The Hidden Life of Trees

posted in: Farm as ecosystem | 0

What do forests have to do with the success of your farm? Actually ….a great deal!

The forests on your farm play an important role in keeping your farm healthy and protecting life on your farm from disease. First of all, the forests are refuges for the carnivores, who are important in balancing their prey populations, (herbivores) who can have a serious affect on the landscape if their populations are not balanced.

These herbivores can also diminish the homes of important bird species that control insects on your farm.

So we encourage you to pick up this wonderful book pictured above. it will open a whole new world to you, and you will never look at your forest in the same way.

And speaking of important birds whose homes the predators keep available to them ~ the following is a delightful link that speaks about what your wintering birds – namely our chickadees and nuthatches – do to keep your trees healthy and insects in check. (Though they are referring to the trees in the West, it all holds true for our trees in the east)

The tiny friends of a forest giant



Farming in the Adirondacks

posted in: Living with Carnivores | 0


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!

Essex Farm Institute & Carnivores

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If you are not able to come, organize such a gathering where you live

The following is a short description of our gathering ~

Farms are not isolated parcels but are part of an entire community. Carnivores play an important role in the Earth’s ecosystems; systems that agriculture thrives in. This lyceum will be a panel discussion with  Geri Vistein, a Carnivore Conservation Biologist who will take us into the lives of the carnivores living in the North Country, describing their sociology, hunting habits and life cycles. Abby Sadauckas, whose family owns the Applecreek Farm in Bowdoinham, Maine, and is a member of the Farming with Carnivores Network, will share her farm’s understanding of the carnivores around them, and what they do to live together with them. Shaun and Linda Gilliland are local livestock farmers who use a combination of tools to protect against predators. They will discuss their experiences farming with carnivores over the years.

Livestock Guardians and Winter

posted in: Guardian Dogs | 0


IT IS WINTER TIME ~ A challenging time to farm; also a LIFE AND DEATH STRUGGLE for wild carnivores.

It is important for you to know that carnivores walk this line of survival, that they are often on the edge of starvation in the winter.

That is why Guardian Animals are such an important part of your team in the winter. Note the photo above, taken by Billy Foster of the Foster Farm in Maine. Though his fencing is excellent, the deep snow would allow a carnivore to jump over it with ease.

BUT ~ His guardian dogs are present, and have been present all year. There is an UNDERSTANDING between them and the Coyote family who live on his farm. Note the Coyote tracks that REMAIN on the outside of the fence.

SO ~ if you are thinking about acquiring one of these amazing guardians for your farm, the following are some questions and thoughts to think about and research this winter:

  1. Do your homework first
  2. Do you need one at all/do you need more than one…why or why not
  3. When should you use a Llama or donkeys instead of a guardian dog?
  4. What makes a Guardian dog, a guardian dog?
  5. What breed is right for you…differences in breeds?
  6. What does a guardian dog do for your farm?
  7. How to acquire a Guardian dog (breeders)
  8. What is the role of a good breeder?
  9. The importance of good fencing for your guardians
  10. When and how to introduce them to the farm animals and farm
  11. Their care


Mother Bears teach their Cubs about Food

posted in: Living with Carnivores | 0
photo by Disney Nature
photo by Disney Nature


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!

The Passing of Titan

posted in: Living with Carnivores | 0



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.

Farm Dogs

posted in: Guardian Dogs | 0



If ever you wanted to do research regarding the Guardian Dog that is right for your farm, this newly published book by Jan Dohner will be of great assistance to you. It is one of those books you would want to keep as a reference because it is packed with valuable information.



Red Fox in the Hen House!

posted in: Living with Carnivores | 0
photo by Keith Williams
photo by Keith Williams


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.


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

Cornucopia Institute & Beneficial Wildlife

posted in: Living with Carnivores | 0
photo by Forest Hart
                                                    Healthy Coyote   photo by Forest Hart



So sharing with you here a great article in Cornucopia’s Newsletter about this very important perspective.
Scroll down to page 5 where they write about the unsung heroes of a balanced farm ecosystem.

Jan Dohner: Guardian Dogs and Carnivores

posted in: Guardian Dogs | 0
Jan Dohner and her Kangal Guardian
Jan Dohner and her Kangal Guardian

An Excellent opportunity to come learn about farming successfully with Carnivores will take place at THE COMMON GROUND FAIR in Unity, Maine on September 24 and 25.

At 1:00 PM on Saturday, the 24th we will host a panel of two outstanding farmers, Dave Kennard and Billy Foster, noted author and breeder of Kangals Jan Dohner, and Wildlife biologist and author Geri Vistein. Last year the tent was packed as we shared together in a lively discussion, our experience and knowledge. Our audience was amazing, jumping right in and asking excellent questions and expressing what has been happening on their farm.

Then, at 2:00 PM Jan Dohner will go more into depth about all the important issues regarding the decision to find a guardian dog, and then when they come to your farm…then what? Her new book Farm Dogs is just being released on time for the Fair, and her excellent 2007 book Guardian Animals: Using Dogs, Llamas and Donkeys to Protect your Herd is highly recommended  She will also speak on Sunday, the 25th at 1:00 PM