Thirty years ago, coyotes (long believed extinct in this part of Ohio) were first spotted in the Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area. Roughly 20 miles due west of our store, the marshy swamp is known for many things. I’ve heard it said that this was the last place in Ohio with bear, panther and Native Americans. Even today, bald eagle sightings are common. Along with eagles and their offspring (apparently known as “eaglets”) the swamp is where we find most of our local ghost sightings.
About 10 years after the first coyote was shot in the Killbuck Marsh, we started hearing them call at night. Five years after that, an Amish friend shot one in the field behind my house in broad daylight, after tracking it for nearly four miles. Soon after that, I lost my first lamb.
This is not acceptable behavior! I bought a varmint rifle with a scope. I started looking for coyote signs. Most nights, I locked my sheep in the barn. But, that kind of vigilance is exhausting. And pointless. There’s a reason why they call them “wily coyotes”.
Another sheep owner told me that coyotes lay up in ravines and hollows near the sheep for days. Over time, the sheep (being about as smart as an earthworm) become familiar with the coyote’s scent and presence. After that, the coyote walks into the the herd of sheep at night and picks out its next meal as if it were one of family.
I read that coyotes are smart enough to be able to get through an electric fence without being shocked. It’s a little known fact that electric fences deliver enough voltage to be deadly. What keeps them from killing you? The shocks are delivered in quick bursts. If you’ve even been around an electric fence, you can sometimes hear a regular snapping sound. That’s the sound of the next jolt coming down the wire. Supposedly, coyotes are quick enough and smart enough to slip past the wires between shocks.
So how to put a stop to the coyotes? It turns out the solution was right in my own shop! All I had to do was hang one of our Swiss bells on their necks!
Turns out that famous Swiss engineering had a simple solution for coyotes. Coyotes who are smart enough to slip past an electric fence without getting a shock must not like the sound of music!
Since hanging one of smallest bells on the necks of two of my sheep, I haven’t lost another lamb. On top of that, I always know which field they are in. And, the hand-tuned ringing (quite different from the harsh “CLANG” of cheap steel bells) is a real joy on hot summer nights.