No Sighting. [No Pictures] Daytime Predator - FL Panhandle. Help pls?

U_Stormcrow

Crossing the Road
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Jun 7, 2020
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North FL Panhandle Region / Wiregrass
CornishX had its throat ripped out, head outside the fence, body inside - daylight attack.

I lost a laying CornishX today, age 7 months, weight about 9#. late morning. I live in a remote area of the FL Panhandle and have a number of undeveloped acres (oaks, pines, hickory, muscadine grapes, etc). We had some strong winds last night and this AM, one of the grape vines was blown into my recently installed electric fence and shorted it out. That allowed whatever to cross the field behind my barn, reach thru the livestock fencing, grab hold of one of my two remaining CornishX hens in the run, and rip its throat out. The door was open, they could have been free ranging at the time, but apparently the CornishX wasn't.

When I arrived, there was no sign of the predator (and we've been very dry for a bit, there were no discernable tracks) but my decapitated bird was still warm to the touch, particularly the feet - and of course, no rigor mortis. No obvious puncture wounds, either.

The electric fence is now fixed, the grape vine removed (and cut to bare soil) as well as the (more dead than I thought it was) branch the grape vine was attached to.

My guess is either raccoon or weasel. While I've had trouble with aerial predators, I can't imagine one pulling the body of a roughly 9# bird up against the fence, pulling the head thru an opening in the livestock fence, and ripping the throat out. What other predators should I be considering??? Neither raccoons or weasels are known for being particularly active in daylight - though its not out of the question, either - and there are lots of both hollow trees and old turtle burrows, inside the electric fence, where one might make its den.
 
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and while condolences and other expressions of sympathy are appreciated, I'm primarily interested in identifying the likely culprit, so I can take appropriate steps to prevent a repeat.

My flock provides for part of my diet - and while I expect some predation due simply to odds and the practical considerations of allowing my birds to free range - I am not in the "business' of feeding predators, and do not yet have a sufficiently stable flock size and operation that I can just write off a bird meant eventually for my table which was currently providing eggs for both breakfast and the next generation of my flock.

Thanks in advance for your understanding.
 
That sounds most like the work of a raccon grabbing and pulling with its hand(s). Having said that, i agree that raccoons during day hours are uncommon. Once your bird stuck her head thru the wire, ANYthing could have grabbed her head with its mouth, or even its beak. For example, several years ago, a pair of mississippi kites pulled the heads off several 6-week old chicks housed in a wire dog kennel that i had put underneath a tree one spring afternoon. I only knew it was kites that did the deed because they were perched in the tree above, staring down at the cage in frustration because the chick bodies were too big to pull through. Even tho a kite would be too small to grab a 9 # cornish cross, a red-tail hawk would NOT be too small. But if your run has no top, an aerial predator would have attacked from above, which leads back to a ground predator. Just about mammalian predator could grab the head with its teeth, including a dog. Sounds like u took proper precautions in installing an electric fence, & the outage was a freak occurence. U can put up a camera since the predator will likely try again, but the backup solution to any possible electric outage is to attach 1/2 inch hardware cloth (or similiar small width wire) to the lower 3 feet of your run. That will keep anything from reaching through, as well as prevent chickens from sticking their heads out. When the predator comes back, it will likely get a good shock from your now working fence. A camera would allow u to know what is lurking, & also provide a bit of satisfaction/revenge when the predator discovers that reaching through the fence again is no longer a good idea AT All. Smirk.
 
We don't have weasels in Florida. If you have a game camera, put it up. More than likely the predator has been lurking looking for an opportunity and found one or it happened by. In either case the likelihood is it will be back since it made a kill and if you can identify it then you can make a plan. I have several cameras up. I was surprised when I first put them up at the predators that roamed here, especially at night, but now and then come out during the day. Here is a bobcat next to my chick/grow-out coop the other night.
DSCF0002112 09Rev.jpg
 
I have a nylon/polypropylene netting on the bottom several feet of the livestock fencing to keep my smallest birds in (not predators out, obviously - the E fence is supposed to do that) and yeah, freak occurrence. The attack happened where two pieces meet up, and its laid open like a shirt collar. I walk the fence every other day looking for potential shorts. Will take some maintenance over the coming year till I'm satisfied the trail I blazed thru my woods for it isn't immediately going green.

When I expand the run, I'll upgrade the netting again and/or install an E-fence directly outside the run as well.

As you surmised, there's no cover on the run, its about 1,000 sq ft, which is why an aerial predator was unlikely - they would not have had the fence in the way.

Guess I'll put a trail cam on the holiday list, and if I get some free time, sit out there in a comfy chair with a book and a firearm, wait to see if anything intrudes...
 
I also have electric wires up around my coops and pens, concrete under the gates and good heavy duty netting covering all of my pens. All due to kills from predators in the past. Good luck...
 
I have a nylon/polypropylene netting on the bottom several feet of the livestock fencing to keep my smallest birds in (not predators out, obviously - the E fence is supposed to do that) and yeah, freak occurrence. The attack happened where two pieces meet up, and its laid open like a shirt collar. I walk the fence every other day looking for potential shorts. Will take some maintenance over the coming year till I'm satisfied the trail I blazed thru my woods for it isn't immediately going green.

When I expand the run, I'll upgrade the netting again and/or install an E-fence directly outside the run as well.

As you surmised, there's no cover on the run, its about 1,000 sq ft, which is why an aerial predator was unlikely - they would not have had the fence in the way.

Guess I'll put a trail cam on the holiday list, and if I get some free time, sit out there in a comfy chair with a book and a firearm, wait to see if anything intrudes...
I had a fox problem many years ago. I set traps using one of the birds it killed as bait and sat out kind of waiting for it. I sat there where I thought I was in a good place. In the morning I discovered I had caught it. I never saw it that night but it was caught. I used leg traps at the time. Good luck...
 
We don't have weasels in Florida. {cut}

Sadly, we do have weasel and mink, and I'm located not long far from the Blackwater, though I'm closer to the Chocktawhatchie, and am in a mostly undeveloped area of the State... So its a possibility I have to consider, though they seem much to small for the size of the bird that was taken.
 

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