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April 16, 2012

Donkey Tales and Predator Pee

Recently, I had to chase the first coyote off my property. It all started on an early morning in March. I had just drug myself out of bed, looked out the bedroom window to check on my flock, and I see the girls hightailing it toward the barn with their eyes bugged out. I ran to the back door, opened it, and just as I did a coyote is slinking out of the taller grass in the pasture. I yelled at the top of my lungs, "Get outta here!!" It took off from whence it came, and so far, I haven't seen one on our property since then. I have heard them though! One perimeter of our property's entire length is a creek. For a couple of nights after the aforementioned incident, the coyotes sounded like they were just on the other side of the creek yipping and howling and carrying on. It was reminiscent of the movies where the star is being stalked by wild animals, VERY CREEPY to say the least.

Of course, this episode evoked a brainstorm session between Farmboy (my husband refers to himself as this, so I lovingly do too!) and me while doing a mad Internet search for some kind of guard animal. I have a guard/herding dog, Iluska, a Bergamasco Sheepdog. However, the sheep arrived on the farm many years after she became a member of our family so I wouldn't even consider making her live outside with them. She does like to spend time outside with them during the day and make sure her flock is all accounted for though.

I decided on a donkey after reading several articles about them.

There happens to be a farm not too far from me with Katahdin sheep and the shepherd there uses a couple of donkeys for guarding. So, after tracking the shepherd down, he gave me the donkey man's number. I called and the next day the donkey man delivered Julia and Sally (my grandson was given the privilege of naming the donkeys). They were both standard size donkeys, however, Julia was bigger than Sally, so I decided to put Julia with the ewes and Sally with the ram and wether. All seemed to be going fine for a couple of days and I was feeling pretty good about the entire situation and my decision.

It was at this point everything started going to hell in a hand basket. Julia decided she wanted to spend all of her time hanging out by the common fence between my two groups of sheep so she could visit with Sally and the boys. It actually appeared as if she was in love with Clayton, my wether. She would put her head down where he could reach it and nibble on her through the fence. Then she decided that she didn't want the girls to graze too far from her. If they ventured too far away from her and her boyfriend, Clayton, she would start chasing them all over the pasture. I had become the guard of the donkeys! I decided this situation wasn't relieving my stress at all. I was worrying about whether Julia was chasing the sheep, as much I was worrying about a coyote eating the sheep. So, since she scared me a bit anyway 'cause she was a bit bigger than what I would have liked (reminded me of a bad experience with a horse when I was a youngster), I called the donkey man to pick her up.

After Julia left, I moved Sally to the ewes pasture. When I did this, they happened to be at the far end of the pasture. Sally starts moseying toward them, stopping along the way to munch some grass, and then, BAM!, she takes off toward them at a full gallop. I'm watching this thinking to myself, "This is not going to turn out well." Sally chased them to the barn, back out to the end of the pasture, back to the barn, and on the way back to the end of the pasture she finally stopped to see what the heck I was screaming about. I went out with the grain bucket and coaxed her into the front yard so she was no longer in a pasture with either flock of my sheep. I called the donkey man to tell him it wasn't going to work out with her either and, of course, it turned out it would be a week before the donkey man could come back and pick her up. During that week, Sally knocked the satellite dish off the side of the house, and smashed the gutter downspouts using them scratching posts.

During the week Sally was in the front yard, I continued doing research on the Internet for an alternative guard. I happened upon a website about predator pee. From their website, "If you are a first time visitor, you might wonder as to why anyone would buy or sell urine from Coyotes, Foxes, Bobcats, Mountain Lions, Fishercats, Bears and Wolves. To fully understand how 100% Predator Urine works, you first need a little bit of insight into animal behavior. In the wild, the relationship between predator and prey defines the daily routine of virtually every animal alive whether it is in your backyard or the deepest wilderness. The predator marks its territory with urine and stalks its prey. Members of like species recognize the urine scent triggering instinctive behavior related to territorial dominance. That is why PredatorPee works so well for training cats and dogs where to "go." In addition, prey like deer, mice, squirrels etc. react to the marking scent of their predators by seeking to avoid those predators at all costs. It is the law of the wild. In this life and death game of hide and seek, the scent of urine is often the only warning a prey has that a predator is nearby. PredatorPee puts that instinct to work for you in your yard, home and garden."

I spent some time contemplating predator pee. Knowing coyotes do have a natural fear of humans and knowing there is plenty of their desired cuisine in our neck of the woods - small mammals, such as voles, prairie dogs, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels, and mice in our area, I decided they didn’t need to have my flock as an appetizer and to use their fear of humans to my advantage. Farmboy and I now pee in a plastic coffee container and pour it into a 5-gallon bucket.  When the big bucket is full, we go for a perimeter walk and pour it on the wooden posts of our fence, which are every 30' apart.

So far, we haven't seen any more coyotes on our property and when they are howling at night, they don't sound nearly as close to us as they were. Did I discover a "guard" that won't cause me more stress than the coyotes do...only time will tell?

We did see a coyote about 50 feet outside our fence line on August 6th, 2014. I went out and hollered at it to send it on its way. He/she wouldn't even take a look in my direction. It lay down for a bit in the tall grass and then moved along.
We've since seen a coytote two different times outside our fence that runs along the creek.; but, none have come into the fenced off pasture areas.

November 2019 - I am happy to report there has not been a coyote seen on our property although we hear them all around us. Peeing in the coffee container has become second nature to Farmboy and me now, so -- we'll keep doin' what were doin'.

Over time, we have shared our unusual form of predator control with a few folks. It always invokes some interesting conversations which have revealed a few redeeming qualities of using pee for predator control.

  1. Saves money on the water bill since we don't flush the toilet as often.
  2. Less stress on our septic system.
  3. Exercise to take it out and pour it on our fence poles.
  4. Time for Farmboy and I to spend together while we walk
  5. Keep a check on our property perimeters and fence lines.
  6. Male bonding between our Grandson and his Opa while they go pee on the fence poles!