Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Foxes, Raccoons and No Bears


Last night, for the first time in months, I heard the foxes barking at each other again. One was only a few feet from the front door of the cabin. The other was further up the mountain. The one closest to the cabin barked for a long time before its mate answered back and it went off to join it. That was enough for me to forbid the chickens to be out this morning.
Today it is dark and raining a bit. I’ve noticed before that warm, cloudy nights are favored by predators. And when daylight comes, those same predators stay active for an hour or so longer than is usual for them. The gloomy morning must seem a bit like early dawn to them. In my area, the predators I most worry about are foxes, raccoons and great horned owls, primarily—or at least those are the ones I most keep an eye on. The skunks, screech owls and opossums don’t cause much trouble for the chickens.

Rarely, I hear coyotes sing but never from right on Roundtop Mtn. Perhaps ten years ago now, I saw a coyote here, twice, but it was all by itself and not that near the cabin. And, I didn’t own chickens then.

Bears, though common across in the ranges across the valley, haven’t been seen around me for some time. Perhaps 10 years ago now, one that possibly had cubs several months later wandered through and was seen a couple of times over on Moore’s Mountain. More recently, A few times in the past couple of years, a bear or two tried to cross the wide valley, now filled with farms and suburbs. They never made it this far, but if they had not tried to raid suburban bird feeders they might have, as they were all within a mile or two of a mountain’s safety.

Roundtop Mtn., Nell’s Hill, Flat Mtn., Wright Knob, Pinetown Hill and the forests around me are like foothills or pre-foothills of the continuous ranges of the Appalachian Mtns. across the valley to the north. I like to think of this little grouping as an island of mountains surrounded by the ever-encroaching modern and urbanized world. So far we are holding our own.

I am surrounded by more than enough forest to support several bears or more, but no doubt the last was killed years ago, and since then the wide valley has thus far kept them from repopulating this little “island.” It’s the fox and the raccoons I have to most watch out for, at least when it comes to my chickens.

10 comments:

Woodswalker said...

Here in northern NY we're seeing bears right in the middle of towns. Our dry summer resulted in shriveled berries, so bears are searching further afield for food. Seems like that would be the case in Pennsylvania as well.

By the way, thanks for all your posts recording the seasons' events and changes. I don't comment nearly often enough, but I do read your every entry and look forward to each post.

Carolyn H said...

Woodswalker: Thanks for your kind words! Here, when a bear tries to cross the valley and ends up in someone's backyard, they call the police, catch it and haul the poor thing away. Sometimes I wonder about people.

Cathy said...

Bears were rare this year too up my way. Number of deer have decrease too. Guess they found quieter places. However, with less deer, don't have to hear to many guns going off.

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

The local stone in that wall looks a bit of a challenge to the waller's art, just like some you see in Scotland; not such a surprise if you know your geology. Nothing bigger than foxes to worry the hens in the UK but just one fox is quite enough to do a lot of damage.

Pablo said...

I don't have any chickens, but I do have a little Pomeranian dog that I worry about in the forest. We try to keep him close, but he is willful and wants to wander.

Carolyn H said...

Cathy: A friend just sent me a cool bear photo. Seeing a bear has been her nemesis for years. Even though she's seen bobcat and weasels and lots of other rare things, and even though bears are as common as birdfeeders in her area, this was the first time she'd seen one. Funny.

Carolyn H said...

John: I've lost several chickens to foxes over the years, one in broad daylight when I'd been outside not 5 minutes before.

Carolyn H said...

Pablo: My chickens are only 3-4 lbs and a fox can easily carry one away. Is your little Pom that small? I'm sure that little dog is a lot feistier than my chickens!

Patrick Fitzgibbon said...

What do you call that tree? The one with green balls hanging to the leafless branch? Are they edible?

Carolyn H said...

Patrick: the tree is a walnut tree, though I can't tell from the photo if it's an English walnut (aka common walnut) or the American black walnut tree. The English walnut is typially what we eat. The black walnut is edible but the flavor is earthier, perhaps more harsh and they are a devil to get at. The nuts are harder than English walnuts, and if you can get to the nuts without having dark walnut stain all over your hands, it's because you're wearing gloves. I don't think many people eat them these days.