Last Saturday we woke up to a bloodbath. First our lovely German wwoofer, Matthias, found one dead sheep, then another, then another. Floating in the river or dead on its banks. Four beautiful girls, all with puncture marks on the inside of their hind legs, victims of a concerted attack by a pack of wild dogs.
We walked the river banks and bed looking for the rest of the herd. We found one girl resting between two logs with blood around her. We turned her and found that she had been ripped open and mauled. The only solution was going to be a bullet, so we fed her and I wept tears of despair and frustration at the senselessness and waste of the attack. Like a fox in a hen house, this had been a terrorist attack with no other purpose than the thrill of the hunt.
The herd that we had built slowly over so many years, who were so friendly and relaxed with us, decimated. Mattie had found another dead sheep earlier in the week, and the dogs had taken the lovely little lamb a few days before. Clearly lamb is on the menu for the feral dogs this autumn.
Mattie is a sensitive soul who returns to Germany to begin his training to be a vet. I mentioned to him how the energy of the farm had changed overnight – from a peaceful oasis to a place of grief and devastation. ‘It’s like a war zone’ he said.
We dragged the carcases of my lovely girls into a row beneath the house so that Ged could sit and watch, sniper-like, overnight in the hope that the predator perpetrators would return to feast on their kill.
We found two sheep exhausted and terrorised, perched like goats on a rock on the far side of the river, barricaded behind branches and logs. No amount of coaxing or tempting with lucerne could get them out and we could see they were injured. We had to grab them and carry them across the river and tend their wounds. They hid for two days this week, just so weary and stiff after their night of abject terror. The little boy recovered mid week and came calling for food at feeding time. But the ewe was still secreted away at the top of the hill, dragging her leg behind her when she moved. Mattie and I tried to catch her twice but for a three legged sheep she sure can run fast.
Finally, on Thursday night, we cornered her after she had fled from us down to the river. In a scissor like movement we approached and she made a dash for it. Mattie’s long legs in pursuit and he managed to grab onto her fleece and amazing held on and wrestled her to the ground. We turned her onto her back in shearing position and found a huge bulge of infection around her rump but I couldn’t squeeze it out. I administered the milky penicillin and then we lifted her, with great difficulty, into the back of the farm car where Mattie held her while I drove to the yards so we could secure her for a week to heal her.
Needless to say there’s been no sign of a dog since. The howlers are coming at 6 tomorrow. Normally I have a very live and let live philosophy to the wildlife we are privileged to live alongside. But when our babies are hunted down I become biblical. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
The howlers are coming at dawn tomorrow. I want 5 dead dogs, especially that big black one which has been terrorising the alpacas and sheep for so long.
What a waste. The wild dogs normally take one or two sheep a year and we accept that as our rate of attrition, but this has been appalling.
The only consolation is the old farmer’s adage ‘where you have livestock, you have dead stock.’ And apparently we had to have this devastation before taking defensive action. My poor girls.