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We lost a pullet on Thursday to a hawk of some sort, and then Friday night something tunneled under our fence after dark and dragged the goose across the field (we could see the marks of her feet and the struggle) and ate her innards, tunneling in through her back. We have never seen that before. DH thinks it was a coon; it had to be something fairly strong to do in a big goose, although the hole under the fence wasn't that large. He baited a Havahart trap with tuna and the next night it ate it but didn't trip the trap.
Then today our gander was missing and he found it dead in the same manner as the goose. He'll try trapping it again, but we hope it doesn't start hunting in the daytime. Any ideas what it might be, or do you think it's a coon, too? Unfortunately the earth didn't take prints well.
oh how sad. Coyote was the only thing to ever come after mine and even started in the early afternoons on my domestic ducks. Iit has to be something big to drag off a fighting goose. Check the neck for bite marks. That's how a Coyote gets them and drags them off
One site says her chickens were headless and eaten from the rear into the guts. Their predator was a fisher cat. Not that I know what a fisher cat is. Guess I have some research to do. Fisher cat... hmmm
Possums go directly for the innards (intestines and the rest of the digestive tract) and usually go through the back end or close to it. A possum may have attacked the bird by mounting it from the top and hanging on while eating through. They are tenacious. Racoons and coyotes usually kill a number of birds at once and attack from the front so even if they eat other parts of the bird you'll see the damage done to the head or breast. A possum will pick them off one at a time for days. They are incredibly strong. So much so that they have ripped the nailed on fronts off our bird houses and the copper roofs of same houses to get at the nesting birds.
Thanks for the wakeup call Greenhouse _gal. This sad story has reminded me to fix the top of my coop that was not suffiently fastened down. Tonight I fixed it. Even though I live in town there are still possum, fox and skunks around.
Thanks, everyone. Someone sent me the link to the predator behaviors on another board, LforJ, and it seems most like a possum. It went in through the back, between the wings, Laurel, so that sounds like the kind of attack you described as typical of possums, too. It's so hard to imagine anything successfully killing an adult goose, but that technique would make sense as an explanation.
DH has been putting out tuna, right now just outside the trap to overcome any resistance to going inside it, and I had suggested this morning that we try dusting the ground with flour, too, so we can figure out what it is. It's just sickening to think about how those poor geese died. And now we have no protection from hawks for our chickens; the geese did a good job of scaring those away.
I wonder why we didn't hear a thing; usually the geese are very loud when they're upset. But it's cold now and the windows are closed.
I know; it's awful to think of what a terrible death that must have been. And we'd had them for years. Until we figure out what's going on and trap the culprit we certainly can't consider getting any more.
I hope you have a way to secure your other birds. Maybe electrify a peripheral area? Possums are very fond of fowl and as I said they continue to return over and over. We used to have ducks but they met the same fate as your geese. It was sickening to have them keep being mauled that way.
Laurel, where did you learn about possums' method of attacking? I haven't seen your description anywhere else, but the idea of its mounting the goose from the top and eating its way through really explains what we saw. We couldn't figure out how an animal small enough to get through that tunnel under the fence could drag something the size of a goose all the way across the poultry yard, but from what you suggested I can visualize the goose frantically trying to get away and moving toward the fence in its efforts, with the possum on its back. There were webbed foot marks and wing marks all across the yard.
DH sprinkled flour on the ground around the trap and tuna can to see if we can pin down its identity for sure.
The husband of the couple who took care of our animals when we had livestock at Maypop and were not on the premises was a wilderness tracker and hunter from the N.W.. His mom was a professional field cook hired on by well healed game hunter tourists and his dad earned a living hunting and trapping. Enough to send him to college. He explained the situation (and the probable outcome) right off when the ducks started getting mauled. He said racoons will tear up an entire fowl pen and drag the carcasses into the water dishes or down to the nearest creek. You'll usually see some kind of animal prints and dragging with racoons. We had that experience at a later date. Coyotes tear up a fowl pen and leave bits and pieces right there. It's a feather storm. Possums, on the other hand, disembowel their pray and often leave the rest laying where it landed. They love chitlins.
As hideous as they are, I made my peace with possums this summer when a mama had five babies under the crawl space of the vestibule at Maypop. She would come to the dogs' water bowl to drink after a day trying to keep her five babies out of harm's way and out the dogs' mouths. She actually let me pat her and the babies she toted around while drinking water. I know, pretty gross. That's a tick in the middle of her head. The other babies are under her. You can see a tail or two sticking out. Everyone thinks I'm nutz for touching her but she was very calm. I once was attacked by one and can tell you they are not to be messed with.
The dogs killed four of the five babies the next few days. My Plott hound is usually responsible for the damage. We didn't ever find the mom. When we arrived there last week I went off to check the garden and fifteen minutes later, when I returned to the house, there was a juvenile possum on the doorstep. Maybe the fifth baby from earlier in the season. My Plott hound will nail predators from bears on down to voles and snakes. She digs trenches and climbs trees. She puts them on the doorstep the way cats do. I've never met a dog bred to hunt the way this breed does. You can see here that my dog had probably already attacked her.
Laurel, thanks so much for that explanation. You'd think you could find that kind of description on the web, but I haven't.
Now that the geese are gone, a hawk is picking off our chickens one by one. Tomorrow we're going to enclose an area around the coop so that they'll be safe. They can go under the coop and there's also a fenced in area accessible to them where we raise our youngest chickens, and that has a net cover over it. To complicate matters further DH found a clutch of seven or eight eggs out by the fence line in a bunch of shrubs and juniper, so penning them temporarily should help the young hens learn to lay where they're supposed to, in the nest boxes. We've never had pullets that didn't follow the example of the older hens automatically before. These are Buff Orpingtons, and the cockerels out of the straight run were so aggressive that they almost killed each other before we had a chance to butcher them out! This has been a strange year for poultry, for sure!
I've never raised chickens but am familiar with Buff Orpingtons. The are beautiful birds, good layers and my DD says they are very friendly. I hope you are able to resolve your hawk problems quickly. Maybe get some deer netting and drape it horizontally, like a tent, over your coop and surrounds. That would be an inexpensive fix, I'd think. They have it at the big boxes.
Look what was in my garage tonight in the wire dog crate where my best chicken sleeps. I went out and it was kind of dark already and I noticed her in the back of the cage, then in the front... then thought.. no that's not her back there and grabbed her up thinking she was in danger. Took her in the house and went back out. The cage door was still open and the skunk still inside. So I locked the door. Now I have a skunk in the garage locked in a cage.
That was an hour ago. Not sure what to do with this skunk. I have read when animals are relocated they often die. So far, this skunk has never killed my chickens. I think he was just in there for the grain. My guess is, he's been living around here for a long time, probably for the food and water. These poor animals in Texas have really suffered for lack of water this year.
I would just let the poor little guy out, who, as you mention, is undoubtedly adversely affected by the drought. I've also heard that relocating usually means death. I have no experience with skunks and chickens, but they certainly haven't been marauders at my house.
Laurel, deer netting is what we have over the enclosure we use for the young pullets. I don't think we'd need it for the small area around the ramp that we're planning to fence in to add to their protected space; the chickens have an easy escape under the coop and a hawk would be reluctant to fly into such a small, confined area.
That's this morning's project, before we let them out for the day.
The poor things have been thoroughly harassed, lately. No wonder we haven't been getting many eggs!
Maypop, I like possums. We raised one once, and I thought he was cute. He lived in an empty chicken coop until he was able to climb out, and we saw him (we think) once in a while after that. I must be in denial when it comes to them, though.
I just can't picture a possum tunneling under a fence, grabbing a full sized goose, and dragging it struggling out into the field to finally kill it.
Mind you, I'm not saying it wasn't a possum, just that they never seemed that capable to me, so I'm living in a dream world. :( I have learned that there's always exceptions to every rule.
Catmad, the slaughter didn't fit the other predators, and it couldn't have been a larger animal because that wouldn't have gotten under the fence through the hole that was dug. We'll see what we catch, if we manage to do that.
I know what you mean. One was in my doghouse a few years ago and I took videos of it. They are very slow moving and seem so mild mannered. The skunk strikes me the same. Still, you don't know what they are capable of. They sure have a large stout looking mouth and ALL those teeth!
Wonder if google video has something on them attacking poultry.
No, no, the goose didn't fit through it! The critter tunneled under the fence INTO the poultry yard. It obviously attacked the goose close to the chicken coop and then there were marks of webbed feet and wings and a struggle all across the yard toward the fence where the critter got in. When the geese were frightened they always went in that direction; a couple of years ago a weasel or mink got into the henhouse and the geese were terrified by the ruckus and went off toward that fenceline, too. We could see the marks in the snow. That time they were unhurt but obviously very upset.
No; DH is trying to get the critter comfortable with the trap. If he puts the bait too far in it doesn't take it, so he's gradually moving it back. Still no proof of what it is, though, although bets are that it's a possum.
I don't know whether we even have fisher cats around here, and the modus operandi was exactly like what Laurel described for possums. A friend suggested putting out a tarp with flour to get a better set of footprints; our ground is soft and sandy and didn't take footprints when we tried flour the first time.
I think whatever it is would be shy of entering the trap since it did spring it the first time but somehow managed to get out anyway.
Do geese sleep like chickens do, so completely that they don't notice being attacked? I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around a possum that a full grown goose can't get away from.
It's certainly making me rethink my behaviour with possies, tho. I've grabbed grabbed them by the tail and stuck them into a carrier and never thought twice about being hurt. I will now :)
Catmad, I don't know that geese sleep that soundly, but Laurel said that an animal expert she knew told her that possums will leap onto their prey's back and eat through to the vitals, which definitely tallies with what we saw. It was obvious that the goose was struggling all the way across the very large yard, and if the possum was indeed on its back that would explain its death by the fence line and the huge hole between the wings with the entrails removed. I hate to think about what that death must have been like. And the next night the critter got the gander the same way.
That's terrible. Glad you got him. If there is one, there are probably others.
One of the first threads I read at DG was one about a woman who lost her precious hens and duck to some monster she was after. It had tunneled underground from a far distance away, up under the coop and then up to her babies. It was a long thread, and at the end was a picture of a dead badger.
I wonder if there really are others. We've had geese in that pasture for well over ten years now with no problems, ever. And we're right on a small tidal river. We're thinking that we had one rogue possum and that's it.
It's that time of year when the juveniles go out on their own. Possums are solitary and stay around only as long as food and water are available. This is a situation where the animal could be relocated though it's probably too late for that. As for the effectiveness of their hunting skills; It would be darn difficult for an animal to get a possum off its back. Especially while it was being eviscerated. I don't think they work at it for a time. It's a pretty swift process. However, it can take a while for a disemboweled animal to die.
Laurel, I was too angry at what the possum did to our geese to want to show it any mercy. Many years ago a coon was picking off our ducks, and not even eating them - just killing them. DH shot it and I roasted it with stuffing. It wasn't very good, but I felt it owed us...
'Possums can be really nasty critters. Some years ago one tried to kill one of my dogs in much the same way and right in front of my eyes. Unfortunately for the 'possum he pick the crazy red heeler. It didn't turn out well for said 'possum. The dog came out of if with barely a mark. That dog was the only dog I've ever seen actually catch squirrels. She was a crazy little heeler (I think they call her variety a Kelsie or a Kelpy?) but we loved her.
I had taken the dogs out in our backyard after dark (flash light in hand) for their last potty of the day. We hadn't had the house for very long but were told that the previous owner had fed all the squirrels and other wildlife in the detached garage (a practice I was not about to continue) and that the squirrels especially were now not afraid of humans. The squirrels did indeed look like pregnant daschounds. By "other wildlife" I didn't imagine an oposum. Thus crazy Heeler and Corgi puppy met Mr 'Possum strolling through the backyard at night looking for his usual meal. The Heeler cornered the 'possum and then the 'possum jumped onto her back and started ripping out fur 'till he got skin. Heeler had very loose skin around her neck and she spun around "inside her skin" and grabbed the 'possum by the neck. So he had her and she had him. 'Possum lost, I think she broke his neck. She was fast as lightning about it too. In the mean time I was jumping around, yelling for back-up, and trying to catch the Corgi puppy who was doing his level best to get in on the action. This all happened very fast and very loud. All the neighbor's back lights flew on. Did I mention I was out there in my jammies? My dad later told me that a 'possum will do that to a dog, "They'll cut a dog wide open from above" is what he said... He used to hunt alot. Opossums are really crafty little devils. We got the Heeler from a rescue society. The original owners had paid quite a bit for her and then couldn't deal with her high energy level so they just let her run and "forgot" to feed her when she "stopped coming home". She survived for several months on her own before animal control caught up with her. She still had her original tags on her collar. That dog really knew how to handle herself! I guess she learned the hard way.
That dog got me into and out of so many scrapes over her lifetime I've come to believe that she was some kind of Victorian adventurer or explorer in a previous life. And she was never sad, always had a big goofy smile on her face! She definetely was not a city dog, but made the best of it when we lived in the city.
Update: DH caught a raccoon in the trap a few days ago, but we're thinking that he was just after the tuna and not the poultry. So we put the trap away. He kept baiting the trap thinking that we might get another possum but one is all we've seen. So maybe we're safe to get some more geese in the spring.
Green, not to be a downer, but by spring your possum should have been "replaced". The same thing happens when people try to eliminate feral cats by removing/destroying them. You get rid of the original population, and it just leaves the niche open for someone else to move in. It was probably a good place to be a possum, even aside from your poor geese. There are probably enough juvenile possies in the area looking for their own territory that one will find you.
Maybe the possum will be replaced, but once you have a possum that has learned to look at your poultry yard as a buffet, you've got to get rid of it. We have had various geese for over twenty years on our little farm, and this is the first time anything has attacked them. And the possum we destroyed got both of them, two different nights. So I'm hoping that any other possums will go about their business and leave our yard alone, as the predecessors did. We have also removed raccoons and been free of predation from that kind of animal for years now.