At our Common Ground Fair in Maine this past September, two of our leading farmers and myself (Geri Vistein, wildlife biologist) were scheduled to give a presentation titled “Sustainable Farming with Carnivores.” The farmer who spoke just us before asked what we were going to speak about, and when we mentioned the title of our presentation, his immediate response was “Oh, you are going to teach how to CONTROL the carnivores.” I answered by gently saying that we were going to help assist our farmers to coexist with carnivores successfully.
So in that context I would like to share this link regarding research on just this topic. This farmer’s immediate response is evidence of what these researchers have found. It is a good read to help us think about our relationships with the “Others.”
INTELLIGENT CARNIVORES LIKE COYOTES ARE LIKE US IN SOME WAYS, BUT THEIR LIVES ARE NOT LIKE OURS AT ALL.
HOW ARE THEY LIKE US? Parents teach their young ones what they need to know to survive. Coyote pups who grow up in a stable family where their parents teach them who their prey are and how to hunt them, do not view livestock as their food source. Coyotes who do not grow up in a stable family…those whose parents are killed when the pups are too young…..have not learned who their prey are, nor how to hunt them successfully…they are always hungry!
So you want to keep stable coyote families on your farm.You want them to eat their wild prey, and never get a taste of your domestic animals.
HOW ARE COYOTES’ LIVES DIFFERENT FROM OUR LIVES: STARVATION IS THEIR TRAVELING COMPANION! And this is especially the case with coyotes who do not live in a stable situation.
SO ~ PLACING ANY DOMESTIC ANIMAL PARTS OR DEAD ANIMALS OUT BEYOND YOUR PASTURE IS A VERY DANGEROUS UNDERTAKING. You are giving them a taste for your livestock! In this context, never allow anyone in your community to bait coyotes on your farm.
KEEP OUR COYOTES AND OTHER CARNIVORES WILD! THEY HAVE WORK TO DO IN THE ECOSYSTEM OF YOUR FARM.
COME JOIN US IF YOU CAN~ On June 28 at 7:00 PM
in Darrows Barn at the Damariscotta River Association’s Round Top Farm, Damariscotta, Maine.
A panel discussion about the challenges and rewards involved in bringing back large apex predators, specifically cougars back to their native habitat (and their expanded range as Coyote) here in the North East. How can human communities adapt to co-exist with and benefit from their presence. Included in the panel are outstanding author Will Stolzenburg, Maine’s federal biologist, Mark McCullough, and Chris Spatz of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation.
AS FARMERS ~ DO NOT LET THE CARNIVORES REMAIN STRANGERS TO YOU.
THIS IS WHERE WE WERE LAST WEEK ~ ESSEX, NEW YORK IN THE BEAUTIFUL ADIRONDACKS
Geri Vistein, wildlife biologist on the right and Abby Sadauckas amazing farmer in Maine on the left
with Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont in the background.
What an energizing experience it was for all, thanks to the Essex Farm Institute’s organization of this event. . Geri had the opportunity to share knowledge of the carnivores’ lives in a realistic and valuable way for our farmers, Abby shared her experience as a farmer in what her family does to farm well with carnivores present on their farm in Maine. And.Shaun from the Ben Wever Farm in the Adirondacks shared poignant thoughts on his journey of understanding carnivores.
And that journey goes on for all of us! We are in a learning mode, so sharing is vital!
Wild mothers teach their young ones all they need to survive. And teaching them WHAT their food is and WHERE to find it, is imperative for their survival. For those carnivores who live in a family, both the parents teach their young about food.
So it is important to know, that on your farm you want carnivore parents to not recognize any of your farm animals as a source of food. If they do, they will teach this to their young….and the cycle keeps going on and on. The use of animal husbandry practices like guardian dogs, llamas and donkeys, as well as electric fencing and the other practices shared on this website will encourage the mother carnivore to teach their young how to hunt wild prey. Below is an article about changing our behavior in order to change a bear’s behavior ~ And this goes for other intelligent carnivores as well!
This website is a Collaborative of sharing expertise on behalf of our farmers. The role of biologists on this site is to help our farmers get to know the carnivores that live on their farms.
This is a photo of Titan
We share with you this link that writes about her life. When you read about her life what happens? We hope that what happens is that carnivores cease to be figments of our imagination, and instead become living breathing beings seeking in their lives just what we seek in ours.
Whenever I speak with our farmers, their resident Red Fox most always comes up…that is, the fox’s relationship with their chickens. So here is a bit of history to help you understand your Red Fox and how you can live and farm well with them.
When the Europeans came to the American continent, Europe had long before eradicated all the large predators like wolves and bears. The ones that remained were relegated to remote mountain areas like the Alps and Pyrenees. As we know, from our history, the settlers swiftly eradicated the large carnivores from the eastern United States, but the fox remained.
Because no animal husbandry practices were used to protect the farmer’s chickens and other livestock, the fox took advantage of these easy meals. Those that were caught doing so were simply shot. Those particular foxes did not learn anything. But those that did get away with it, taught their kits that this was their food, and how to procure it. So from generation to generation the vixen has passed down to her kits this way of life.
As a result, farmers have lost many chickens over the past few centuries.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY~
Please look at the photo above. This is who we want our foxes to eat ~ their wild prey. Our foxes are NOT playing their important role on the ecosystem of your farm if they are killing your chickens! And because our foxes have gotten in to this bad habit over the centuries, sometimes it is very challenging to let them know that it will be very dangerous for them if they try it on your farm.
And that danger is not to be shot, but being challenged by a guardian dog, Llama or Donkey, or being zapped by an electric fence. If you have an insistent fox intent on taking your chickens,know that you need to be very consistent in your animal husbandry practices. You MUST keep them secure in their coop at night, and during the day they will need a guardian and electric fencing.
If you “stick with it” your fox will finally get what you are trying to tell them: “There is NO easy food here for you!” Then keep that fox on your farm, because they understand what you are saying, and will pass it on to their kits.
Again, this is an important part of the Farming of the Future ~ You need to know your carnivores, look at your farm from their point of view, and learn how to speak to them in a language they understand. Farming at its Best!
Contributed by Geri Vistein, Carnivore Conservation Biologist in Maine
WHAT DOES A 9 WEEK OLD COYOTE PUP …THAT HAS BEEN SHOT….. HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR FARM?
The answer is….a great deal. I am a wildlife biologist whose work focuses on carnivores. A Vet contacted me and shared how this coyote pup came to her. Evidently an individual killed this pup’s parents and she was wondering around unprotected by them. It appears that same individual shot this small pup (but was a bad aim), so the bullet went through her paw. Her paw being very little was badly damaged, bones and flesh torn apart.
So what does this pup’s story have to do with you. So often when I work with our farmers in Maine, I share with them that farming well with carnivores entails 2 important aspects: When speaking about coyotes the first aspect entails keeping a stable coyote family present on your farm. In this situation the parents have the opportunity to teach their pups how to be excellent hunters of their wild prey, and when they are…they are not hungry. The second aspect is using good animal husbandry practices, as you can read about on this website.
So this pup has lost her parents. She is too little to know how to hunt effectively (At this age she is completely dependent on her parents). So if pups are left to struggle for survival……they will seek out your farm animals more readily, and will continue to do so as they grow up…if they survive.
So be aware of what goes on around your farm. There are many enlightened farmers here in Maine who share with their community members the need to leave their coyotes in peace. And what a difference it makes!
One last comment regarding this pup’s story. It makes me believe that our young people care about all life on the farm. That is the Farming of the Future. This is how the pup made it to the Vet ~ The granddaughter of the individual who attempted to kill this pup, saw what happened and ran to a neighbors where a young man sought out the vet.
Shared by Geri Vistein, Carnivore Biologist in Maine