It’s been an interesting few days here at Peeper Hollow Farm. After Qallan’s injury in the Sheep Barn, we went up to feed the ewes without lambs only to find that the raccoon that had made herself comfortable in the ram shelter had decided that things were much more comfortable in the loft of the Storage Barn. Every time anyone entered the loft, she would respond from the mound of stored items with hissing and growling. Even worse, we got a load of 250 bales of hay on Friday that was supposed to be loaded into that loft. In a very short period of time, we had a very real issue – so I called a wildlife management company that specializes in humane relocation that very day.
The biggest issue for me was that the raccoon had chased out all of our barn cats and had possibly injured one of our lambs. We could possibly close out the raccoon from the Sheep Barn, but that would close out the cats, too. The barn cats are there with a job to do: they hang out in our barns, eliminating any growing mouse problem before it becomes a real problem. They move from one barn to the other – and sometimes into the chicken coop – looking for mice that like to hang around our grain. With the raccoon snarling in the loft, the barn cats circled the Storage Barn, wanting to enter to catch their allotment of mice, but knowing that if they did, the raccoon might make a meal of them!
We loaded the hay into the loft on Friday despite her best efforts to keep us out. The people from the relocation company came late that day and the problem was obvious even to them with three barn cats crying and circling outside of the barn. We went through all of our shelters, one at a time, and discussed the options – and I learned a lot about raccoons! I didn’t realize that they tend to stay where they were born – unless they are moved many miles away. This meant that if our little raccoon had kits here, we would have raccoon issues for many years. We decided that she had to go – but I was worried about moving her and her young – if they had already come – so that they didn’t die of starvation in my loft if we caught their mother in a trap.
The representatives told me that they would suggest a solution other than trapping – that trapping would be a last resort. They suggested that we spread the scent of male raccoon in all of our barns. It turns out that male raccoons kill all of the young that they run across, and the females know this, hiding away and out of sight until their young are older. This was likely the reason that she has been hanging around our buildings. The females usually scout out several dens so that they have back-up in case one has been compromised, so chasing her out of our buildings would force her to have her kits somewhere else in one of her back-up homes. My worry about the kits having already arrived was unnecessary – if they had been in the loft, we would have heard them. Oh, and if they were there and she smelled the male raccoon scent, she would simply move them one by one t0 the new home – if it worked.
I was told that it didn’t always work – particularly if the female was young and inexperienced. If it didn’t work, we would trap the female and then tear apart the stuff in the loft to find the young, relocating them together. They spread the male raccoon scent in the upper and lower levels of the Storage Barn, in the ram shelter, and in the Sheep Barn, hoping to push her out into the wild somewhere. I had no idea how long it would take, but I promised them I would text or call in a few days to let them know how things turned out.
Well, the raccoon moved out immediately. On Saturday morning, I arrived at the Storage Barn to find that our barn cats had moved back in overnight and were again living in the loft, catching mice that like to live in the stored hay. There was no sign of her anywhere – not in any of our three buildings! Even better, she has not come back – so I would say that this problem is solved!
As a partial solution to our continued parasite issue from last year, I’ve decided to graze cattle on some of our fields for this first half of the grazing season – and the first pair moved in yesterday! Rascal and T-bone have found our South Pasture to their liking, and we are happy to have their help in killing off the sheep parasites in the fields. They will be joined by a couple of bottle calves once the calves are weaned in a couple of weeks. The four will then have access to five of our seven pastures for the next couple of months. Since the internal parasites on our fields are species-specific, the digestive system of the cattle will kill off the sheep parasites – and any parasite eggs that the cattle might drop will be killed in the larval stage by our sheep when they return to the fields. This is only a small sliver of our parasite plan for this year – I will lay out the entire plan on Friday!