Sunday, February 21, 2010


With fresh snow on the ground, I can see the tracks of predators – cats, dogs, hawks. Only the howl of a coyote in the depths of the night makes me more aware of the vulnerability of our flock than the wing print of a hawk in the snow. Of course, we have no lambs yet, and a hawk could certainly not carry off a ewe. But the hawk print does remind me that fences do not necessarily make a safe refuge.

When we had chickens, the weasel, the skunk, and the raccoon were not even slowed down by our fences. Each of them was able to decimate a flock of chickens in a single night. We don’t know that a hawk or eagle has carried off a lamb, but sometimes lambs go missing and we don’t know why.

When the snows drift high along the fence line, and winds harden the drifts until even I can walk on them, I worry that wild dogs or coyotes will be able to jump over the fence to get at the flock. We have had dogs of our own who got into the pasture through a gate we left open, and chased the ewes, stressing them to death. We have had lambs squeeze through the fence to be met by our dogs who wanted to play - fatally. We have had neighbor dogs, running as a pack, who breached a fence and attacked one of our goats, who successfully fended them off with his three foot rack of magnificent horns. But as near as we can tell, we have never lost an animal – chicken, sheep, goat or lamb, to coyotes or wild dogs.

My worries about predators are a part of farming, but not a large part. And so, I appreciate the outline of the hawk’s feathers in the snow. I try to imagine what he was hunting, and whether or not he caught it. And I think how lucky I am to be able to see the impression made by a feather in the white, crystalline surface left after a night of frost.

1 comment:

  1. Neat! I've always thought that following tracks in the snow was like reading a story.