Rosie vs the Cougar

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The very first photo of a cougar at Canadian Acres

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.

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An adorable reminder of what our chicken coop/run looks like

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.

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Rosie & Rollo

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:

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Mama Cougar, a few hours after Clay’s shot

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Oh sure, just lay down for a bit

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No rush

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Wait… what?!

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A big-ass cub

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.

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Stay safe folks and always have your 30-30 handy.

Katy

 

 

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Game Cam Whodunnit

A few weeks back Clay checked on our furthest game cam, about 1/2 mile down from our house. As he approached, he realized that something was wrong, it was facing a different angle. Upon further inspection it appeared as if someone had vandalized our camera! But how, oh how could we figure out this mystery?

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This guy seems legit…

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Not so sure about this one…

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Our first baby on the cam!

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Oh my goodness, those spots…

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Wait a minute….

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Hey, stop that!

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Oh so you’re the culprit…

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Returning to the scene of the crime to check on your handiwork I suppose?

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Well, now you’re just doing victory laps…

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Oh yeah, it’s never the moose

Now to figure out how to fix the broken strap holder… damn bears.

~Katy

The Month of May

Hello all,

My oh my, how time flies when you are working working working having fun! The month of May has been full of sunshine, laughter and hard work. Summer is off to a wonderful start and we are busier than ever.

The Peace River Valley, view from the bottom quarter section near our game cam

The Peace River Valley, view from the bottom quarter section near our game cam

The chickens finally (FINALLY!) moved out of the house and are loving their new coop. They aren’t 100% sure on how and when to get in and out to enjoy their outdoor run, but we are working on it. Once they do get outside, they are happy and so funny to watch. Group dust bathing is my favorite activity. I finished painting the exterior and am working on some final touches before I post photos (alas, my work never seems to be done). One thing I’ve learned is that when you finish one project, there are 10+ more added to the list.

Our first group outing

Our first group outing

Dirty Gerty selfie on moving day

Dirty Gerty selfie on moving day

Maynard helping Mom paint the chicken coop

Maynard helping Mom paint the chicken coop

My father-in-law Timber finished the fencing for the horses a few weeks ago and literally the day after it was done, horses started to arrive at Canadian Acres. I guess it is true, if you build it, they will come. Clay’s Aunt and Uncle graciously let us borrow two riding horses as they needed some miles put on them. Their names are Ranger and Rover and they are such dolls. Maynard just loves to give them kisses. Clay and I went riding one rainy evening and explored the property on horseback… what an amazing feeling to actually do something you’ve dreamed of since the beginning. A few days later, some friends dropped off their horses to stay for the summer, and a few days after that, our new range stud showed up with Timber’s new horse… I’m in horse heaven!

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Ranger on the left, Rover on the right… such hams 🙂

Kisses for Ranger Photo credit: Tyler Chamberlin

Kisses for Ranger
Photo credit: Tyler Chamberlin

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Timber’s new horse… Not sure on his name but he is GORGEOUS!

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Sweet Shazam

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Our first ride on the property… one of those moments when I realize that I am right where I should be 🙂

Apparently, so is Wyatt. He’s been trampled only once (the very first meeting), but comes close to it almost daily. He’s also learned a new trick called rolling-in-fresh-horse-poop-so-Mom-can-bath-me-with-the-hose-daily. This new habit is in battle for “best things Wyatt does” with finding random animal parts to chew on. Oh what fun to be had. Life as a farm dog is pretty tough.

Horse poop? I don't know, I'm not sure what you're asking....

Horse poop? I don’t know about any horse poop. I’m not sure what you’re asking Mom….

Oh look, Wyatt found a stick. Wait a minute...

Oh look, Wyatt found a stick. Wait a minute…

The new range stud is so adorable and sweet I’m not sure I can keep him “wild” enough until he has to go to his new job with the wild horses across the river. He’s only a yearling, so he has some time to grow into it. He came without a name and I’m pretty sure he’s a Thor. What do you think? He’s a Percheron Fjord cross and has lovely coloring and markings. Did I mention I’m in love?

Clay meeting Thor for the first time - love the stripe down his back

Clay meeting Thor for the first time – love the stripe down his back

Beautiful markings

Beautiful boy

Yesterday I finally took a moment (in between building my hugelkultur flower bed and finishing painting the power shed…what can I say, I’m an excellent multitasker) to hike down to our game cam and grab the photos. It’s been un-checked for about a month and I was anxious to see what summer would bring to our game highway. Apparently, a lot of things! Lots of elk and deer, a moose, a coyote, a dirt biker (hmmmm… they must have missed our blatant No Trespassing signs), a porcupine and a gorgeous but wily looking wolf. What a very busy month it has been.

Elk, elk everywhere!

Elk, elk everywhere!

Young moose

Young moose

Total "Peter and the Wolf" soundtrack moment... I'm expecting Scut Farcus to show up at any moment

Total “Peter and the Wolf” soundtrack moment… I’m expecting Scut Farcus to show up at any moment

Today is cold and rainy/snowy so we are taking some time to organize our indoor lives since that seems to get ignored when the weather is nice. I am excited to get some plants planted and work on the landscaping as we have company coming at the end of the month. Looks like life won’t be slowing down any time soon – proof that the homesteading life fits us just right.

Here’s hoping your summers are all off to a busy and beautiful start, and if you get a chance, lounge in the sun for me!

~Katy

With rain brings double rainbows :)

It’s been a double rainbow kind of month

Wildlife on the Farm: Trail Cam March 2014

I have been in Canada for 7 months now, and thanks to a painfully slow immigration process full of, ahem, process errors, I’ve had the privilege of spending a lot of time on the farm. I love watching the land change with the seasons (fall, winter and now spring) and witnessing the beauty of the land and the creatures who share it with us daily. Coming from Alaska, I am no stranger to living among spectacular wildlife, but never where it’s been this personal. We get to be a part of and share in a an ecosystem that has been here for many years, and it seems to be a very healthy ecosystem at that.

One of my favorite days of exploring was after a big snow on a warm sunny day. The dogs and I walked down to the lower fields and found every kind of animal sign imaginable. There were small tracks, medium tracks, itty-bitty tracks, bird hunting wing tracks, ginormous size-of-my hand tracks, it was beautiful. Brought a smile to this Alaskan girls face for sure. The dogs were going crazy with all the smells too! It was awesome to add our own tracks to the biodiversity of our land, and learn about what animal creates each type of track and pattern.

Owl hunting a rabbit

Busy busy

Busy busy

Wolf track

Wolf track

It amazes me how much activity goes on around our small parcel of 160 acres, especially since we are stewards of over 1,000 acres total. Our 1/4 section is part of a much larger acreage purchased by Clay’s grandfather in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. Now, there are four groups of land owners which include us, Clay’s parents, aunt’s and uncle’s. We are the only ones living down here, which lets us provide stewardship over the entire acreage. It’s pretty awesome, just like Braveheart. Except without the whole war thing.

Anyway, we truly enjoy exploring and checking in on the happenings of the land. My daily ski’s this winter were never boring and my new favorite hobby is following game trails wherever they may lead. I ran across my first predator kill site and had fun investigating the possible assailants (with help from my favorite conservation officer). I think it’s important to know what to be aware of when we are out and about, especially with our “city dogs”. Summertime should prove interesting… we’re taking bets on who finds the first porcupine.

Recently, I bought Clay a trail cam for Valentine’s day. This came closely after I found all of those wolf tracks. We thought it would be a good idea to really watch what happens when we’re not present. The setup of the camera has been tricky and we’ve had to play with positioning, height and location. Last week I found a sweet spot on a trail overlooking the river as we captured two types of deer and our elk herd in one 24 hour period! We borrowed a second cam (thanks Robin!) to be able to widen our scope area.

The Elk herd

The Elk herd

Elk herd

Elk herd

Selfie!

Selfie!

Close up selfie

Curious

Little buck on a snowy day

Little buck on a snowy day

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Whitetails!

Whitetails!

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Checking the game cams has proved to be exciting as well and we enjoy our nightly hikes down. Both are now located about 1/2 mile below our house, with about a 1/2 mile in between them. Last night we spotted 24 mule deer and 5 whitetails on our property just hiking down to check the cams. All within a span of an hour. Our “city dog” Wyatt found a herd of 13 of them before we did, and I tell you, I’ve never seen him run so fast in his life. You’d never know he had a bad hip and two major surgeries… well at least not until he plays it up around meal time. He didn’t get very close, and he definitely didn’t let that pesky barbed wire fence stand in his way of chasing off the intruders. I think we may need to work on someone’s manners before we get the horses.

Wyatt vs barbed wire

Wyatt vs barbed wire

~Katy

An elusive creature yet to be identified... believed to be a mythical beast in the maynardian classification

An elusive creature yet to be identified… believed to be a mythical beast in the maynardian classification