Coyote encounters make for memorable experience

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There is no sight quite as chilling as spotting a predator within steps of livestock. We returned home around dusk one recent night, and as we turned in to our farm lane, Doug and I both noticed what we first thought was a stray dog in our sheep pasture.

As Doug slowed to get a closer look, a coyote stopped and looked right at us. The large pasture had been mowed just the day before, or it otherwise might have gone unnoticed.

“Keep your eye on it as best you can,” Doug instructed me. Then I heard him say, “There are two of them.”

It was a chilling moment. We both knew what to do.

Keeping still

My job was to keep the dogs quiet, and near me. If I had tried to go check on the sheep, the dogs would have followed me as they always do, and what we did not want was a showdown.

It was a fairly cool night, so the sheep were bunched together fairly close to the barn, just up over the hill from the two coyotes.

Doug was in the house and back out quickly, a 22-250 over his shoulder.

Within just moments, I heard a single shot.

He later told me that the two coyotes were running when he managed to land one. The other was long gone.

By the look of it, the coyote Doug shot was likely one of this year’s pups.

Growing numbers

Fairly large litters keep this predator growing in numbers. A man in our community, one of the Hoover brothers who often helped us on the dairy farm, hunts coyote using trained beagles.

He managed to get 84 in this area just this year alone. Coyote are lightning-fast runners, able to reach speeds of 40 miles an hour. They live and hunt in packs for a reason.

Their shrewdness is keen — one might jump around to distract prey, while another sneaks up and pounces. We have long known coyotes are all around us.

Sounds at night

We hear the coyote yip and cry, especially on still summer nights. We lost a friendly barn cat to coyote the first summer we moved here.

We were certain of it; I had watched the cat head out to hunt the fields behind the barn at dusk, and as we sat on our back porch, we heard the commotion, a loud cat cry, and then no more.

It was a sickening realization, and one I will never forget. Coyotes can make a diet of frogs, snakes, rodents, fruit, and grass, as well as the better known rabbits, fish, and deer.

Farm country creates a rich diet and lots of cover in which to hide during daylight hours, hunting for food at night.

With plenty of food for the taking, there was no reason to panic in seeing the coyote in our sheep pasture.

Rather, it was an unsettling, healthy respect for what coyote are capable of that sent that memorable shiver up the spine.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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