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.