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Wednesday, July 18 2018
No Good Deed

I once read a little fable about a woman who picked up a snake that was caught out in an early freeze. She tucked him in her shirt and warmed him up. When he warmed up, he bit her. She cried out, "But I saved you from freezing!"
He replied, "You knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

I was reminded of that story a few nights ago. Storms rolled through the area and because the thunder was pretty intense I let the Livestock Guardian Dogs all stay in the barn with the sheep. About 9:30 pm the electricity went out. We were forced to sleep with the windows open. It wasn't that bad because the rain had cooled things off a bit. Through the pitter-patter of rain I kept hearing the guineas give an alarm call but I thought they were griping about the rain so I ignored them. At 10:00 pm a lamb screamed. I bolted upright in bed and ran outside. The lamb had gotten separated from his mother. He was fine. But since I was outside I checked the guineas and the two month old Blue-laced Red Wyandotte chickens. I was unprepared for the image that will haunt me every time I close my eyes.

A rat snake was trying to choke down my favorite guinea. Pearl was too large and he couldn't get past her head. Berserk doesn't begin to describe it. Other Half shot the snake. Saving the pearl guinea was out of the question. She was dead. Her head was partially digested. Because I didn't get out of bed. On the first night there wasn't a dog in there. I was hysterical.

The wounded snake was gonna die but was nevertheless determined to escape the pen. Rage. Rage like you don't know until your animals are threatened coursed through me. I shot him again. As a compassionate person I shouldn't feel any satisfaction but as a rancher, as someone who cared for that bird and raised that bird, and admired that bird, and gave her treats, and loved that bird - it gave me immense satisfaction to stand five feet away from a moving snake and put a .45 long colt bullet through the back of his head. And then that bastard was as dead as the bird at my feet. People more enlightened than myself were appalled and disgusted with me. Frankly Scarlett . . .

The other snake came back the next night. We caught him trying to get into the pen with the adult birds. If the smaller snake could kill a juvenile bird, the larger snake could surely kill an adult bird. The birds are locked up at night but they free range during the day. I'm willing to share my eggs. I'm not willing to share my chickens. The larger snake was shot too. Perhaps I simply haven't climbed that far up the evolutionary ladder yet. Do. Not. Threaten. My. Animals.

I probably should have let the matter die with the snakes, but I can't, and here's why. People make assumptions. Many time those assumptions are wrong. They assume I'm something that I am not. Most people reading this blog assume that I love animals and respect nature. I do. They also assume that because I have a deep, almost spiritual, affinity for nature that I won't kill. Wrong. I will kill something deader than a doornail if it threatens my animals. That offends some people. Perhaps it offends them even more because they never expected that I would do it.

People who want to save every predator are often pretty removed from the predators. They sit in protected homes and tell me that I'm a heathen for shooting a snake because I moved into his home and provided free meals. The meals aren't free. I go to great effort and expense to make sure those meals aren't free. I should also point out that suburbia used to be his home too. Many of these folks also don't have a clear understanding of just how remote our ranch is compared to most farms. People who condemn me visit state parks. I live in the park. When you are trying to raise sheep and chickens in what is, in essence, a large state park, then we'll be on the same page. Let me put it into perspective for you. Would you be so charitable toward the snake if it ate your kitten? Your puppy? It would. This guinea was the size of a young cat or a small Border Collie puppy. A litter of puppies or kittens whelped outside could have been wiped out one by one by a large snake that squeezed through a very small hole. I have always been pretty charitable toward non-venomous snakes but there is a line. Don't cross it.

I live up close and personal with coyotes, bobcats, and cougars. I have never shot at one. Coyotes have killed our calves, yet I don't bait them, lure them, or trap them. Coyotes have come right up to my barnyard fence to watch my sheep and test my dogs. I still haven't shot at them. Many sheep ranchers in our area hire shooters in helicopters to clear out the predators. We prefer to use Livestock Guardian Dogs. My dogs must patrol approximately 300 rough acres. Why? Because the sheep graze that area. Do they kill? Yes. Yes, they do. They will also kill every feral hog piglet or raccoon they can catch. Do I like it? No, but I can't have it both ways. I cannot hire a killer to protect my livestock and then gripe because he killed a raccoon forty yards from my chicken coop.

We put a great deal of effort and expense into containing Livestock Guardian Dogs and livestock. The stock is locked up at night and one dog is left out to guard the barnyard area because we have more livestock pens than we have dogs to guard them.  It is probably not a coincidence that a snake killed a guinea on the one night no dog was on duty there.

Despite all our efforts to coexist peacefully with nature, some lines still have to be drawn, and certain people find that offensive. There should be no misunderstanding. I love nature, but when it threatens my animals, I will not hesitate to shoot it.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:36 am   |  Permalink   |  7 Comments  |  Email
I would consider that to be natural. Nature is not cuddly and soft. Nature kills to eat and kills to protect young. Nature kills the weak and the sick. In nature, everything dies, sooner or later. Nature is doing what it takes to survive and sometimes, that means something else has to die.
Posted by Patty on 07/18/2018 - 12:24 PM
I understand completely. Something threatens my home and/or the creatures in it, it must go one way or another. I don't like snakes, not one bit. But if they are not near my house, they get to live. Come in or near my house not matter what kind they are doomed. That said we have a Milk Snake living in the foundation of our 150+ year old house. I have never seen it but I have seen the young ones. They are all gone except one. It's still somewhere in my house.... alive...for now...since last Labor Day. Can't shoot it in the house and haven't seen it since. But it's time is coming, just waiting till it's seen again and I have a weapon in hand (or a kid who loves snakes around).
Posted by Pam on 07/18/2018 - 12:58 PM
We are part of nature. We build our homes, hunt, gather, stay out of the rain (sometimes), and protect us and ours. The snake kill. Even steven in nature.
Posted by Hound Doggy on 07/18/2018 - 04:02 PM
I'm struggling with the Facebook page that helps rescue snakes from suburbia. The comments are amusing though.... keeps me giggling....
Posted by jody Gular on 07/18/2018 - 05:41 PM
Aww. Sorry about Pearl and sorry ignorant people don't have better things to do than hassle you so unfairly. I don't own a gun and have never shot anything, but I'd do the same thing to protect my animals.
Posted by Elizabeth on 07/20/2018 - 08:53 PM
I'm a live and let live person, but if I came across a dog attacking my sheep I'd do whatever it took to stop it. Even if that meant throttling it with my bare hands. Maybe that would horrify people who know me, but then again, if they didn't know I'd do whatever it took to protect my sheep they didn't really know me at all. I'm sorry about Pearl, but at least the snake won't be taking another one the next week and another the week after that... Why is it always the favourites that get got ?
Posted by Jody on 08/19/2018 - 06:03 AM
Oh, I am definitely with you on that one. Attack my sheep, and you are dead. No apologies at all. LOL
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 08/20/2018 - 12:44 PM

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