We live in a gorgeous part of the world, where the near constant rain in the winter keeps things beautiful, lush and green. It’s never really cold here, and very rarely do we get snow. If we do, it lasts only for a couple of days. Specifically where we are, we are surrounded by forest, and I often marvel about how lucky we are to live in a place like this, surrounded by nature… until a few weeks ago.
All this gorgeous beauty is not only shared by humans, but by racoons, bears, coyotes and a couple cougars. We have had a problem with a racoon taking several of our turkeys, and the odd chicken goes “missing” now and then, but nothing prepared us for the bear attack on our pigs.
We lost two piglets in one evening, and so the Chef was on high alert and checking the pig’s area every several hours the following night. After an evening of no sleep, the bear – which initially was suspected to be a cougar (due to the size of the paw prints in the mud, that the mud had then squished back into place, making the paw size look significantly smaller) – decided that at 7 am he was ready for a breakfast of bacon. The Chef heard the commotion and armed with nothing but our two livestock guardian dog puppies, and a pair of underpants (the ones he was wearing) went roaring down to the pig pen at great speed to defend our pigs.
Since I didn’t witness our dogs in action, and since the most vicious I have ever seen them is when then “played” with a squirrel to death, I wasn’t sure that the dogs would be up for the challenge. However, in the words of the Chef, “Honey, they were amazing. I have never heard the sounds they made before and they went straight for that bear.”, and they successfully chased it off back into the woods. Livestock protection clearly is in their blood, but due to concern about their well being, the Shepherd is still nervous about letting her now 8 month 80-pound puppies sleep outside at night.
Fantastic that the the bear was chased off, however, it is still undetermined if the dogs did most of the scaring or the screaming and angry naked ape in underwear did the trick. Unfortunately, one of our breeding sows was damaged in the attack by the bear and suffered some serious cuts from bear claws on both shoulders and rump. My estimate is they are at least an inch deep, and I suspect she was defending her 3 remaining 12 week piglets.
I write this as a cautionary tale, to predetermine exactly how “valuable” your livestock is, and what you are prepared to spend should something occur. It seems basic enough, but a call to the vet to attend our farm is minimum $300, before the vet even looks at an animal. Put in stitches and medication into the equation, and you suddenly have very expensive pork. I hate to be heartless, but that sadly is the practicality of it all. I will say however, we do have fantastic vets, that will consult on the phone and are logical and practical, even when you might be hopped up on adrenaline after scaring off a bear.
I’ll admit it. We did call our butcher. But since it’s moose season, and every hunter is returning back from their hunting trips, he was busy for the next half month. Thankfully, I did have antibiotics on hand, which the vet did advise to administer, and not to suture the wound close to allow whatever nasties were possibly in the bear’s claws to get out of the pigs wounds.
Two days later, I was amazed that our pig was doing so well, and I was able to administer the needle of antibiotics without have a complete mental breakdown. Stabbing a pig with a needle is not my favourite farming pastime, especially one that has just suffered injuries defending her piglets from a hungry black bear. Surprisingly, the needle administration went smoothly (thank god), and our pig seemed to be unfazed. Maybe because we had moved everyone into lockdown into the barn, so no one was exposed, and we now had a huge steel bear trap sitting baited with a can of sardines in the pig pen.
Thankfully, our pigs had been previously sold to another farmer who was wanting to raise American Guinea Hogs in Canada, and so after some frantic texting of explanations, they arrived with horse trailer to pick them up a week later. I can honestly say, this has been the most trying of times for our farm… wanting to protect and raise our animals in a happy and safe environment, and having another creature – whom is wonderful and majestic in it’s own right – come and harm them.
It was sad letting our pigs go, especially Parma. My absolute favourite sow. She is a sweet and gentle pig, loving her belly rubs and back scratches, and we handled her so much that when we checked her ears, teeth and eyes on a semi-regular basis, she loved it… I always felt it was like she was acting like going to the spa for a facial. The folks that took her in the trailer, also transported her three 2-week old piglets, and they all arrived successfully… So now they are enjoying their new digs in Nelson, B.C.!
Sadly, we also decided to sell the sheep as frankly they are sitting ducks (so to speak, sine we actually have ducks… that sit…) for the bear, and I was worried that something might happen to them. So they have now gone off to an organic vineyard so they can be weed-eating and grape-vine trimming machines. If that doesn’t sound like heaven, I don’t know what doesn’t! Frankly, I’m a little jealous. Fine, alot jealous! I know Eva will be far happier with a larger herd to hang with, as she would bleat when she was upset when Ron and Kevin would take off without her. She definitely will be happier!
Now our animals are safe, and although I miss them, I am much relieved that they have gone to safer farms, and can enjoy a happy existence. Meanwhile, the bear trap remains empty, which I can’t make up my mind if I’m happy or sad about.
Here’s to the adventures of farming!