For I am the baddest SOB in the valley and all the other SOBs know it…

…except there may be a new one, and I’m going to have to go explain it to him.

It happens from time to time. Mostly the only predators we have to deal with around here are the coyotes, and the coyotes know us. They’re not a problem. Coyotes, like dogs, are pack animals and if you explain it to one the others get the message. The only coyote I ever had to take a shot at was almost a year ago, and it was an outlier. Never found the body but I hope it didn’t suffer long. That was the first kill of the .44, and that one came to me.

But now it seems we’ve got a new contender. My neighbor L has been complaining that something scared her pup Butch into the house with his tail between his legs, and (possibly that same) something has been leaving a lot of tracks in the wash between D&L’s Ridge and the Lair. And something in the wash in the same direction has had Ghost and LB stirred up.

The thing is, Ghost usually likes to chase the things that get him stirred up. But in this case he has been content to stay in his meadow, just running back and forth and barking. Whatever it is, he hasn’t wanted to chase it down. Ghost isn’t quite as young and crazy as he used to be.

I’ve seen lots of tracks in the wash, but it’s soft sand and I can’t read them. They’re big, but not obviously coyote. If it’s a bobcat they’d deal with it. But if it’s a bigger cat, it becomes my responsibility.

It’s times like this I wish I were a real hunter. I’ve never really been interested in hunting. And I hope it’s not a big cat, because I find them beautiful and don’t want to kill one. But I really don’t want one tangling with my boys. So I guess I’m going to have to go find it if I can.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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9 Responses to For I am the baddest SOB in the valley and all the other SOBs know it…

  1. Wolfman says:

    I don’t know much about hunting big cats, but I’ve lived in their domain much of my life. Bears don’t worry me much, even griz, but cats spook me. That being said, its been my experience that they are very observant creatures. The presence of large dogs and the willingness of a badass SOB to back them up is something they seem to take note of. Hopefully you can just convince it to move along. Good Luck!

  2. Anonymous says:

    If the mystery animal has a more or less standard path, rake out a track trap, and moisten it a bit. It should hold the sand together enough to ID your visitor. Might not be coyote, but might be feral dog. Either way, easy enough to tell the difference between canine and feline tracks, if you can get enough definition.

  3. joe in reno says:

    2nd on the track trap.

    If you are really unlucky:

    I have heard individual wolves have traveled much further than the official published ranges.

  4. Plug Nickel Outfit says:

    I think Wolfman is right about cats being observant and careful. It’s fairly commonly said that they’re not going to let you see them unless they’re comfortable with it. (assuming you’re not stalking them or just happened on them unaware) I hate to admit it it – but I’ve come within 20′ of bobcat in tall grass and didn’t see him til he finally got up and stalked away – glaring at me ’cause I ruined his hunt.

    As you may already know – cats tend to keep their claws retracted unless they’re in poor health, breaking into a sprint, or actively taking prey. If you can pick up tracks – that can help distinguish between cat or canine. You can generally pick up the claw marks with a canine.

    A definite factor in your case is those chooks – they’re putting out a siren call 24/7. If you ever hear a late night commotion around the hen house – you might consider not letting the dogs out the door first. All they’re going to do is mix it up with whatever’s out there – meaning no clear shots and likely wounds to the dogs from the fracas. Some people keep dogs as sacrificial pawns – I assume you don’t.

    Tracking is treated as an art – and probably deserves it. One basic thing for me is to use your sun/light angles. The easiest time of day to pick up track is early or late – longer shadows. Tracks will jump out at you at the right angle and lighting. Then you can follow them until you can get a legible impression.

    Scat’s a topic unto itself… I’ll spare you!

  5. MamaLiberty says:

    I’m certainly no expert, and I’d have to see the tracks to know more, but it sounds like a wolf or very large feral dog to me. We have mountain lions all over the place here, and they are very shy. There’s more than enough deer and other game for them, so only an old or sick cat will even bother coming close to livestock because they can’t catch the wild stuff anymore. Those we shoot as soon as we can find them, but that’s tough. They are sometimes hard to find, even with dogs trained for that.

    A wolf or feral dog, on the other hand, is nowhere near that shy. If they decide to have chicken dinner, you will have to do something serious about it. No idea what the “legal” deal might be there for wolves, however. We can shoot a wolf if it is attacking livestock, just as we can a dog.

    Good luck, and be careful!

  6. Claire says:

    I recall there was a big mountain lion hanging around in the washes when I was there. Left prints the size of dinner plates over near where we salvaged some petrified wood (or didn’t salvage petrified wood, in case there’s some damn law about that or something). He didn’t seem to cause any domestic troubles at the time, but then you didn’t have chickens, either. If he’s still in the vicinity, he could be pretty hungry this time of year.

    Good luck.

  7. Weetabix says:

    Borrow a game camera?

  8. Goober says:

    If it is a cougar, and you do end up shooting it, learn to butcher if you don’t know how already. I know that this doesn’t seem like it would be the case, so brace yourself:

    Cougar is absolutely freaking delicious. Like lean, flavorful pork. I kid you not. If you have any foreseeable way to make it happen, do NOT shoot, shovel, and shut up. Butcher that thing and eat like a king.

  9. Tennessee Budd says:

    PNO makes a good point–tracks are much easier to read with angled light: you can spot some you’d stomp right over at noon. Reading, or even spotting, tracks requires time & experience, but like jobs, the only way to gain time & experience is to do it. An intelligent man (and you are, Uncle J) can reason out direction, weight distribution, etc, & therefore, often, what the critter was doing–especially if said man was bright enough to learn something beforehand, which would prove he’s a bright man. Having used up my month’s quota of commas, I’ll just say “good hunting,” & keep the dogs home ’til you know what you have.

To the stake with the heretic!