predators can break you.. literally.. you spend all the time and money to keep your chickens healthy and happy and just when you think things are going great some killer pops by and wipes you out.. all the money you spent gone to feed the critters.. which includes coons, possums, fox, coyote, bobcats, owls, skunks and sneaky neighbors dogs..... the dogs are sneaky I mean.. well I guess the neighbors are too cause they seem to know just when to turn them loose to get their next blood fix..
there are other predators but so far these are the only ones I know about right now that I have lost my chickens and ducks to.
I know.. some of you are saying that if she would just build a run for them they would be safe.. not true.. a skunk can get through a chain link fence, I watched a coon make him/her self flat and somehow squeeze between hardware cloth and ply board to then contort itself to slither into a small air hole I had in my first coop. Let me tell you it came out a different way than it went in.
The red fox is the size of a small dog, with a total length of 39-41 inches and a weight of 9-12 pounds. It has prominent, erect ears, a pointed nose, and a long, bushy tail with white tip. The fur is long, soft, with the upper part reddish-yellow, black-tipped on the shoulders. The breeding season is from December to February, with a peak in late January. A litter of 4-7 pups is born in a den in late March or early April. The male may bring food to the den until the female can leave the pups a short time, then they both hunt. They remain with the pups until dispersal. . They are generally nocturnal and non-migratory, and usually use the same area for life. The fox is known as sly because it has many sophisticated tricks for losing predators like backtracking and running on fence poles to confuse or eliminate tracks. Longevity is about 5 years.
Red foxes are omnivorous though most of their diet is made of rabbits and mice. They are also known to eat in smaller amounts, poultry, squirrels muskrats, quail, small nongame birds, insects, nuts and fruits. Poultry loss to this species is largely due to improper husbandry practices. It does not exert real pressure on game bird populations.
This species is slightly smaller than the red fox with an average weight of 8 pounds and a total length of 34-40 inches. The fur is grizzled gray above, white to ashy below, and lighter gray to reddish on the neck and sides. It has a long bushy tail with a median black stripe, and a black tip. The breeding season is from January-April with peaks in February. A litter of 2-7 pups are born from March-May in a whelping den which may have grass, leaves or bark as a nesting material. They are primarily nocturnal animals and are most active at dawn and dusk. They are adept climbers, and use trees to escape enemies. Barks, yaps and yips are the frequent vocalizations. Life span in the wild is 1 1/2 to 3 years.
This is an opportunistic consumer. The diet varies with the season, and relative abundance of foods. Animal matter is most important in the winter and spring. Insects and fruit are important in the summer and fall. Cottontails are an important food and they eat more birds than the red fox. http://www.dgif.state.va.us/wildlife/species/display.asp?id=050049
RACCOONS or COONS
photos are from the United States Dept of Agriculture..
Skunks pose little threat to adult birds, but do prize eggs as a tasty treat and will often break up a nest when the opportunity avails itself. Skunks are very shy, with very poor eyesight. Primarily a nocturnal creature, skunks will usually respect a farm with geese, a good dog or farm cat. Let your nose tell you if a skunk has been in the hen house.
the US Dept of Agriculture says
"Poultry and egg losses may be eliminated by proper fencing and by keeping well maintained, secure coops. Exclusion of skunks from coops and poultry yards is usually the most practical and effective method to prevent losses. At night, poultry should be kept in a skunk-proof outdoor run area. This also provides protection from many other types of predators. Usually skunks are not inclined to break through material such as chicken wire which is intact and in reasonably good condition. Entry is usually made through open, weak or loose places in fences or buildings. Skunks are excellent diggers and may try to gain entry by digging under fences. Following is a check list of measures you can use to protect poultry from skunks:
1. Cover outdoor runs with wire mesh and/or suitable paneling material and fasten securely. If this is not practical shut poultry indoors at night.
2. Patch or repair all holes or weak places in existing wire or wood coops or runs.
3. Check all edges of overlapping or stapled chicken wire for tightness and tie or staple securely.
4. Check ground edges of coop for tightness. You may need to bury fencing to a minimum depth of 12 inches.
5. Coop doors should be close fitting and sturdy. Beware of plywood doors which may have substantial warp at corners.
6. To prevent skunks from reaching in and grabbing poultry, night roosting or standing areas should be at least 12 inches away from cracks or wire mesh that is more than 3/4 inch square in spacing. Smaller size wire can be installed near roosting areas.
7. Other birds housed in wire or plastic cages should be kept within skunk-proof buildings at night. An alternative solution is to hang or suspend cages from ceilings at least 4 feet above the floor and 5 feet away from walls or fences.
Shooting and live trapping can be used to remove skunks from rural areas. In an urban setting, live trapping with baited 10x12x32 inch cage traps is the most desirable method. When trapping for skunks with an open grid cage trap, it is a good idea to cover the top, bottom, and sides of the trap with heavy cardboard or 1/4 inch plywood. This reduces the chance that the person picking up the trap will be sprayed. The trap should be placed in the area of greatest skunk activity or near a suspected entry point. Do not place traps under a building or deck. This does not increase trap success, but does greatly increase the chance of getting sprayed. Preferred baits for trapping skunks include: raw whole egg, peanut butter, sardines, raw chicken parts, or pet food.
There are no Federally registered pesticides for control of skunks in or around buildings."
this next bit is from a friend .. Rose from the Farm Folks board.. thanks rose.. :)
" I have trapped many skunks around here lately. They will enter a coop and kill everything they can, eat what they want and leave. The last attack I had took out 15 - 3 month old chicks. Only 2 little roos survived, and the only reason they made it is because they suddenly decided to fly to the top of the nest boxes. I was devastated! DH caught him in the pen the next morning trying to figure out how to get out again. Undoubtly he had climbed up the 2 feet of chicken wire and came through the chain link. This is normal sized chain link, and this was a large skunk. They can go through surprisingly small spaces! I have had this pen for 6 years and never lost anything out of it until that night. And I have fought my share of possums, coons and skunks... Just never thought of something getting through the chain link. I am planning to put chicken wire the rest of the way up before winter sets in..... Planning..... ummmmm .... sometimes thats as far as it gets around here!
Another note... Of the skunks I have trapped, none have ever sprayed until they were shot. I have walked right up to the live trap, pulled back the tarp and been eyeball to eyeball with one on several occasions. Never had one spray till DH shot it. DS actually saw a show on mythbusters where they were trying to get one to spray and they had to trap 4 before they finally got one to spray. They would scream, kick the cage, blare horns, etc.... no spray! They really have to think they are about to die to spray.... Maybe they don't like the smell either!"
thank you Rose.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia has this info on skunks.. Skunks are sometimes called polecats because of their visual similarity to the European polecat (Mustela putorius), a member of the Mustelidae family.Description Skunk species vary in size from about 15.6 in. (40 cm) to 27 in. (70 cm) and in weight from about 1.1 lb. (0.5 kg) (the spotted skunks) to 10 lb. (4.5 kg) (the hog-nosed skunks) They have a moderately elongated body with reasonably short, well-muscled legs, and long front claws for digging. Although the most common fur color is black and white, some skunks are brown or gray, and a few are cream-colored. All skunks are striped, even from birth. They may have a single thick stripe across back and tail, two thinner stripes, or a series of white spots and broken stripes (in the case of the spotted skunk). Some also have stripes on their legs.Diet Skunks are omnivorous, eating both plant and animal material but mostly meat. They eat invertebrates (insects and their larvae, found by digging, and earthworms) as well as small vertebrates (rodents, lizards, salamanders, frogs, snakes, birds, moles, and eggs). In the absence of insects or other prey, skunks eat wild fruits and large seeds. In settled areas, skunks also seek human garbage.Reproduction Breeding usually takes place in early spring. Female skunks are induced ovulators, which means that the male skunk mounts the female from behind and bites her on the back of the neck and back, which induces the female's ovulation. Females excavate a den ready for between one and four young to be born in May. The male plays no part in raising the young and may even kill them. A common scene in late spring and summer is a mother skunk followed by a line of her kits. By late July or early August the young disperse. When the young skunks meet again, they raise their tails vertically. After a little posturing they start to rub against each other, often rolling around in what appears to be an embrace. Older skunks seem less friendly to the young kits.Skunk Control As a skunk's odor is universally considered to be offensive, people living in areas known to be inhabited by skunks are advised to take certain precautions to prevent skunks from taking up residence where they are not wanted. As skunks commonly make their dens in wood or junk piles, it is recommended that these be kept to a minimum. Skunks are scavengers and frequently go after garbage. Garbage should be stored in tightly sealed cans. Another common method of discouraging skunks is to use a general purpose pesticide on the grounds to reduce the occurrence of the insects upon which skunks feed. This method has its weak points though. By aiming at skunks indirectly the impact on the above mentioned grounds and their insect population is huge. A fence extending one or two feet into the ground is sufficient to prevent skunks from making a den underneath a house or other structure. If a skunk should take up residence under the building, bags filled with mothballs or washcloths drenched with ammonia can be used to encourage skunks to leave. Securing a rope to the bag or cloth will make removal easy later on. Flour or other non-toxic white powder can be sprinkled around the den entrance to track foot prints. One should check for fresh foot prints from the skunk leading out, but not going back in. It is better to check in the morning as the skunks will be more likely to be active at night. After all the skunks have left, one should then block up any entrances that the skunk may have used along with the entrance to the skunk's den. If it is suspected that there are more skunks living in the den, a door should be constructed at the den's entrance that is hinged at the top, and extends approximately six inches (15 cm) beyond the entrance. It should be placed at a right angle to the direction of travel and should not be air tight. This can be an effective technique as it allows the skunks to exit their den, but makes it difficult for them to get back in.Skunk Control As a skunk's odor is universally considered to be offensive, people living in areas known to be inhabited by skunks are advised to take certain precautions to prevent skunks from taking up residence where they are not wanted. As skunks commonly make their dens in wood or junk piles, it is recommended that these be kept to a minimum. Skunks are scavengers and frequently go after garbage. Garbage should be stored in tightly sealed cans. Another common method of discouraging skunks is to use a general purpose pesticide on the grounds to reduce the occurrence of the insects upon which skunks feed. This method has its weak points though. By aiming at skunks indirectly the impact on the above mentioned grounds and their insect population is huge. A fence extending one or two feet into the ground is sufficient to prevent skunks from making a den underneath a house or other structure. If a skunk should take up residence under the building, bags filled with mothballs or washcloths drenched with ammonia can be used to encourage skunks to leave. Securing a rope to the bag or cloth will make removal easy later on. Flour or other non-toxic white powder can be sprinkled around the den entrance to track foot prints. One should check for fresh foot prints from the skunk leading out, but not going back in. It is better to check in the morning as the skunks will be more likely to be active at night. After all the skunks have left, one should then block up any entrances that the skunk may have used along with the entrance to the skunk's den. If it is suspected that there are more skunks living in the den, a door should be constructed at the den's entrance that is hinged at the top, and extends approximately six inches (15 cm) beyond the entrance. It should be placed at a right angle to the direction of travel and should not be air tight. This can be an effective technique as it allows the skunks to exit their den, but makes it difficult for them to get back in.
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The Bobcat (Lynx rufus), occasionally known as the Bay Lynx, is a North American mammal of the cat family, Felidae. With twelve recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including much of the continental United States. The Bobcat is an adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, as well as semi-desert, urban edge, and swampland environments. It persists in much of its original range and populations are healthy.
With a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, the Bobcat resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is smaller than the Canadian Lynx, with whom it shares parts of its range, but about twice as large as the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby tail, from which it derives its name.
Though the Bobcat prefers rabbits and hares, it will hunt anything from insects and small rodents to deer. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season, and abundance. Like most cats, the Bobcat is territorial and largely solitary, although there is some overlap in home ranges. It uses several methods to mark its territorial boundaries, including claw marks and deposits of urine or feces. The Bobcat breeds from winter into the spring and has a gestation period of about two months.
The Bobcat has been subject to extensive hunting by humans, both for sport and fur, but its population has proven resilient. The elusive predator has featured in Native American mythology and the folklore of European settlers.
The Bobcat resembles other species of the Lynx genus but is on average the smallest of the four. Its coat is variable, though generally tan to grayish brown, with black streaks on the body and dark bars on the forelegs and tail. Its spotted patterning allows it to blend into its environment. The ears are black-tipped and pointed, with short black tufts. There is generally an off-white color on the lips, chin, and underparts. Bobcats in the desert regions of the southwest have the lightest colored coats, while those in the northern, forested regions are darkest. Kittens are born well-furred and already have their spots.
The face appears wide due to ruffs of extended hair beneath the ears. The fur is brittle but quite long and dense. The nose of the Bobcat is pinkish-red, and it has a base color of gray, yellowish, or brownish-red on its face, sides, and back. Bobcat eyes are yellow with black pupils. The pupils are shaped vertically and will widen during nocturnal activity to maximize light reception.
The adult male Bobcat is 28 to 47 inches (70–120 cm) long, averaging 36 inches (90 cm); this includes a stubby 4 to 7 inch (10–18 cm) tail, which has a "bobbed" appearance and gives the species its name. It stands about 14 or 15 inches (36–38 cm) at the shoulders. Adult males usually range from 16 to 30 pounds (7–14 kg); females average about 20 pounds (9 kg). The Bobcat is muscular, and its hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving it a bobbing gait. At birth it weighs 0.6 to 0.75 pounds (280–340 g) and is about 10 inches (25 cm) in length. By its first year it will reach about 10 pounds (4.5 kg).
The cat is largest size in its northern range and in open habitats. A morphological size comparison study in the eastern United States found a divergence in the location of the largest male and female specimens, suggesting differing selection constraints for the sexes.
Bobcat tracks in mud. Note the hind print (top) partially covering the fore print (center). The cat has sharp hearing and vision, and a good sense of smell. It is also an excellent climber. The Bobcat will swim when it needs to, but will normally avoid water. A few melanistic bobcats have been sighted and captured in Florida. They appear black, but may actually still exhibit a spot pattern.
Bobcat tracks show four toes and no claw marks, due to retractable claws. The tracks can range in size from 1 to 3 inches (2–8 cm); the average is about 1.8 inches (as seen in photograph at right). When walking or trotting, the tracks are spaced roughly 8 to 18 inches (20–46 cm) apart. The Bobcat can make great strides when running, often from 4 to 8 feet (1–3 m).
Like all cats, the Bobcat directly registers, meaning its hind prints usually fall exactly on top of its fore prints (not seen in photograph). Bobcat tracks can be generally distinguished from feral or house cat tracks by their larger size: approximately 2 in² (5 cm²) versus 1.5 in² (3.8 cm²).
The Bobcat is crepuscular, generally most active at twilight and dawn. It keeps on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight, and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise. Each night it will move from 2 to 7 miles (3-11 km) along its habitual route. This behavior may vary seasonally, as Bobcats become more diurnal during fall and winter. This is a response to the activity of their prey, which are more active during the day in colder months.
Social structure and home range
Bobcat activities are confined to well-defined territories, which vary in size depending on sex and distribution of prey. The home range is marked with feces, urine scent, and by clawing prominent trees in the area. In its territory the Bobcat will have numerous places of shelter, usually a main den, and several auxiliary shelters on the outer extent of its range, such as hollow logs, brush piles, thickets, or under rock ledges. The odor of its den is strong.
The sizes of Bobcat home ranges vary significantly; a World Conservation Union (IUCN) summary of research finds suggests ranges anywhere from .02 to 126 mi² (0.6 to 326 km²). One study in Kansas found resident males to have roughly a 8 mi² (20 km²) range and females less than half that. Transient Bobcats were found to have both a larger (roughly 22 mi² or 57 km²) and less well defined home range. Kittens had the smallest range at about 3 mi² (7 km²) . Research has shown that dispersal from the natal range is most pronounced with males.
Reports on seasonal variation in range size have been equivocal. One study found a large variation in male range sizes, from 16 mi² (41 km²) in summer up to 40 mi²(100 km²) in winter. Another found that female Bobcats, especially those reproductively active, expanded their home range in winter, but that males merely shifted their range without expanding it, which was consistent with numerous earlier studies. Other research in various American states has shown little or no seasonal variation.
Like most felines, the Bobcat is largely solitary but ranges will often overlap. Unusually for a cat, males are more tolerant of overlap, while females rarely wander into others' ranges. Given their smaller ranging, two or more females may reside within a male's home range. When multiple male territories overlap a dominance hierarchy is often established resulting in the exclusion of some transients from favored areas.
In-line with wide estimates of home range size, population density figures are divergent, anywhere from 1 to 38 Bobcats per 25 mi² (65 km²) in one survey. The average is estimated at one Bobcat per every 5 mi² (13 km²), or slightly less. A link has been observed between population density and sex ratio. One study noted that a dense, unharvested population in California had a sex ratio of 2.1 males per female. When the density decreased, the sex ratio skewed to 0.86 males per female. Another study observed a similar ratio, and suggested that males may be better able to cope with the increased competition, and that this would help limit reproduction until various factors would lower the density.
The Bobcat is able to go for long periods without food, but will eat heavily when prey is abundant. During lean periods, it will often prey on larger animals that it can catch and come back to later. The Bobcat hunts by stalking its prey and then ambushing it with a short chase or pounce. Its preference is for mammals about 1.5 to 12.5 pounds (0.7 to 5.7 kg) in weight. Its main prey varies by region. In the eastern United States it is cottontail rabbits, and in the north it is the Snowshoe Hare. When these prey exist together, as in New England, they both form the primary sustenance of the Bobcat. In the far south, the rabbit and hare are sometimes replaced by cotton rats as the primary food source. The Bobcat is an opportunistic predator that, unlike the more specialized Canadian Lynx, will readily vary its prey selection. Research has shown that diet diversification positively correlates to a decline in numbers of the Bobcat's principal prey; the abundance of its main prey species is thus the main determinant of overall diet.
The Bobcat hunts animals of different sizes, and will adjust its hunting techniques accordingly. With small animals, such as rodents, squirrels, birds, and also fish and insects, it will hunt in areas known to be abundant in prey, and will lie, crouch, or stand still and wait for victims to wander close. It will then pounce, grabbing its prey with its sharp, retractable claws. For slightly larger animals, such as rabbits and hares, it will stalk from a covering and wait until they come within 20 to 35 feet (6 to 10 m) before rushing in to attack. Less commonly it will feed on larger animals such as foxes, minks, skunks, small dogs and house cats.
It has been known to kill deer, especially in winter when smaller prey is scarce, or when deer populations become more abundant. One study in the Everglades showed a large majority of kills were fawns (33 of 39) but that prey up to eight times the Bobcat's weight could be successfully taken. It stalks the deer, often when the deer is lying down, then rushes in and grabs it by the neck before biting through the throat, base of the skull, or chest. While the Bobcat rarely kills deer, when it does it eats its fill and then buries the carcass under snow or leaves, often returning to it several times to feed.
The Bobcat prey base overlaps with that of other mid-sized predators of a similar ecological niche. Research in Maine has shown little evidence of competitive relationships between the Bobcat and Coyote or Red Fox; separation distances and territory overlap appeared random amongst simultaneously monitored animals. With the Canadian Lynx, however, the interspecific relationship affects distribution patterns: competitive exclusion from the Bobcat likely prevented any further southward expansion of the range of its felid cousin.
Reproduction and life cycle
Bobcats typically live to six or eight years of age, with a few reaching beyond ten. The longest they have been known to live is 16 years in the wild and 32 years in captivity.
They generally begin breeding by their second summer, though females may start as early as their first year. Each year by September or October, sperm production begins, and the male will be fertile into the summer. A dominant male will travel with a female and mate with her several times, generally from winter until early spring, varying by location, but most often mating during February and March. The two may undertake a number of different behaviors, including bumping, chasing, and ambushing. Other males may be in attendance, but remain uninvolved. Once the male sees that the female is receptive, he grasps her in the typical felid neck grip. The female may go on to mate with other male cats, and males will generally mate with several females. During courtship, the otherwise silent Bobcat may let out loud screams, hisses, or other sounds. Research in Texas has suggested that establishing a home range is necessary for breeding; studied animals with no set range had no identified offspring. The female has an estrous cycle of 44 days, with the estrus lasting five to ten days. Bobcats remain reproductively active throughout their lives.
The female raises the young alone. One to six, but usually two to four, kittens are born in April or May, after roughly 60 to 70 days of gestation. There may sometimes be a second litter, with births as late as September. The female generally gives birth in some sort of enclosed space, usually a small cave or hollow log. The young open their eyes by the ninth or tenth day. They start exploring their surroundings at four weeks and are weaned at about two months. Within three to five months they begin to travel with their mother. They will be hunting by themselves by their first fall and usually disperse shortly thereafter. In Michigan, however, they have been observed staying with their mother as late as the next spring.
Distribution and habitat
A male Bobcat in an urban surrounding, standing on wires The Bobcat is an exceptionally adaptable animal. It prefers woodlands—deciduous, coniferous, or mixed—but unlike the other Lynx species, however it does not depend exclusively on the deep forest. It ranges from the humid swamps of Florida to rugged mountain areas. It will make its home near agricultural areas, if rocky ledges, swamps, or forested tracts are present, its spotted coat serving as camouflage. The population of the Bobcat depends primarily on the population of its prey; other principal factors in the selection of habitat type include protection from severe weather, availability of resting and den sites, dense cover for hunting and escape, and freedom from disturbance.
The Bobcat's range does not seem to be limited by human populations as long as it can still find a suitable habitat; only large, intensively cultivated tracts are unsuitable for the species. The animal may appear in backyards in "urban edge" environments, where human development intersects with natural habitats. If chased by a dog it will usually climb up a tree.
The historical range of the Bobcat was from southern Canada, throughout the United States, and as far south as Oaxaca, Mexico, and it still persists across much of this area. Range maps typically show a pocket of territory in the U.S. Midwest and parts of the Northeast where it is no longer thought to exist, including southern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, Iowa, and much of Missouri, mostly due to habitat changes from modern agricultural practices. While thought to no longer exist in western New York and Pennsylvania, multiple confirmed sightings of Bobcats have been recently reported in New York's Southern Tier and in central New York.
Its population in Canada is limited due to both snow depth and the presence of the Canadian Lynx. The Bobcat does not tolerate deep snow, and will hole up and wait out heavy storms; it lacks the large, padded feet of the Canadian Lynx and does not support its weight on snow as efficiently. The Bobcat is not entirely at a disadvantage where its range meets that of the larger felid: displacement of the Canadian Lynx by the aggressive Bobcat has been observed where they interact in Nova Scotia, while the clearing of coniferous forests for agriculture has led to a northward retreat of the Canadian Lynx range to the advantage of the Bobcat. In northern and central Mexico, the cat is found in dry scrubland and forests of pine and oak; its range ends at the tropical southern portion of the country.
wikipedia the free encyclopedia All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
a good link ia Arizona game and fish website.. informative
The males are generally larger than the females (8-20kg vs 7-18kg), with a body length of 1.0-1.35 meters. The coat color and texture shows geographic variation, but generally the coat color is a grey mixed with a reddish tint. The belly and throat are generally paler. This species is usually smaller than the gray wolf. The track (70mm by 60mm) is more elongated than the domestic dog but shorter than either the gray or red wolf. The stride (414mm) is less than the gray or red wolf. This species breeds in January and February, with a litter of 5-7 pups being born during April and May. The litter size is affected by population density and food supply. The home range size of the males is 20-42 km, and for females 8-10 km. Favorable den sites include brush covered slopes, steep banks, thickets, hollow logs and rock ledges. Dens may be shared and used for more than one year. The young emerge from the den in 2-3 weeks, and may disperse 6-9 months. Coyotes use visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile signals for communications.
They build their dens in brushy areas or forests but hunt in primarily fields and meadows. Although the species is highly adaptable, it prefers hilly terrain which may be open or may contain brush.
This species has a highly varied diet, and is largely an opportunistic feeder. They take rodents, rabbits, berries, fruits and carrion. http://www.dgif.state.va.us/wildlife/species/display.asp?id=050125
In my county Coyotes are around.. hid but are here.. I found an article on Va hunting news web that I think is very interesting.. here it is...