It is a rare thing to hear a story these days that holds some truth, let alone a story that becomes truthfully grander as time goes on. Most hunting, fishing, and outdoor adventuring type stories become farther from the truth each time they are told, each time the audience reacts and each time the story-teller gets excited to share a tale. Well folks, around these parts, we take our story-telling very seriously, as well as our wildlife and apparently, as well as our barn cats.
As summer started to dwindle and nights became darker and colder, the family found it’s way to a fun-filled wedding weekend in Edmonton. We got to trade our muck boots and mud for high-heels and tuxes and left the farm to it’s own devices for just a few short days. Upon return, my husband reported that everything looked ok. The horses looked fat and happy, our Mama cat Rosie and her new kitten were good and the only problem was that we had lost one chicken by his account. There were feather’s everywhere on the lawn (that is the extent of his account because my husband has absolutely no idea how many chickens we have, what their names are or what color they might be). Bummed for the one loss, I was happy that our only issue was this. Our initial assumption was that a hawk had found it’s way into the chicken run and that was that.
Our chicken coop is a revamped sea-can with a large, fenced, partially covered outdoor run. The fencing is buried into the ground, but does have open areas above. The run itself is nature-scaped with plenty of natural trees and shrubs for cover, and for the most part, the chickens are pretty safe in there. When I returned home the next day, I did some sleuthing… checking out the feathers on the lawn (odd place for a predator to stop for a snack?) I realized it was one of my current Mama hens, so it would have been very strange for her to be so far away from the coop. The predator must have carried her to this place. Her chicks were accounted for and thankfully an Aunty had stepped in to care for them. Upon further inspection, I noticed a large hole in our run door that hadn’t been there before, and surmised that a coyote or fox probably got into the run and grabbed Mama. Well, mystery solved and farm life is hard and all that jazz. We stapled up the hole and moved on with our lives.
A few days later, I was sitting on the couch feeding my son. I heard the unmistakeable sound of my rooster Rollo alerting the flock to danger. I got up and looked out at the chicken run, where the chickens were all running and showing major signs of distress. Last summer we lost a few chickens to a black bear who I had to shoot (this is a story for another time) and I knew exactly what I was seeing… there was a predator in our yard. Thinking that the coyote had returned, I put my flip-flops on and headed out to scare it away. Typical day on the farm!
Coyotes aren’t the bravest animals on the planet and they usually just run off at the sight of a human. If it was a bear, I’d see or hear it and could run back to the house for the gun. As soon as the chickens saw me they booked it to the front steps (save yourself!) and left me for dead. I couldn’t hear or see anything, which was odd. I got up to the front of the chicken run and started to look around. It was very quiet. Too quiet.
Suddenly I saw our barn cat Rosie fly out of nowhere into the air behind the run and go after something like a Mama bear on a hiker. Rosie had previously kicked the sh*t out of a friends dog after having her kitten in July so I knew she was in full-on Mama bear mode. Then a very large animal jumped up out of the bush and turned tail to book it, with Rosie tasmania-deviling it out of the yard. Now Rosie is not a large domesticated cat, far from it. She is an itty-bitty thing, but has never had much fear growing up with two pit bulls, a toddler, a big ole rooster and the wild. But man did she just go toe-to-toe with this thing. Full body throttle.
This all happened very quickly and I immediately ran for the gun. How odd, I thought, for a coyote to just sit there and watch me as I looked for it, and how badass for Rosie to chase a coyote out of the yard! I grabbed our lever action 30-30 and headed back out to the road towards the Wolf Woods area of our farm. For those of you who remember, the Wolf Woods are where our pit bull Wyatt fought off several wolves about 100 ft from our house and lived to tell the tale (story here – I told you we take our wildlife seriously). Rosie came prancing back into the driveway, puffed up tail wagging and quiet proud of herself and I wasn’t about to go traipsing in Wolf Woods by myself. I gathered the chickens, locked them up and headed back for the house. But I couldn’t shake something… that it very much looked like a large cat turning to run, like, it used both of its back feet to push off and coyotes, and wolves and bears don’t run like that. Hmmmm… weird. Had to have been a coyote.
The next night, Clay went off to hunt for elk and I was outside at dusk doing evening chores. The kids were in bed and the chickens were tucked in and I was having a nice moment of enjoying the fresh air and night befalling the farm. I thought I saw something odd to the right of our house and headed that way to get a better look. Nothing scary odd, just, out of place, different? I don’t really know. As I started off in the direction of the oddity, Rosie cat came running up to join me. It is not unusual for any of my walks to be joined by some sort of farm critter, wether they have hair, fur or feathers so I was glad for the company. But she wouldn’t let me walk. She started attacking my legs and biting my feet, hard. I tried to shake her off, telling her she was a silly cat, but she persisted. After a particularly hard bite, I knew something was up. I stopped walking, told her (loudly) “okay, we won’t go that way anymore” and turned around for home. We both ran to the porch and I quickly went inside. A rush of panic flowed through me and I just didn’t know why… but I knew there was something out there and Rosie knew it. Clay soon got home after a scaredy pants text from me and all was well once again.
The next morning, Clay went out for an early elk hunt. Just as the sun was shining it’s full morning strength and the kids and I were having breakfast we heard a large “BANG!” from the driveway. I rushed to the door and saw Clay with his gun drawn staring into Wolf Woods. I opened the door and shouted “The coyote? Did you get it?” He looked at me and said “Nope. It was a cougar and I f*&%ing missed.” WHAT?!
He stayed out a few more minutes searching but figured the cat took off after being shot at. He came inside, sat down looking a bit shaken and told me he had run into a cougar coming out of our cabin road onto the driveway. He slammed on his breaks, grabbed his gun and his shells and ran up the road to see if he could still see it. Once he got around the corner, he had a split second to take a shot as it jumped into Wolf Woods (damn freaking woods!) and barely missed it. This was the first sighting of a cougar on our property in the five years we’ve been here and he was in shock. And.so.was.I.
All of a sudden it all made so much sense, the series of events over the past few days came together like a puzzle piece. A freaking big-ass-cat puzzle piece. WTF. Ok, cool, so I just had a cougar taking out my chickens, watching me like a sneaky bastard while I hoedy-doe’d around in my flip-flops, hanging out on the farm like it’s no big thang because I’m a mutha-effing COUGAR! I don’t trust a small house cat let alone a large man-killing cat just hanging out ready to maul me and my kin at a minutes notice, what the what. Wait, scratch that, I TOTALLY TRUST A SMALL CAT BECAUSE ROSIE IS A BADASS!!! We were officially on high alert. We tracked cougar tracks all over the yard and into the bush. The Conservation Officer that we called wasn’t interested in our story, just told us to keep the chickens enclosed and make sure we supervise our children (really?). We didn’t really know what to do other than hope that it had been scared off and be extra aware. The 30-30 was hung above the door (Pa Ingalls would be proud) and we did what we could, but to say we were shaken in a whole new way on the farm is an understatement. I did a few stories on my instagram, word got out around town, there was talk of hounds and hunters but mostly, things quieted down.
A few weeks have gone by and no new sights or incidents have occurred that we know of. The chickens have been free ranging again without incident, our guard puppy is growing, Rosie got spayed, we have a dead bear hanging from the tractor, you know, back to our farm normal (bear season is open and we have a plethora on our land). We finally had time to switch out some game camera cards last night after a busy week of hosting my parents and we were excited to see what we got (Game cam picture viewing is a big deal at our house). Like I said, in the five years we’ve lived on our property we’ve never once seen a cougar or captured one on our many game cams. It’s actually pretty unheard of in this area to do either. We know that they’re “around” but they’re cats, they are supposed to keep to themselves. Well ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our findings from a game cam posted about a quarter mile from my front door, just past our horse corrals:
Not one cougar, but two. Two. Cougars. As in more than one cougar. Like, two cougars. TWO COUGARS.
So, here ends my truthful tale, one in which ended up grander than where we began. Never in a million years would we have guessed we had a problem cougar let along two problem cougars. We think it’s probably a Mama cat and a yearling “cub” (ha!) and hope to hope that they have moved on out of our neck of the woods. I guess we can now start calling it Cougar Wolf Woods? Sounds like something a hipster would name their child. Good lord. It’s a good lesson in following your instincts (I knew it was a cat – I knew Rosie was trying to tell me something) and to always, always listen to your Mama.
And Rosie cat… you have forever earned my respect and fellowship and I am so honoured to have you on the Canadian Acres team. You are an original gangster and a legend. Wyatt would be proud.
Stay safe folks and always have your 30-30 handy.