Well, it happened, and sooner than I wished: the coyotes snagged a sheep Thursday night. Of course I knew this was a possibility from the beginning, the coyotes howl in the valley every night, we see them occasionally, and I know neighbors lose livestock to them. They are definitely part of the fabric of this huge valley full of nature. Thus was the precaution of getting the llama. But, I had hopes that she’d be more effective.
My biggest concern was for the safety of the lambs, but it turns out, that’s not what I needed to be worried about. The lamb is fine- he runs fast and stays tight with the herd. What they got was a mature ewe who was probably lambing, or had a fresh lamb on the ground. Of the six ewes I bought, three were “probably bred,” but I didn’t know when. One has already lambed, another looks very close, and this third one didn’t look close at all. So she was far from one I would have thought was at risk. But, I’m guessing she had a single (so wasn’t very big looking), it was her first, and she got preoccupied with birthing and did not run, but stayed to fight. And that is a splendid opportunity for a coyote family: a single animal out in the open, just standing her ground.
The llama probably stayed with the group. And, though she is aggressive and threatening with dogs, she’s also not dumb: I’m not sure she’d risk her own skin to save another. I discussed this with another sheep-raising friend who has no livestock guardians at all, and has lost a lot of sheep to predators. She confirmed this is her experience: flighty ewes will bolt and leave their lamb to run or die, but calmer, bolder ewes stick around to argue, and they lose.
It’s hard to lose a sheep, I was sick to find her carcass in the field, and lamented the investment in her and her lamb. She had the nicest feet of the group, but if she did not twin, she probably would have gone to slaughter this year anyway. And, now we know where we stand with the coyotes. So, I have moved #33, who is big as a hippo, up into a dog kennel next to the house, where she can lamb safely. She is not happy about the confinement, so hopefully she’ll get her job done soon and can go back out. She had triplets last year, one of which I think was a bummer. Since she’s so huge, I suspect she may do this again, so it’ll be good to keep a close eye on her and her lambs the first few days anyway.
The other three ewes aren’t due until the first week of March, so I’ll plan to bring them up then. As for the carcass of #11, well, the coyotes did a pretty clean job, eh? What they didn’t get, a yearling, still-brown bald eagle has been polishing off. At least nothing went to waste. Such is the cycle of life.