Wildlife Encounters Up On The Mountain

Reader Contribution by Benjamin Baer
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I know I’ve pointed it out many times, but we live in the sticks, up on a mountain; so, when it comes to wildlife, we have plenty, and quite the variety. Which is great; we love seeing wildlife in our backyard. It’s exciting, and I can’t wait to point it out to my daughter when she gets older. We have seen turkeys, snakes, more whitetail deer than we can count, a few bears and quite a few foxes … some of the foxes have been quite large, large enough that it’s made me nervous about putting our smallest dog, Brownford, outside. I don’t worry too much, because he’s always alongside our 70-pound Labrador, and I figure he’s probably enough to deter a fox from approaching. Still, if they’re hungry enough, they’ll try just about anything, so it’s definitely something to keep an eye on. 

Brownford, still for the moment.

This past week has been especially exciting. In addition to the typical repertoire of wildlife sightings, we have seen a bobcat and another black bear. The bobcat was particularly interesting.

Now, plenty of you, I’m sure, are wondering, ‘what’s the big deal? It’s a bobcat!’ Well, I was stoked! First off, I had never seen one before, and like I said, we love seeing wildlife, so seeing something for the first time is always exciting. But, there’s also kinda a debate in our area over whether they actually reside around here.

We all agree there are plenty in the higher elevations and the Shenandoah National Park (which, by the way, is amazing, and if you haven’t, and get the chance, you should absolutely check it out), but some are skeptical whether they hang around our area. A matter of fact, I once witnessed two guys get into a fairly heated argument over whether one of them had actually seen a bobcat (I just stood idly by trying to figure out which one was crazier). But, I can put the debate to bed, there’s at least one hanging around these parts. 

While seeing the wildlife is exciting and fun, and I’m thankful it’s something we get to experience, it wasn’t until my encounter with the bobcat that something occurred to me that hadn’t before. How the heck am I going to keep my chickens safe from all these predators? In Texas, I had exactly one predator: neighborhood cats. And there were so few of them, I didn’t sweat it, and never had an issue.

The Texas Suburban Chicken Coop

As you can see, our previous coop/run was nothing special, but was fine for our safe suburban environment. It served its purpose of giving the ladies a place to hang out. It was free of any gaps or holes, so nothing could get in, and nothing could get out. But thinking about that coop now; a bear would have had no trouble breaking into it, and a bobcat or fox definitely could have gotten into the run, and possibly the coop as well.

So, in addition to all the things I plan to do differently for my second chicken coop, I’ve now realized my top priority needs to be safety. 

I’ve started reading articles and checking the message boards for ideas, I know a rooster is supposed to offer protection, but 1. A rooster isn’t defending anything against a bear or bobcat, and 2. The other homes in the area would kill me if I got a rooster.

I’ve seen a few goofy ideas (like hanging Christmas lights around your coop supposedly deters predators … uhhhh, rriigghhttt), but it seems the best option is an electric fence. Which, I’m struggling with. What if my daughter, or anyone, walked into it?

I understand that it wouldn’t severely hurt anyone, but if it’s enough to scare a bear away, I have to believe it would be pretty painful for any human as well. I just don’t feel right about it.

I’ll just build the coop and run as strong and sturdy as I possibly can, and make improvements as necessary. Consider it yet another one of my many learning processes. 

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