…And we’re stuck in the middle again.
I love my semi-rural neighborhood. It’s mid-March, and the wisteria and nasturtiums are beginning to show off. The mockingbirds are back in business, singing from pre-dawn until well after twilight, when they finally give way to the chorus of frogs that have miraculously surfaced despite our lack of rain.
But like anyplace since Adam and Eve got us kicked out of Eden, we have our problems. And right now, we have an intractable problem of about 30 lbs. of obligate carnivorism: a bobcat has moved into the neighborhood.
I’ve been relentlessly vigilant since Summer was taken from the flock back in January. The stealth with which her demise was carried out suggested a bobcat, but we had never actually seen one on our property, so we couldn’t be sure.
That all changed this week.
I had just put the hens away on the east side of our property and happened to walk through the house to look out our living room door that faces west. There, basking regally in a patch of sun just a few yards away, lay a large, healthy-looking bobcat. I was too gobsmacked by the sight to get a photo. What registered was how powerful and truly beautiful an animal he was. That and a chilling sense of dread. Our small dog, Soho, was outside. Cody the cat was outside. And just a few moments previously, our little flock of hens had been outside, as well.
News travels fast on our neighborhood loop. By yesterday evening, I had run into three other neighbors who had confirmed sightings of Mr. Cat (I am assuming it is a male because he looked well over the average 20 lb size of a female bobcat). One neighbor shared that after he had taken her last hen, he continues to return to her property to relax by her pond. I guess he likes the view. He is almost certainly the same villain who took Summer from our flock back in January.
So what to do? With hawks, we usually at least get a warning sound. But a bobcat is a silent and stealthy hunter. With a typical one to four mile daily hunting radius, he could be anywhere at any time.
According to online sources, the bobcat’s favorite prey are rodents and cottontail bunnies, but this one has developed a particular taste for chicken. They are said to be crepuscular rather than nocturnal – hunting twilight of dawn or dusk, but clearly there is no safe time of day.
The rather anemic suggestions I found for discouraging a bobcat included the construction of a fence that exceeds six feet in height. I’m sure our homeowner’s association will look favorably on my imminent application to build a fortress and a moat.
Oh, and it is suggested that pets be kept inside at all times. There’s a concept. Should we give each of the hens their own bedroom?
So, for the moment, no good solution. The bobcat wins. Anyone want to volunteer for chicken shepherd duty?