18 June 2009

When Coons Attack

A nasty surprise greeted me this morning when I went out to the barn to do chores: we'd clearly had a raccoon attack overnight.

I noticed something amiss as soon as I let the sheep out into their paddock (and from there out to the pasture). There were white feathers all over the paddock, but especially strong concentrations of them in a direct line from the barn to a certain part of the fence. A moment later, my worst fears were confirmed: our flock of geese came honking out of the barn to be let out to pasture with the sheep, and a quick head count revealed only seven White Embdens --- one short. They, and the two mature gray geese which have adopted them, all looked fine.

Once they were in the pasture with the sheep, I took a closer look at the carnage and tried to figure out what had happened overnight. There was a heavy concentration of white feathers in a small gap where one of the barn doors doesn't fit tightly to the old stone wall. None of the birds have escaped through that gap, so I haven't worried about plugging it. However, the geese often do sleep next to that door, on the inside of the barn of course, at night. One of them may very well have been sound asleep just inside that gap when the coon came prowling. He seemed to have reached in, grabbed hold of a leg or neck, and forced the struggling goose out through the gap.

The feathers led in a trail diagonally from that gap to a corner of the paddock fence. As Scooter and I followed that trail, we got confirmation of the culprit: we found a severed goose head (not pictured). Decapitation is a signature killing style for raccoons.

The coon then seems to have forced the dead goose through the fence --- no small feat, as the fence has such small holes that live geese never have been able to push their way through.
I continued tracking the feathers through the hay field, and found the place where the goose had been disemboweled and consumed. (Again, not pictured.) Then the feather trail petered out.

Geese are usually pretty ferocious animals, and a flock of them can easily repel predators even as large as foxes. This is the first goose we've lost to a predator in many years; the only other victims have been broody geese who were sitting alone on nests outside of an enclosure.

It's amazing how sneaky that coon was, pulling the goose right out of the barn the way he did. I had no idea that something could fit through that little gap...but I suppose that if you're a coon, and you're hungry enough, you'll try anything.
Guess what The Yeoman Farmer's first repair task will be this morning?


Anonymous said...

I can't stand racoons! we had one coming around for over a month at 8pm, during the daylight hours, searching for cat food and slowly wandering around the yard like it owned the place. Two nights ago my husband went out with his little 22 and dispatched the coon after it slowly climbed a tree. It took about 13 shots at close range but the coon is no more...

TYF said...

That's the problem with coons - they climb so high into the tree, usually at night, that they're hard to shoot. I've found a shotgun to be the best line of attack when they're on the ground, but once they're up in the tree surrounded by leaves and branches you can't usually hit them with enough pellets.

We've got so many barn cats, I don't want to put out traps. Maybe I'll leave Scooter outside the barn the next few nights.

Rachel said...

Raccoons are not the big problem here (although they are in the area)...we've got the coyotes and possums to deal with. My dog has been pretty good at repeling them (and the armadillos)...We lose most of our birds (chickens, only, so far) in the pastures while they are free-ranging. We've had to kill 2 rat snakes in the last few weeks--one ate 10 (at one sitting!) eggs we had a hen setting on...and couldn't escape...DH dispatched that one (the male), and I got the female in one of the nesting boxes a few days later...

GL patching up that hole!