— PREDATOR UPDATE —
10, 2007 — Last week's story about our deadly
predator generated a lot of interest and commentary from the audience. Here
is an update:
it a Coyote, Coydog or Feral
I spoke with two professional trappers last week. One was from our local community
here in central SC. The other was from Ohio. Both agreed that the tracks from
the first kill (a goose) were NOT left by a coyote. Based on the size of
the prints and nature of the kill, they felt the predator was
probably a coydog or feral dog. Our local trapper, Chip Sharpe,
explained that a coydog is a cross between a coyote and a feral dog, most commonly
the offspring of a male coyote and female dog. Depending on the
size of the mother, these hybrids can grow much larger than a regular coyote.
Sharpe informed me that we have plenty of coydogs in our area, plus a population
of feral dogs. I didn't realize that feral dogs are not simply domestic/stray
dogs gone wild. Feral dogs are born in the wild with no human contact whatsoever.
They, along with coyotes and coydogs, are wily predators seldom seen
by the general public except, perhaps, as road kill.
How about an Otter?
trappers believe the second kill (a swan) was by a different predator altogether,
one that probably approached from the water. Although the swan's body had been
moved quite a distance from its nightly roosting area, we saw no obvious tracks
along the shoreline, no sign of dragging and no trail of feathers. The swan was
consumed right at the water's edge. Mr. Sharpe suggested the culprit was
an otter. I find this a little hard to believe. We've lived on this property
for over 20 years — with no otters. Sharpe told me otters typically
start "moving" at
the end of November. He suggested the southeastern drought might be pushing
them into wider territories as their food supply dwindles. Well, maybe, but
I'm not convinced.
it was a
Ware, a licensed trapper
and state trapping instructor out of Ohio (who just happens to own 2 Great Danes!)
contacted me early last week after reading our story. We had a long conversation,
which I thoroughly enjoyed. John seems to think we're dealing with a bobcat.
He informed me that bobcats are comfortable wading, and even swimming. They will
not hesitate to attack their prey in shallow water. And just because we haven't
spotted any on the property, it doesn't mean they aren't here. Female bobcats
can range up to 6 square miles; males may cover as much as 60 miles. That's a
lot of distance. Considering the severity of our drought, I suspect many species
of predators are modifying their habits in order to survive. Personally, I'm
guessing our swan was taken by a bobcat.
What to Do?
Our birds roost along the edge of our 8 acre pond at night, about 40 yards from
the house. To their immediate left sits the dock; to their right, a long uninterrupted
shoreline; behind them, our front yard. The drought has lowered
the pond by 4 feet, leaving the birds with a lengthy "beach"
that extends 10 yards out from the natural shoreline. The beach slopes into what
is now a shallow expanse of water for another 10 yards. If
attacked — either
from the front or behind — they don't have much of an escape route,
especially since they can't fly.
Someone suggested we construct
a floating dock. We already have one in the middle of the pond. The birds
have never roosted there, although the dock has been used for nesting from time
to time. Perhaps we could move it closer to shore. Then again, maybe we should
build a new float with sloped access from all four sides. But if there's one
thing I've learned about waterfowl, it's that they don't readily change their
habits. Assuming we can't change
the behavior of the birds, how might we control the predators? Next week I'll
tell you what the trappers said.
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