Help me Identify a predator please!

ducky mommy HU

In the Brooder
5 Years
Jun 16, 2014
11
0
24
Teton Valley ID
Hi everyone,
I went to check on my ducks yesterday when I found magpies feeding on a few of my birds. Luckily several birds survived and were inside there nesting boxes frightened to death! We have never had a predator problem before so I was discussed to see my babies hurt. To give you some more information my husband and I live in Idaho where we have several predators. Our large coop and run consist of two parts one half inclosed where the ducks go in at night and a second open part with chicken wire about four feet tall buried in the ground with a pond and several places to hide under. Two of the ducks were laying in the middle of the run next to the pond and one duck still in the water. None of them had any signs of being bitten or touched at all except the bills were eaten off there faces (sorry that's kind of graphic) it wasn't until I checked the other ducks that I found one duck alive but had no bill! (So sick) at first I thought it was a hawk or owl because of the open roof in the run but I am not so sure that a bird of prey would eat only the bill. Please let me know what you think did this so I can better secure my coop. We have added a roof to the run and set traps near the coop to help us catch the assassin, but if anyone has had this happen I would appreciate your input I can't find info on any predator that would do this on the Internet.
 

JadeComputerGal

Songster
5 Years
Apr 19, 2014
2,063
255
198
West Chester, PA, USA
Sheesh, that made me queasy. I'd probably have to be hospitalized if I woke up to something like that.

I can't think of a single predator that would do something like that, but I'd say it almost certainly wasn't any type of raptor since they typically grab and go one animal at a time. Attacks on three ducks inside an uncovered pen seems to indicate a ground predator, many of which can climb. Ground predators will often attack multiple fowl if the fowl are in a confined space where they can't escape, though I'm baffled over what predator would do what you described.

Anyway, the reason I responded to this other than to suggest ground predator and to say I'm terribly sorry is to ask what kind of traps you put out. I'm trying to think how you'd put out traps if you don't know what you're trapping, but my bigger concern is that I don't want to see you get in legal trouble because of the horror you've experienced. I really think you and the DH need to review your county/state regulations to see what the rules are on animal trapping. If you end up trapping something that's protected, you could be looking at a huge fine, especially if you're setting kill traps. In some places, even live traps require a permit, though most places I'm familiar with are somewhat more lenient on killing or trapping predators that are damaging your property.

Have you contacted your county agricultural commission about this? They might have some ideas, and they might even want to examine the birds if you still have them. Someone should at least take pictures of the birds that were attacked so you have documentation of the damage. In my case, it would have to be my hubby taking the pics because I don't have the stomach for things like that. Just imagining this is giving me the willies.
 

Amiga

Overrun with Runners
11 Years
Jan 3, 2010
23,213
2,820
551
Southern New England
My first thought was raccoon. Sad for your loss - often, folks don't realize that predators will come from seemingly out of nowhere to get at ducks.

A secure pen is needed especially at night. There are a number of threads on the Duck Forum with ideas for securing the area. Chicken wire is better at keeping birds in than predators out.

Please also know that whatever it was will be back right away. Better to have the ducks confined for several days while you make a safe pen for them, than to have them attacked again.
 

JadeComputerGal

Songster
5 Years
Apr 19, 2014
2,063
255
198
West Chester, PA, USA
Amiga brings up a great point about securing your pen. I keep forgetting how many people use chicken wire for chicken and duck pens. Many predators can reach through that or even simply rip it open, and many snakes can crawl through it. We use 19-gauge 1/2 hardware cloth on all parts of our pen. Although it's more expensive than a comparable amount of chicken wire, it's also much stronger and lasts much longer, so the cost evens out even if you aren't losing birds because of inadequate pen construction.
 

Amiga

Overrun with Runners
11 Years
Jan 3, 2010
23,213
2,820
551
Southern New England
And implied in JadeComputerGal's description - 19 gauge - it's metal. This may seem obvious to everyone reading this post, but a friend lost her flock because the "hardware cloth" she used was plastic. Yup, some places label their plastic poultry fence as "hardware cloth." That is a deadly mislabeling.
 

JadeComputerGal

Songster
5 Years
Apr 19, 2014
2,063
255
198
West Chester, PA, USA
This post is briefly graphic, so please take that into consideration before you read it. I'm having cold chills just typing it, but I need to convey the message.

I was just mentioning this to my hubby, who was raised on a chicken farm. Before I even got through the whole scenario, he said, "That was a weasel." I was surprised since I expected us to have some discussion about what could do a thing like this, so I asked what made him so sure of that. Then he said, "Most likely weasel, possibly a raccoon. If these people are using chicken wire or anything that has more than a half inch opening, weasels and raccoons will reach into the pen and pull the beaks/bills right off their faces trying to pull them out."

Apologies for the images that I'm sure none of us want to have in our minds, but I thought I should pass that along.
 

JadeComputerGal

Songster
5 Years
Apr 19, 2014
2,063
255
198
West Chester, PA, USA
Lots of people waste a lot of time and energy trying to identify predators by their killing style, when the bottom line is that it absolutley does not matter. What matters is that your birds were not secured, and so the predator, and all other predators, had access to them. The solution is simple; keep the birds secure and nothing can get to them. Trapping is only a temporary solution. Trap one, and there will be another along to take it's place shortly. Having said that, from what you describe it sounds like a common scenario often used by young raccoons which are still learning to hunt, but which are not yet desperate enough to have to eat what they have killed because other food is plentiful and the mother is still providing some. If that is the case, it is likely that you have an entire litter or family group that is working together. Mink and weasels will also kill many birds at one time, but often it's only the back of the neck or head which is bitten, sometimes without any noticeable wound. Foxes will kill many at one time too. Raptors seldom will. Keep in mind that all of the above may kill in ways that are similar, and they don't read the books which say how they are suppose to behave. Any individual may behave in ways that are out of the norm.

Selective, I agree with almost all of what you said and thought that was a good post, other than the part about it not mattering what kind of predator(s) you have. If you don't know what predators are in your area, you don't know how to kill, trap, or deter them. I think most of us lock our birds in secure pens overnight, but many of us also let our birds free range during daylight hours. Diurnal predators have to be taken into account unless you want to keep your ducks penned 100% of the time, and I can't even imagine us forcing ours to live their entire lives in a pen.
 

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