.

Like I said, it's been a busy few days.

A bit of good news: we believe we've solved the mystery of what's made some of our ducks sick recently; we'll know for sure when we get test results back from the WSU Avian Health lab. There has been an enormous flush of mushroom growth around here lately; we found some large mushrooms in the front yard, right next to the duck yard, where the ducks get food and water before being closed in their coops at night. The mushrooms showed clear signs that the ducks had been nibbling on them. (We have never seen the chickens or turkeys show the slightest interest in mushrooms.) One of the two ducks we've had inside the past few days died suddenly the other night, and we sent it off to the Avian Health lab for a post-mortem. We should know soon, but we feel pretty confident that the mushrooms are the culprit.

Naturally, we've gone over the entire area that the ducks have access to and removed all the mushrooms we could find. We still have one duck in rehab in the living room, and she seems to be slowly recovering, thank goodness. Her legs are still partially paralyzed, but we've been massaging them and taking her outside to swim in a tub every day. The physical therapy seems to be helping, and we're very thankful that she seems to be on the road to a full recovery.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck foiling the the bobcats and getting a picture. But what amazing stories.