Saturday, May 30, 2009

"all the dead coyotes are making me sad"

I've written up a summary of the regulations related to hunting coyotes here.

A friend of mine emailed me about the recent coyote posts. "All the dead coyotes are making me sad". You might be a little surprised, but it makes me a bit sad, too.

When I started farming this area I figured I'd have some predator issues, and having decided that, I picked a type of fence that would exclude the majority of them -- or at least form a barrier to entry. I chose a 5' tall field fence with smaller mesh at the bottom, and larger mesh at the top. Coyotes can jump a 5' fence, but they tend not to, respecting the fence lines. I spent $4,000, and fenced in a part of my animal areas.

Part of that was to exclude dogs from the dog park, part was to exclude natural predators. Predators like eagles and hawks I figured I'd just pay the tax on -- I planned on (and do...) lose birds to eagles and hawks, both chickens and turkeys.

Snohomish county Planning and Development services, in the person of Roxanne Pilkenton, have informed me that the only approved type of fencing is 3 strand barbed wire or 3 strand electric fence on metal poles. No other form of fencing is approved. Even electric poultry mesh is not allowed. And that I could only fence 15% of the front and sides of my property. What good is a fence that only covers 15%?

I have Airedale terriers -- who do a good job with smaller predators like raccoons, possums, skunks and weasels and seem to deter the coyotes a little bit -- but both of the coyotes I've shot recently have been killed while the dogs are on the property. They can't be everywhere at once.

So I can't fence, and LGD (livestock Guardian Dogs) are only partially effective. The only thing I can legally do is shoot the dogs and coyotes that are preying on my livestock. I'd rather not handle it that way, but my hands are tied by the current state law and county regulations. I'm explicitly allowed to shoot coyotes without hunting license or permit if they're on my property and preying on livestock.

What would I prefer to do?

I'd rather put up a good fence. 1) I'd sleep better. 2) Livestock escapes would be fewer and less serious. 3) I could then contain my own dogs on the property securely. 4) I wouldn't have to clear out the local apex predators. 5) I won't have to shoot domestic dogs originating from the dog park 6) I won't have to shoot dogs dumped by irresponsible people.

The county recognizes the difference between "floodway" and "flood plain". floodway is that area that is subjected to high current or high flow in case of flood. In a floodway, a fence does become a hazard, and does collect debris. In the flood plain, which is where I am, the velocity of the water is much lower, and fences don't constitute a hazard. But the county is determined to enforce the most restrictive version of the law that they can find, interpreted in the narrowest way possible.

So I shoot coyotes. Thanks Snohomish County, for doing your part to preserve our wildlife.


Dean Smith said...

I hear you Bruce. First, I had thought of suggesting that you raise enough birds for both you and the predators. It sounds like you are doing that. The real solution is for Snohomish County to develop land use rules that make sense in tomorrow's world: decreasing fossil fuel supplies, increased food costs and reduce food availability due to fuel shortages, reduced availability of synthetic fertilizers, and (a little further out) rising global temperatures attended by rising sea levels.

That last one may render Ebey Island unusable for farming.

The first items can be dealt with by encouraging local farming. For example, rules should encourage small, intensively worked farms within 5 miles of cities and farming methods that use manual vs. energy intensive methods. (That will require a lot more farmers.) We also need to encourage many more farmers markets and CSA's. A city like Everett should have a farmers market in each neoghborhood, so people can walk to them. Rules for the farmers markets should be relaxed to encourage sellers dropping in when they have produce to sell.

Another big thing that we need to do in the USA is to discourage the consumption of meat! Eighty percent of the grain grown in this country is to feed animals, to fatten them up to feed our cholesterol-clogged arteries. Meat should become a condiment.

Sorry Bruce.

There is a new movement in Everett called 'Transition Town" that aims to do this sort of thing beginning from the grass roots.

StefRobrts said...

I don't like to see coyotes shot, but I don't like to see mangled dead livestock either. In my book the livestock wins.

It's a shame that this leads back to ridiculous county rules. Those guys should be on your side. I had no idea there were approved fencing based on floodplains, I took a class through the extension where i learned a lot of other rules I didn't know about that have to do with being close to waterways, but never anything about fencing. I don't know if every county is like that or if your county is just trying to find new ways to drive you out. It sounds like they want your land and want to make it as inconvenient as possible for you to productively farm it. That's not how our government is supposed to work. That makes me sadder than the dead coyotes.

Melissa said...

I agree and it makes me sad too, Stef.

Dean Smith, I agree about the grain fed meat, however grass fed beef, chicken, goat, sheep, etc., is so very good for the arteries, in fact equivelant to wild salmon. I don't buy into the global warming propaganda either.
I think Bruce's farming methods are pretty progressive and green, I think the county needs to lay off and let him be productive.
Awesome article at AcresUSA today:

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Melissa is right, grass fed meats raised close to the population centers are right on.

Besides Greg Judy's excellent article in Acres, check out the the book the Cholesterol Myths, or local (Vashon Island) author's website -

Dean Smith said...

Bruce's farm doesn't have enough grass to feed the animals he has. He feeds them imported grain.

Have you ever eaten strictly grass-fed meat? No grain? It's really tough. You would only eat it as a condiment, chew on it to get the flavor and then try to swallow it.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Bruce's farm has enough grass to feed a herd of ruminants, he is raising animals that can't survive on grass alone.

And yes, Dean, I have eaten strictly grassfed meat because that is what we sell from our farm. And I have eaten my share of tough meat too. I guess the problem lies in actually identifying what species can thrive on grass, like cattle, sheep and goats, which are ruminants or pigs and poultry which are omnivores and require grains of some sort.

I suggested for a list of producers. What people should be looking for are grass finished products, along with low stress handling techniques. All which have an effect on quality. Definitely someone's old hide bound steer that has to forage hard for what ever meal it gets, would be less than desirable to eat. Sadly, that is what some grass fed producers sell... . I would bet that my rotationally grazed cattle are helping the environment more than they are hurting it. They harvest their own feed 9 months of the year, and what they eat in the winter, is hay we bale from the surplus spring growth. They provide enough microbially charged manure to self perpetuate the pastures that they graze. Please do not compare properly raised landscape enhancers with their feedlot cousins.

Callie said...

Yeah, I got some not grain fed beef from tx years ago and it was not only amazingly tender, I felt really good the next day. Bruce's critters are not feed-lotted and that's definitely a step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for Bruce - he can't do anything without getting criticized for it. Whether he's building a shed, killing coyotes or raising pigs (instead of ruminants), he's displeasing someone.

The comments remind me of something: it is possible to raise low-input pigs, like Guinea Hogs, Kune Kune, Mangalitsa, Meishan on forage. They are a lot less efficient at producing meat, and require extra effort to market.

damae said...

Yeah, poor Bruce, but evidently he's a big boy and can handle it. lol
If plan A doesn't work, he goes on to plan B. One's gotta be tough to be a farmer in this day and age, and Bruce is smart enough to make it happen. I'm a farmer wannabee and I sure appreciate the lessons he shares on this blog.