Yesterday our day began with a call from a neighbor reporting a large coyote  inside our electro-net fence in the pasture! Grabbing my camera, I bolted out the door in my pajamas. By the time I reached the pasture, the coyote had vamoosed. I did a quick head count of the flock – all safe and present.

Likely, the coyote  found its way out, probably the same way it had entered: at the north end of the field, a section of net lay on the ground, knocked inward as if something had run into it. I bet it had been chasing prey and plowed right through the fence during night. Probably couldn't find its way out in the dark, getting a nasty shock each time it tried to scramble back through the fence.I scouted around the field, checking out the woody area, warily pushing through the brush. If it was still there, I would have flushed it out. 

The only evidence of its presence (aside from the fence on the ground) was a massive pile of fresh scat in a flattened swath of tall grass near the brook. Any time we find non-sheep poop on the farm, especially inside our pastures, it's time to "Name That Scat". We have books and use the internet, but when something is unusual, we consult an expert. Holly had the pleasant task of collecting the specimen and taking it to the office of a local tracker and wild life expert. Given the morning's events, he said it most likely belonged to a very large coyote or "brush wolf" which is a coyote-wolf hybrid. 

Sightings of to-large-to-be-coyotes have become disturbingly more frequent here in the hills of western Mass. Just two weeks ago, another neighbor alerted us to unusual howling just after dark, more wolf than coyote-like (coyotes are higher pitched yip,yip yips). Our dogs have been agitated at night, charging at the fences, barking like crazy at the woods where the wild things are. Very unsettling.


In September, 2007, we had a horrible predator strike, losing four 250+ lb. rams in one night (if you look back in my blog archives, you'll see how awful it was). The rams were grazing in electro-net in a field just out the back door of our home at the top of Patten Hill. The discovery the morning of 9/11/07 was the saddest day at the farm.

When the same predator attacked a neighbor's farm killing 12 lambs in one night several weeks later, it was shot, mistaken for a large coyote.  Fish & Game sent the carcass to a wildlife forensic lab for identification. The DNA analysis confirmed it was a Canadian Grey Wolf which stunned everyone. The story made Associate Press. It was chilling and forced us to examine and change many of our flock-safety protocols. Anytime there's a sighting of a "large coyote" now, we're all suspicious.

Yesterday I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if the boys had been out in the pasture on  Sunday night. Would Crackerjack, our llama, have been able to protect them? They come home to the barn paddock just before dark each night, for safe-keeping. Yesterday, I decided to keep them close to the barn, rather than send them out into the north pasture. We re-set the electric fence. Holly made sure it's good and hot.

Calvin.Cormo. Sheep.IMG_0947


I took these photos of the guys when I checked on them yesterday evening.


 Cody -Teaberry's son, Red ribbon winner of the Purebred white Finewool class, Big E, 2009!


Crackerjack, flock body guard, with Calvin and Cody

I'm finishing my coffee, getting ready for a different type of visitor. Today we're hosting the Boston Knitters Guild who are taking a tour of Shelburne Falls, my hometown which just so happens to be listed one of the top 15 small communities in New England in the fall issue of Boston magazine. We certainly agree.

I want to thank everyone for the congratulatory notes on our BigE success – and for sharing some pretty amazing and in some cases very personal and inspiring milestone stories. Between my slow speed internet connection (slow to no-speed at times) and the coyote excitement, I didn't have time to respond to each comment – they just kept coming all day. But I read each and every one. Thank you for taking time to share. Our contest runs until 10/9 and I'll draw a very lucky winner for the Cormo Silk Alpaca yarn basket. I have some additional prizes that have been donated – more on that later!

Off to the barn!