In the years of raising chickens and ducks; I’ve learned that battling predators is part of the job. Our little flock has endured many attacks by many predators but the most active and dangerous are coyotes and foxes. Typically coyotes and foxes are night hunters that hunt in the countryside and usually tend to keep their distance from humans. That is until now!
Wildlife officials are becoming more alarmed by the recent behavior from both coyotes and foxes. They are adapting. They are changing their hunting habits. The dry conditions and scarce food has brought both predators to hunt in broad day light and encroach closer into heavily populated suburban environments.
Two years ago, we had a coyote enter the back patio of our acre property and attempt to pick up our cat Blue, during a hot summer day. By the time I noticed, the cat was already in the coyote’s mouth. Our cat was a big 17+ lb cat and the coyote was struggling to pick him up. The coyote was covered with mange and was very weak. I was able to split up the attack by pushing a large cat carrier over both of them. The coyote released the cat and the cat ran off. To my surprise, the coyote wasn’t afraid of us. It touted off after the attack and left the immediate backyard. I frantically called my husband and told him what happened. He called my neighbor who came over to help me find the cat or coyote. My neighbor rushed across the street in hunter mode with his cross bow in hand. The coyote didn’t last very long since it refused to leave our yard and was handled with by our neighbor who we now lovingly refer to as “Coyote Joe”. Six months later, we lost our cat Red to another ugly coyote attack.
This year the foxes have been relentless. They have picked up where the coyotes left off. These foxes, later identified as gray foxes are the size of a small dog, often hunt in packs and are California natives.
In this recent week, we’ve lost three of our flock. One adult female duck went missing, 3 days later I was seconds behind a fox attacking, killing and taking one of our ducklings. Then the next night, I heard my ducklings screaming again and ran out to multiple foxes attacking their coop and taking yet another duckling.
While these attacks aren’t fun; they are apart of our lives. They are a reminder to keep coop security up to par as well as how to think like a predator. As a result, we’ve learned to step up security and set up no kill traps and game cameras around the yard. We’ve also staged a flashlight and cross-bow by the back door.
After only one night we trapped one! Once trapped, we called around to local wildlife officials to ask their advice. Since we prefer to not kill anything, we released it. We’ve had some success in the past with trapped animals being too scared to return to the property after their entrapment experience. If he comes back again, well that’s another story. Above is the picture of him after his release. Charming isn’t he?
We will continue to keep up security around the property and have added large, loud (but beautiful sounding) wind chime because unpredictable noise is one of the recommended methods of scaring off foxes. They’ve made one reappearance which was a stunning display of multiple foxes on the fence line calling and barking to each other as if to say, “We are leaving but we not afraid of you”. Thankfully, (keep your fingers crossed) they haven’t been seen since!