Farm nuisances and pests must be handled

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Beavers may appear cute, but they can cause flooding and harm to fields on the farm as a result of a dam. (Pixabay photo)

“Don’t be a nuisance,” I gently reminded my youngest child on a recent road trip.

He still continued to be a pest in one way or another for the next several minutes.

My next step was to pull up the definition on my phone. I thoroughly explained that a nuisance causes harm or injury. It could also mean something annoying, unpleasant or obnoxious, which was more fitting for this particular circumstance.

Then I turned to teasing, “Do you know what Dad does to a nuisance around here?” While my question was asked in fun, and also used as a distraction, we do have our troubles with nuisances on the farm and I don’t mean our children.

Unfortunately, these animals steal, kill or destroy; they require harsher measures than gentle reminders and teasing. The most frequent offenders are coyotes.

Destructive

In most circumstances, I understand the predator versus prey relationship and have respect for the circle of life. However, just thinking of the destruction they have caused leaves me feeling vexed and provoked.

Having free-range chickens is not an option for us; the threat of coyotes is too great of a risk. At one point in time, we were able to let our chickens out in the evening and then close them up again at night. However, after one particular attack, all that was left of our kids’ fancy bantam chickens for 4-H was a scattering of feathers.

During most nights, an anthem of yipping and howling can be heard echoing around our house. It is unnerving to think about the nighttime activities of these nocturnal scavengers.

Resilient

The resiliency of coyotes is due to several reasons. They are omnivores and can survive on a variety of food. Plants, roadkill and even garbage can refuel coyotes. They are not threatened by predators.

During the westward settling of America, large numbers of puma, mountain lions and wolves were decimated. Coyotes were seen as less of a threat in comparison to wolves and large cats and then they were able to thrive in the absence of their natural enemies.

Interestingly, in areas where the population of coyotes has declined, a biological response increases the litter size from a normal five to six pups upwards to 12-16 pups in a litter to make up the difference.

Coyotes are not considered an invasive species; they are responsive in expanding their natural range. Coyotes originated in the western United States but can now be found in every state except Hawaii.

Thankfully for the safety of our small animals, there is no closed season for coyote hunting, and there is not a limit. The first time I saw a coyote up close was after it was shot during open gun season for deer. The deer hunters I know will take down coyotes during deer hunting seasons when the opportunity presents itself.

Beavers

My disdain for coyotes comes easily. However, I have a hard time hating another creature that is a nuisance on the farm, the beaver. I blame it on C.S. Lewis and his portrayal of North America’s largest rodent in his series, The Chronicles of Narnia. Not only do the beavers have personalities and names, but they also represent kindness and peace.

When I first realized that my husband was going to break up beaver dams and trap beavers in season, I was horrified. He explained the flooding and harm caused to fields on the farm as a result of a beaver dam.

Preserving crops

I was thinking of a cute creature, he was thinking of the preservation of crops. Walking along the creek, I witnessed the stagnant water and swollen banks, giving strength to his argument. My strongest argument was that they are native to Ohio, an undeniable fact.

My point was made weak when I used words like “adorable and unique.” To prove me wrong, he showed me what appeared to be disgusting fleas crawling all over a beaver hide.

After further investigation, what we thought were fleas were actually harmless beaver beetles. It was quite the juxtaposition, the image in my mind of beavers from The Chronicles of Narnia and the quivering and infested hide placed in front of me.

The final score in the evaluation of nuisances ended like this: two votes to keep the nuisance in the back seat of the car, two votes against the expansive coyotes, and an impasse concerning beavers. However, if the kid in the back seat expands his territory or becomes a host to parasites, we may reevaluate.

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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at juliegeiss1414@gmail.com.

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