Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Wildlife Friendly?

One of the reasons I love to farm is that it gives me a chance to be outdoors and to see lots of wildlife up close. I love seeing hawks and waterfowl when I'm out working. I even enjoy seeing the occasional predator - coyotes and foxes are interesting critters.

When we started raising sheep commercially, we made the decision to co-exist with the predators in our area (mostly coyotes). By using electric fencing and guardian dogs, we hoped, we'd be able to protect our sheep and enjoy the wild animals that share our community.

Yesterday, I learned that a neighboring landowner saw a mountain lion coming through one of the ranches we lease. We haven't lost any animals, but we're definitely on high alert. The presence of a lion makes me think again about our "wildlife friendly" approach. The late folksinger and peace activist U. Utah Phillips once said about a bar fight that if someone knocks you off your bar stool, you must decide whether you're truly a pacifist between the bar stool and ground. In other words, you can only truly decide if you're a pacifist when you're actually tested.

I've often wondered what I'd do if I came upon a coyote killing a lamb or a mountain lion killing a ewe. My first instinct, I think, would be to protect the animals that are in my care. So far, our guardian dogs have done the job for us (without the use of lethal force). The presence of a lion in the neighborhood makes me apprehensive, but I'm also excited that our community still includes these wild animals. Wendell Berry writes, "sheep and coyotes [may] need each other, at least in the sense that neither would prosper in a place totally unfit for the other."

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