More Idiots– and a Brave Dog

They always exceed your direst fears. The Lady with the Black Dogs sent me this link to a story about how Tesco, the huge British supermarket chain that buys most of New Zealand’s lamb, will no longer allow shepherds to use herding dogs. You couldn’t make it up:

“The supermarket chain has told its major supplier of lamb to stop using dogs, which it claims cause stress to the animals.

It means shepherds at the farm may need to use methods such as beating the ground with sticks and waving their arms to control the flock.”

Oh, THAT should keep them calm.

“Outraged staff at Silver Fern Farms in Fairton, New Zealand may now have to get rid of up to 60 dogs to comply with the orders, meaning several of the animals will be destroyed.

Shepherd Mick Pethram told the Telegraph newspaper: ‘New Zealand sheep are used to dogs, they know dogs.

‘There’s more stress in a human herding and manhandling them, waving their arms and beating sticks. Dogs are part of a sheep’s life. This is absolute baloney.’

He continued: ‘We’ll be desperately trying to sell them, but most of us will end up putting down three or four each.

‘These are good dogs. Taking away our dogs is like taking a hammer away from a builder; we can’t do our job without them.’ “

The worst thing is that these can’t even be vegetarian animal rights-ists– just people so utterly out of touch with the world that they think they can rewrite its rules.

On a vaguely related topic, here is a video of a flock guardian dog somewhere in the east– Bulgaria?– successfully taking down a wolf that attacks his flock. Great peasant celebration afterwards too.

Working girls

On Tuesday, we started shipping our lambs to another desert allotment here in western Wyoming, to combine our lambs with that of a friend’s, into one large herd. By the time the sale takes place in 10 days, there will be over 2,000 lambs in this bunch. Right now, there are four livestock guardian dogs taking care of the herd, and when we dropped off some of our lambs, I was very pleasantly surprised to see two female guardians we had raised. The big dog is Vega, a 1 1/2 year old Ovcharka (my Rant’s sister). The other tall range dog is a short-haired female Akbash. Sweet, beautiful and fierce – good dogs.

That evening, Jim had to walk down the river to retrieve two cows and calves that had crossed over to the other side and had grazed their way down river. As he walked behind them through the thick willows along the riverbank, he found another bear-killed ewe. This ewe had been drug across the New Fork River and deposited in a covey underneath the willows. The carcass was eaten clean.

We honestly believe that the only way anyone will be able to find this bear that’s doing so much damage is with scent hounds. But it’s illegal to use the dogs on bears in Wyoming – even for our federal animal damage control specialists. Drives me crazy just thinking about it. The only tool I can see working, and it’s off limits.

The art of setting a snare

First, you tie some sheep legs to a large tree, using heavy cable, burying the spring to the snare at the base of the tree. Then you gingerly set thin steel strips and wire mesh in the snare so the animal will feel some support as it puts its foot into the snare.

Next, add some deadfall and sagebrush, piling everything against the sides of the tree to direct the animal’s travel into the danger zone. Top it off with some screened dirt to hide the set, and you’re ready for a bear.

Rose hips, bear lips

We run sheep out in the sagebrush desert of western Wyoming, but we’re along the New Fork River, a major corridor for wildlife. It’s no wonder, with the amount of berries and rosehips covering our riverbottom, that bears would want to live here. Here’s Jim walking through the brush, looking at the rosehips.

Our local problem bear has apparently really been enjoying our rosehip crop.

The ongoing saga

Things are really busy on the ranch, with this being the time of year we should be finished with haying, and starting our fall sorting and shipping. The predation issues we’ve been dealing with have taken far too much time and effort, really screwing up our haying schedule, with the result being the rather difficult decision to leave one meadow as standing forage rather than harvesting. Less nutrition, but bigger fires to put out.

Last Sunday, we moved the sheep herd back into a pasture downriver (our lambing ground), taking them away from the pasture with predation problems and getting us set to begin sorting and shipping on Monday. The sheep trailed easily, with burros and dogs. Right after Jim got the herd settled into the meadow, he walked down to the river’s edge and found bear shit. Oh shit.

Monday morning, I headed into the pasture to start the day by feeding the dogs. I found the dead ewe before I found the dogs and the rest of the herd. Our federal trapper arrived in two quick hours, confirming the ewe had been killed by a bear. Because he’s a federal guy, and bears are trophy game animals under state law, he had to call the state bear guys to see what they wanted to do. They authorized our trapper to try to trap and kill it. He decided he wanted to set leg snares, using the ewe carcass. We agreed to move the sheep out of the pasture, which we had completed before Rod got back with all his bear supplies. But in agreeing to move the sheep, which would eliminate a food source for the bear, that meant we had to tear down and move our shipping pen and chute. Jim and I spent the rest of the day doing that, and installing the setup in a pen out near the highway.

Since we lost of full day of work to these items, we never started shipping until Tuesday. We did stick around to watch Rod set the snares, which I’ve never seen done before. It’s part art, part science, part gut feeling. Our trapper is betting this is an older bear, and we don’t actually hold much hope he’ll be able to get the bear. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department will only allow three nights of trapping or snaring before he has to stop. The feeding pattern of this bear so far indicates that’s simply not enough time. It’s usually a week between kills. Sad that we know what is usual for a bear depredation.

Another Mauser

I had long given up on my quest for the perfect Mauser,as detailed in several posts here– my 7 X 57 was sufficient, despite its “59 Cadillac” styling and lack of iron sights– I am old fashioned about them.

So when an old friend, dryland farmer and craftsman Daniel Howell came to see me recently I had no idea that another was on the way. He explained that he and his wife were going to move to Hawaii to be close to her aging parents, “and I have something you might like”.

He did. It was a classic pre- war Mauser sporter.

It has good iron sights, a 4X Weaver scope, and a barrel- band swivel mount.

It also has double set triggers which, I like, and a cartridge trap in the toe of the stock.

Best of all, it is as accurate as the last one, but is in caliber .270– which I can buy 300 feet away– unlike the other caliber.

It is a keeper.

Only One

There was not enough rain in our usual monsoon season (Late July and August) so we found no mushrooms.

But for the last two weeks we have had monsoon- style storms, and Libby thought we should go to the mountains and look. I was skeptical, thinking there was an element of seasonality as well as moisture to their growth, but thought a day in the woods sounded good anyway.

As we entered the most productive canyon, Libby spied a big Boletus edulis. I jumped out and collected it. It was in prime condition, with no “worms” (actually fly larvae, present in most older ones, though no deterrent to our drying and using them).

And that was it– the only one in miles.

We usually get either 50 pounds or nothing; what conditions could produce only a single??!!

Our back seat, with the sole ‘shroom in all it’s solitary glory. The rifle? That is still ANOTHER Mauser– story to come.

Mini – Reviews

I have had a huge stack of books to review and it will take some time to get through them. The enormity of the task has rather unnerved me, and kept me procrastinating. Finally I thought I would mention each right here, with recommendations, a word or two on content, and a link if possible. Then I would be able to deal with one or two longer reviews at a time (when I have time!), and feel a bit less guilty.

Going Out Green by Bob Butz is a light hearted but realistic book about Butz’s search for a “green” burial. All you Ed Abbey admirers out there– I count myself one– should enjoy this one.

A Primate’s Memoir by Robert Sapolski (thanks, LabRat!) will tell you a lot about baboons and how field ethogists work. But it also takes on an air of increasing tragedy as his troop succumbs to a needless epidemic of TB caused by uncaring humans, and begins almost to take on an air of one of those AIDS memoirs from the bad years. Finally it attains an air of elegiac peace with two old primates, a surviving baboon and the author, snatching a fleeting peaceful moment together in the late afternoon sun.

Bond of Passion by Arizona bird dog man Web Parton, may be the best pointing dog training manual I have read, and I have read them all. The title says it– if you don’t love fine working dogs with a passion, do something else; the dogs have it for their work, and you should too to do them justice.

Mary Scriver’s Dog Catching in America is both a sometimes- hilarious collection of tales from Mary’s dog catching days, and a serious look at the compromises that must be made in a democratic society. I have sometimes banged heads with Mary on some issues because of my adamant dislike of most animal law, but she has reminded me of the real difficulties of being fair, especially in an urban environment.

Down Mexico Way by Chilton Williamson (available here) is a deadly novel that takes place on our dangerous border, a place Chilton knows well. If you like Cormac McCarty but can grow weary of his sonorous cadences, you’ll enjoy this one. I also particularly recommend his Roughnecking it and The Hundredth Meridian, available from the same site. Chilton is too little known, perhaps because he is hard to put in the neat boxes that society demands, especially for writers: a rather”green’ conservative who once was an editor at National Review (in its better days); a transplanted but genuine westerner; and an old friend of Ed Abbey’s. And mine.

Falconer on the Edge by Rachel Dickinson is the best book about falconry by a non- falconer ever written– in fact, it is better than 90% of the ones written by falconers! For an excellent longer review by artist (and falconer) Carel Brest van Kempen go here; for Rachel’s blog go here.

Six Legged Soldiers by Jeffrey Lockwood is a fascinating book that might keep you up at night, about how societies including our own have used insect as weapons, from the distant past until now. Great if disconcerting read for naturalists; a good corrective for Utopians (see earlier post).

Finally (for now), Terry Wieland’s Vintage British Shotguns is one of the two “must read” in subject today, along with Diggory Hadoke’s Vintage Guns. Wieland’s is the most readable and well written (Hadoke makes few concessions to the American reader, and you need to know more going in, although he may have more details). Wieland’s tale of refinishing an exquisite but nearly ruined gun found in a Canadian barn gives hope to those with Champagne tastes and mooonshine budgets!

Common Sense

England’s Alan Gates, master eagler and creator of this wonderful site of Asian falconry and more, sent me a little “obituary” he thought our readers would enjoy:

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has
been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since
his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more
than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but
overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy
charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended
from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for
reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job
that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly
children. It declined even further when schools were required to get
parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but
could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and
criminals received better treatment than their victims. Common Sense took
a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own
home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to
realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her
lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement. Common Sense was preceded
in death, by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his
daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, I Want It Now,
Someone Else Is To Blame, and I’m A Victim.