Hey "older folks", do you remember a time when we could free range without loss?

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by Trish1974, Dec 7, 2018 at 7:52 AM.

  1. Trish1974

    Trish1974 Araucana enthusiast

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    I am very curious to see if different parts of US have experienced a massive predator shift over the decades like my area has. I am 44 years old, and I grew up on a 40 acre farm about 10 miles north of where I live now. In the late 70s and through most of the 80s my mom kept a flock of RIRs and WLs. Being an old farm the chicken "coop" was actually a small barn, probably 10'x20' on a concrete pad and made out of concrete block. NOTHING could get in that coop! In the mornings we would open the door and the chickens were out, completely unprotected until they went back in to roost in the evenings. They foraged in the open horse/cow pasture, in our yard, edges of the field, they were everywhere. During that 10 year span we only had TWO fatalities due to predation. Of all things - a peregrine falcon, and a stray dog. The peregrine falcon nested in the third story of our barn in the late 70s. I think it only stayed one year. I remember a barn owl taking its place so I don't know if it left on its own or if the owl ran it off. It only killed one chicken (that I remember) and mostly took doves and pigeons. Then in the mid 80s a stray dog went through and killed my mom's pair of black cochin bantams. That is one of the only times I remember seeing my mom cry.

    We would have the random hawk fly over, on occasion we'd see a fox down the road, but there were no coyotes at that time, no bald eagles and none of the few predators we did see attacked. A few years ago when I was wanting to get chickens, I had this fantasy of the good ol' days and couldn't wait to look out my windows and see chickens free ranging in my yard. But I was actually looking out my windows and seeing fox and bald eagles slaughtering my neighbor's free range chickens. So, no free range for me.

    Now granted I do live along a river with miles and miles of uninhabited woods and fields, different than the farm I grew up on just 10 miles north of here, but there are predators now that weren't in this area 30 some years ago. Any of you in different parts of the country have an influx of predators you didn't have years ago?
     
  2. Melky

    Melky Crowing

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    I don’t have an influx but as people move in animals are left with very little wooded areas left so we see them more. I am in the suburbs but backed up to a wooded area so see them less than someone out further than me in the country. That does not mean we do not have them.
     
  3. Howard E

    Howard E Songster

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    Predators have always been around, but seen in a different light now than in the past. Think back to the old Foghorn Leghorn cartoons and there were the usual foils.......chicken hawks, weasels, etc. One of the recurring gags was the stupid guard dog. I asked my folks once how they dealt with predators and they told me every farm with livestock had a mean dog running around. The dog at my mom's place........they kept a couple hundred laying hens to sell eggs.........didn't like my dad....so dad said he always had to keep an eye out for him. Dog failed......they got married anyway.

    As a kid growing up in a rural area, predators were bad news and had been hunted to near oblivion. There was a bounty on coyotes.......a coyote sighting was a big deal.....you shot them on sight. I spent a lot of time in the woods and never once saw signs of a fox or bobcat. Both are now common, as are coyotes. Coons and possums existed, but where hunted and trapped heavy.

    In the past, when fur prices made it a worthwhile pursuit, trappers would go after varmints like coyotes, foxes, coons, minks, etc. In doing so, they kept the populations in check. That is not the case today.

    And depending on where you live, other things have changed as well. I live about 10 miles from a population center of 100,000. 20 years ago, where I'm living now was a 240 acre farm. Today it is a cluster of 10 to 30 acre homesites, all of which has one or more pet dogs that may be allowed to run around, plus all that human presence also draws coons, possums and skunks to the buildings and pet food left outside. Worse, we are only a mile or so from the edge of US Forest Service land, so that offers a never ending supply of varmints to expand in to any holes left vacant by trapped or killed varmints. Roadkill coons, possums, skunks and deer are found in abundance.

    So yes, I'd say things are different now than they were.
     
  4. Trish1974

    Trish1974 Araucana enthusiast

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    This area has remained unchanged and the large farms are still large farms (thankfully). DNR supplied us with coyotes in the early 90s to "cut down the deer population". That didn't work. Now we have sightings of Bobcats and cougars not too far from here as well. Seems like there is always something new to worry about.
     
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  5. Ducksandchickens

    Ducksandchickens Crowing

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    What I think happened that when humans moved in and cut down predators homes and built fields predators didn’t have enough space or their prey was killed and so predators had to adapt and go after livestock. In places with bigger animals especially that hunt deer, the problem I think is that deer population has decreased after cars have it them and hunters.
    This is my opinion
     
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  6. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    I can remember a time when we could reliable drop of a breeding group (pair or trio) of game chickens either on a farm or even a fence row in the spring and reliably harvest young of year chickens and and most of the adult the following fall. Reliable means most of the time. At that time animals like raccoons and fox where more aggressively suppressed, by us in part, because hides were worth effort to collect. Free-ranging farm dogs where also more prevalent. Another thing was the farms were more diversified with with at least one family member making living off farming efforts. Most of the settings also had livestock in a paddock system.

    Most locations we used to us are no longer suitable and have not been replaced. Barns with livestock, farm dogs, and hunting pressure have been greatly reduced. Biosecurity concerns have further reduced access to dairy and horse farms.

    These days in my location, very few people keep birds out in a sustainable manner. One party I know does year round but is decidedly not backyard owing to nearly 20 acres the birds have access to. That party keeps far more birds than the property can sustain based on natural reproduction so they constantly bring new birds in.

    I try to do it but in reality have birds fully free-range about 1/2 of the year. A few are free-range all year round, but approach is not realistic.
     
  7. cmom

    cmom Hilltop Farm

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    I had my first flock in the late 60's early 70's and you are correct I didn't have problems with predators back then. I think there are many more predators today and they are spreading across the country and sometimes breeding with domestic dogs such as coyotes, coydogs.
     
  8. Folly's place

    Folly's place Free Ranging

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    We've always had predators, but numbers have shifted. Especially raccoons! Hunting raccoon pelts is about over, and they don't have many other predators here. There are more dogs, because of increased numbers of houses, people moving 'to the country' and allowing free roaming. Raptor numbers have rebounded after DDT was banned too.
    I don't really want a wolf pack here, or grizzly bears!
    We may have cougars occasionally appearing, and black bears have been seen not so far away. Fewer deer would be nice!
    Our local environment has changed, from all farmstead to mixed suburban, woodlots, and some farming. Bigger farm fields and suburban grass monoculture give less wildlife habitat too. It's just different, not always in good ways.
    Mary
     
  9. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician

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    I have raised fowl since the early 50's. With one weasel attack. Flew pigeons free loft and had no losses. Neighbor lady free ranged 1,000 leghorn replacement pullets each year with no losses. Every kid in my neighborhood hunted and trapped. Predators were controlled. Today hawks have put me out of the pigeon business. GHO are a problem to anyone with fowl. Natural pheasant production no longer exists. It's still rural where I live people have not 'moved into the wildlife habitat'. Wildlife have moved into our habitat, and no one is controlling them. An aerial count several years ago put the deer population in excess of 200/square mile. The appearance of coyotes is welcomed as they are starting to control the deer population - man sure isn't other than with automobiles.

    Edited to add that I live in W Central NJ and it is still rural here although our dirt road is now paved. When I was a kid every farm had a gamecock 'visitor' for the summer that would be collected in the autumn along with any get as @centrarchid has mentioned.
     
  10. centrarchid

    centrarchid Free Ranging

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    I would very much like to see a resumption of some fur bearer harvest that has economic incentive. What little harvesting I see is more for purpose of entertainment and does not do much.
     

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