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Monday, August 13, 2012

Seeing Is Believing

Last week, Hubby called me from the pasture.  This is a strange occurrence for two reasons.  One, he rarely takes his cell phone.  And two, I was on my way out there with the kiddos...we just needed to find that one missing shoe.

But call he did.  And he told me to bring the electric fence tester.  (The handy-dandy gadget that measures the voltage running through an electric fence.)  Usually we don't need it unless there's a problem:  like a sheep stuck its head through the fence.  That's a pretty good clue we don't have enough "spark".  So I asked him "What's going on?"

He said, "We lost some turkeys last night."

My heart stopped.


"Yup.  You better get out here."

Rather than enjoying a fun 1/4 mile walk with my kiddos, which usually involves frog watching, flower picking, and lots of chatter, I put them all in the pickup and we drove out.

Upon arrival, I quickly scanned the turkey pen for the carnage.  There wasn't any.  Just a lot of white feathers.  Then I counted, only 17 birds.  17 BIRDS??!!  There was supposed to be 24!

Hubby checked the fence.  It was running at 4500 volts.  And that's a pretty strong spark.  It would give you a wake-up call, that's for sure.

We both had the same question:  "What kind of predator could take 7 turkeys out of a hot fence and not leave the bodies?"

Raccoons, skunks, and weasels have all made their presence known.  We lost three chickens to a raccoon earlier this year.  And you can tell the type of predator by the carcass they leave behind.  The problem with this day is that there was just one carcass 30 yards from the pen.  The head and neck were torn off.  And there were all those feathers.

We couldn't figure it out.  Our best guess was a large raccoon.  Raccoons are strong, very strong.  They have drug our field shelters, which weigh a couple hundred pounds.  But how did they get over the fence, kill 7 turkeys and get them out of a hot fence??  And these were BIG turkeys!  They were two weeks away from butchering and weighed over 20 pounds.

I don't know if you can imagine the disappointment and devastation of seeing over $300 of feathers and one carcass strewn in your pasture.

Or the helpless feeling because you don't know why or how it happened.  And therefore there isn't anything you can do about it.

Fast forward to last night...

Our neighbor stopped by.  The neighbor who accesses his land through our pasture.  He was visiting with Hubby when he happened to mention that he was driving by our pasture last week and he saw a mountain lion.  I'll repeat.  He saw a MOUNTAIN LION!!!

On one hand, that completely explains how our turkeys died.  And why the chickens weren't touched.

On the other hand, IT'S A MOUNTAIN LION!!!

And we're surrounded by tall corn, perfect hiding cover for mountain lions.  Our kids have been given (and they have obeyed) strict instructions to never go into the corn.  But now we have to keep a strict eye on them and keep them right next to us.  Because they help with chores:  gather eggs, carry empty buckets, move feeders and waterers, etc. they often move ahead or run back to complete their task.  No more.

And, because it's a MOUNTAIN LION, even our large animals are not safe.  Our goats, sheep, pigs and heifer!  Good grief.  As if we didn't have enough to worry about, now we've got to watch out for big cats...

Now I've got to make the calls every farmer hates to make.  The ones to our customers who ordered those turkeys and tell them the bad news.  There will be no Morning Joy Farm pastured turkey on their table this Thanksgiving.


  1. So sorry Annie!!! How terrible! Kinda weird, because over the weekend someone stole $300 from my store. Now I know its not in live animals, which I think would be harder to lose, but I do know the feeling of loss and helplessness. :( So frustrating. Hope that mountain lion gets caught!!

    1. That is terrible!! I guess I'd much rather have an animal thief than a human one...

  2. Someone told us that one had been spotted fairly close to our place too - we don't have animals or kids but Mountain Lions will go after people too - or our little dog - just creeps me out.

  3. Oh wow. That is bad news. We call them cougars here, but same animal. And we get the same kind of threat from them. Gotta say, when I read you had a predator that could negotiate a fence with good spark, without leaving any kind of debris, and 1/4 mile from your house - I thought "person", not cougar....call it my suspicious nature. Why would a cat leap in and out of there 7 times, taking his booty to wherever his lair is? It is very worrying with your small kiddos to keep an eye on. Good luck.

    1. My thoughts never go to human thieves. We are literally in the middle of nowhere and even our neighbors don't know what we're doing. And they'd have to go through our yard to get there.

  4. Sorry, Annie, that's terrible. We have had sightings, a few years back, of a mountain lion over here, too, just south of our farm though we didn't have it kill anything. It is scarey when you have little kids. And I was looking forward to those turkeys!

  5. What a sick feeling!!! We have lost broilers to heat in large batches and I know that feeling! We also have had sightings of a mountain lion in our area in the past. We have several LGD and hope that will detour it??? We are located in Kansas. I just found your blog as I read your post on school lunches. I am enjoying reading up.


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