Harvesting Acorns and Keeping Watch

Monday morning of this past week, I set out early to the pecan orchard property to cut a few Siberian Elm limbs and some cat brier for Emma and Ronnie deer. In the distance along the old river channel dike, I saw the dead coyote that FD shot Saturday, still intact, hanging on the fence. It is common practice in these parts to hang a dead coyote on a fence to deter other coyotes from coming into the area. I hoped it would be effective, as I did not care if I ever saw another coyote in my life. I had been convinced for several years now that Daisy had lost most of her fawns to coyotes. And, every so often, I would spot one slinking through the bottom area of the canyon just beyond the slope behind our back porch. Also, I had spotted them a few times on my walks to the river, just a half of a mile from our home.

The lone pecan tree (to the left) near the old river channel, is where I saw the now dead coyote, lazing in the shade, awaiting its next lunch victim.
The lone pecan tree (to the left) near the old river channel, is where I saw the (now dead) coyote, lazing in the shade, awaiting its next lunch victim.
The pecan orchard, image taken from across the grazing pasture, along the old river channel.
The pecan orchard view from the northwest. Image taken from across the grazing pasture, along the old river channel.
More pecan, walnut and various oak trees can be found at the west end of the pecan orchard property. I take the electric buggy out each day to fetch Siberian Elm, and cat brier in this area of the woods. Emma and Ronnie have no idea how good they have it with a human mother!
Many more pecan, walnut and various oak trees can be found at the west end of the pecan orchard property. I take the electric buggy out each day to fetch Siberian Elm, and cat brier in this area of the woods. Emma and Ronnie have no idea how good they have it with a human mother!

As is usual for me, I was in a hurry this morning and had a lot to get done. When I stopped the buggy near the area where I planned to cut the Siberian Elms for Emma and Ronnie, I heard a strange, dog-like call. Not sure if it was a domestic dog running loose nearby or a coyote, I waited and listened. There it was again. Four barks, followed by a long, wailing howl. Two more times I heard it, and I was sure it was a coyote. Curious, I walked carefully and quietly as I could, back to the west where the howl was coming from. Fortunately, the ground was damp and the leaves were quiet beneath my boots, but the breeze was not on my side as it was carrying my human scent in the direction of the cry. But soon, the barking and howling stopped altogether.

Intent on getting to the bottom of the mysterious canine calls I heard the previous day, I set out early again Tuesday morning. A cold front would be moving in by late Wednesday, and I needed to pick as many acorns from an oak tree as I could before the wind got up. Emma and Ronnie had been eating acorns about as fast as we could pick them! Until the crop ran dry, I had not realized how lucky I was to have my mom-in-law’s acorns to pick from an oak tree in her yard earlier in the month. FD and I had picked the nuts from the tree until we could no longer reach them while standing on top of the buggy. Those were nice, medium-sized acorns and, other than competing with squirrels to snag them up, it had been easy picking to harvest them. In contrast, the oak tree I had located on the west end of  the pecan orchard property produced only tiny acorns. They were a third the size of what I was getting at my mom-in-law’s.  As I picked the tiny acorns, first plucking them from the bottom limbs, and then climbing on the carriage rack on top of the buggy to reach the higher limbs, I kept an eye out for coyotes. On one of my visual scans, I happened to notice I had parked the buggy well within a thick outcropping of branches, positioning myself not two feet from a rather big nest of wasps! Fortunately, it was a calm and cool morning and the wasps were just beginning to move about when I saw them. Carefully, I discarded the idea of picking in “their” spot on the tree, and moved over about six feet. Not surprisingly, my pace picked up a bit after that!

Is it my imagination, or do they appear to be giving me the stink eye?
Is it my imagination, or do they appear to be giving me the stink eye?
This is the view from under the tree as I pulled away. Insects, animals and their homes are so well-camouflaged that we often overlook them.
This is the view from under the tree as I pulled away. Insects, animals and their homes are so well-camouflaged that we often overlook them.

Again on Wednesday, I traveled to the oak with the tiny acorns to finish harvesting what I could reach. The cold front would hit that night bringing wind and rain with it. Besides the coming weather, I had noticed the acorn nuts were already separating from the cupule or cup (the little cap on top) and, if I waited any longer, I would miss the chance to harvest acorns from the tree. Picking them up off the ground would be extremely difficult with the Bermuda grass in that area being knee-deep. Though that might work for deer in the wild, it certainly would not be possible for this human deer mother! Again, while I plucked acorns, I watched all around for movement of the coyote I had heard two days before. But all was quiet in the woodlands.

Thursday morning, I made my elm run between the time the cold front moved in and the time that rain would be arriving – probably within an hour or two. I took a different route this time, just to keep things interesting. I planned to head to the north end of the pecan orchard and see if there was any trash to pick up that might have blown through the fence when the north wind picked up. I had not traveled very far, when I saw something move just to my left. My brain registered “dog” but my gut overrode with “coyote”. My gut was right. And, fortunately, I had listened to my gut early that morning before I headed out when it said, “Take your camera”, even though I did not want to, as I planned only a quick trip since it was blustery and cold. And rain was approaching – I never took my good camera and zoom out in the rain. But, I also knew how many times I regretted not listening to that inner voice, and so I packed it along. And I am glad that I did.

Coyote_7422 Coyote_7423

The coyote I saw that morning was twice the size of the one FD shot last weekend. It was moving away from the area where the dead coyote hangs on the fence. And the barking I heard on Monday, came from just  a bit west of this same spot. Also, a neighbor to the south has recently spotted up to four coyotes at a time in his backyard – approximately two-hundred yards from where I saw the large coyote. It was now obvious that we have a coyote problem. But I say, the coyotes now have a people problem, as I am watching… and waiting… like a predator.

© 2016 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…

 


35 thoughts on “Harvesting Acorns and Keeping Watch

    1. We’re on it, Mandeep! I’ve been doing some hiking and have located some scat spots. Those are the places (that and where I have spotted this big coyote early morning) that FD needs to stake out on the weekends. I’ll feel better releasing Ronnie and Emma if we can get rid of another coyote or two.

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  1. When we were growing up in southern Ohio, we never heard of coyotes. Now when we visit nearly everyone has a story about them, and we often hear them howling in the distance. They are a real problem, having adapted extremely well to urban sprawl. You will have a fight on your hands Lori. I wish you and Emma and Ronnie much luck. I am in awe of your foraging and efforts on their behalf. xo

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    1. Just keep the positive thoughts and prayers coming this way, Ardys. We will keep vigilant about the coyote situation… and the best news is that Emma and Ronnie are doing so much better. I think all of the positive vibes around the world have helped! 🙂

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    1. Aw, thank you. I feel the same way when I see those sweet photos of babies finding new homes. 🙂 I’d be in heaven this year if I could pick your acorns. Fortunately, last weekend a co-worker of FD’s invited us to pick at their place which had a lot of oak trees. I know eventually we’ll run out, but Emma and Ronnie are sure enjoying the spoils for now!

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  2. Time to call in some coyote hunters if you want to get rid of them fast. Yes, they are ruthless and will eat anything that moves. Fortunately they are afraid of humans- to a degree. I’m glad that FD was able to get at least one- as a start to rid your area of the deer killers. You can call them up, using a call that sounds like a squealing rabbit.

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    1. Most trappers here use leg traps. The problem with those is they can trap any mammal including deer. I would not allow that. Besides, I find them cruel. FD plans to purchase a call (he’s pretty good at calls) and see if we have some luck that way. For now, I am patrolling the area, making my presence known.

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    1. Cyndy, we had Daisy eight months. We kept her until hunting season was over. The rut is such a confusing time for fawns (their mother’s running off and fawns cannot keep up) and even though most hunters are not interested in harvesting a fawn, we feel like Daisy had a better chance to survive being a bit older. Watching Daisy and her young the past four years, we understand that even at six months (during the rut) fawns are often lost or taken down by predators. By the end of hunting season, they’ll be eight months. We’re not sure we can hold these two that long though. They have been much more flighty than Daisy ever was.

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  3. Dear Lori,

    I have just read the last four posts one after the other. After reading the first one, Foraging for Fawns, I was about to write an effusively happy comment about how much it reminded me of my time supplementing the diet of our goats and orphaned kids but something stopped me. I decided to hold off until reading the following posts as it is so often the case when caring for critters that our world can change drastically from one day to the next.

    Anyway, my happy “motherly” memories changed with the next post, “Comfort came to visit” to devastation for you and all your work that you’ve put into your babies. I could also relate to this experience. Mothering, whether it is of creature or human babies involves those times when outside forces can harm something in the blink of an eye that you’ve nurtured so tenderly and carefully for such a long time. We protect them with all our being to give them the best chance. The intensity of anger and frustration that can erupt when something harms our babies in this way is very natural. It’s just the protective instinct that comes with mothering, and it does take time to process. It has a purpose in nature in that it gives us a burst of adrenaline to fight off predators from our babies. As humans though we have more difficulty letting it go when it no longer serves us, unlike the deer mums. There are still times when a memory of the way my children may have been harmed in their life brings up feelings of anger. I’m so glad you had your comforting vulture totem visit you to help you get through the day. Perfect timing.

    I do hope that your deer babies will heal completely and become strong again. And I hope you are able to use those predatory and motherly instincts to control the coyotes too. I remember my fox and dingo vigils! The life of a mother (creature or human) can certainly be a roller coaster of emotions at times, but we keep on doing it, don’t we? 🙂 xx

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    1. Jane, you said it all perfectly. I know this is all normal. It has always taken me a bit of time to let go of bitterness and anger, and move on. Ronnie is doing great, and Emma is showing real improvement the last couple of days. Her limp is much better. She’s eating, but did lose one tooth, which I feel broke of yet there is a piece of tooth/root exposed under her tongue. And of course one tooth is loose and is laying in an odd position, but it doesn’t seem to bother her. She eats well with the back teeth and managed to nip with the front teeth on the other side. Her jaw still doesn’t close completely. I wonder after all of this time of that will be permanent.

      As for the coyotes, FD is not here as much as I am, and I am always the one to spot them. I really do not like the loud noise of a gun. I could kill a coyote – I’m sure of that! But my ears are so sensitive that it really bothers me to be around any loud noises. I rarely even watch TV or listen to music. I am happiest when I am in the woodlands listening to the sounds of nature. I also know the coyote situation will always be a battle. Daisy and other deer have managed to evade them for years. And deer can certainly outrun them. But fawns are not so familiar with the surroundings and they haven’t the experience of observing coyotes. I have seen Daisy outsmart many coyotes (and bucks chasing her during the rut), and I know she had to learn it on her own being an orphaned fawn. So I’m confident that Emma and Ronnie will have the same chance… they will always know they have a safe place to escape to right here, where they grew up. The deer pen will always be open (with food!) for them.

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      1. I have very sensitive ears too. Loud radios/TVs and even the sound of someone clicking madly with a mouse while playing a computer game or a noisy fan irritates me. Gunfire is very jarring to the ears that’s for sure. By my vigils, I meant watching over, but not necessarily being able to shoot the predators. You’ve given Emma and Ronnie the best chance in the world. They wouldn’t be alive today if you hadn’t rescued them. It sounds like they are recovering well now. 🙂

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        1. Yes Jane, things have improved so much! I think anything we do to keep vigil is enough. For me it will be chasing them off and keeping track of times and places – observation. FD will have to to the shooting when time allows. It will be as best we can manage!

          You and I are very much alike. There is generally deep understanding between us. 🙂

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  4. Great post Lori 🙂 As you have no doubt guessed, I’ve not been on wordpress for quite a while, thus I don’t know who Ronnie and Emma deer are, I’m guessing they are the offspring of Daisy?? Which then makes me worry that something has happened to her.
    Anyway, I know one thing for sure, Ronnie and Emma will be well looked after by their human parents, I’m really impressed by all the foraging you are doing 🙂 And I hadn’t realised that coyotes were a problem, I’d always thought they were similar to our foxes, but from the way you describe them, I guess a wolf is a closer similarity. Thanks again for sharing your wonderful experiences, you make all of us readers feel like we are actually outside with you 🙂

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    1. Hi Andy, good to see you back. Ronnie was an orphan who came to us via a farmer who found him after a combine ran over him. We had him stitched up and he’s healed well. Emma came to us via the game warden. Apparently, the dog catcher from a small town picked her up along a highway. Emma was so good to Ronnie when we first got him. He was scared and wounded. She licked his wounds and comforted him… like a little mother. They have done well together. The last few posts describe some problems that we’ve encountered that we didn’t have raising Daisy. And (to catch you up further) Daisy lost both of her fawns again this year. We feel sure the coyotes got them. None of the other does fawns in the area survived either. We saw a lot of pregnant does in the spring, but never saw the fawns. So likely, the coyotes got them. We have a lot of work to try to at least get rid of four that are seen regularly by neighbors. Daisy disappeared a month ago. I saw her a couple of mornings after her little buck disappeared. She ran off to the old river channel and we haven’t seen her since, nor have we seen any other deer. And yes, coyotes are much bigger than our foxes. They’re not quite as big as a wolf. Thank goodness we don’t see any of those here. We do have mountain lions (though rarely seen) which would be the only threat to a coyote.

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      1. Thank you Lori for the catch up, it’s really appreciated. Sorry to hear that you haven’t seen Daisy for a while, I’ll certainly keep my fingers crossed that she turns up safe and well! That’s awful that she lost her fawns, along with the other does in your area…………..the coyotes are much more of a problem than I realised from just reading the one post 😦
        But at least Ronnie and Emma seem to be doing well, that’s amazing how the female mothering trait came out in Emma when you got Ronnie – that’s the sort of thing that just makes you feel good inside 🙂

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  5. It’s nice Ronnie and Emma being sheltered can have something of a child/deerhood – even if in a smaller area. This time with little stress ( even with the recent incident) and good steady food suppy and safe sleeping is a bebefit as they grow and gain strength and reserves. Animal babies have to get up to speed so quickly.
    Think this was a coyote pair? It’s the time of year all start looking for winter grounds. We used to hang snakes on the fence too as a warning to others – animals do smell and would realize something bad was wrong – especially if a mate.
    Please please try to avoid leg traps – so brutal – mangling any live thing makes me a bit uneasy. (Hunting and skilled shooting doesn’t) Any change of live traps with (non poison) bait and relocation? (maybe a environmental group? – although I know. Few would bother. but coyotes are needed in some places – just not there!)
    Sending out prayers for little deer and Daisy (got such a giggle over the “Keeping Watch” in title – soemthing was giving me a nudge to get back over here!)

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    1. We would never use leg traps here. Trapping takes a lot of time as well, and we do have a couple of live traps but not big enough for a coyote. We will just have to make our presence known and if FD happens to be around when he can take it out with a rifle, all the better.
      I wondered if this was a pair. Especially that I heard barking and howling that one morning. And then the day I photographed the big coyote, it was very near the dead female. Since I haven’t seen the male again, I hope that the smell and sight helped it move along to other areas.
      Daisy has had to live with coyotes, and apparently has managed well over the years. I am not so worried about her. I had hoped that when we released Emma and Ronnie that Daisy would be around, but I don’t think that will happen now. Last year Daisy took off for months after she lost her babies and we did not see her until late in the rut. I am sure Emma and Ronnie will manage just like Daisy did. I want their chances of survival to be optimum. A coyote in the picture makes me very uneasy.

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    1. I believe they are concentrating within a mile of here, Margaret. The river bottom supports all sorts of wildlife. We are just a half mile from the river. I’ve read that a male coyote will cover more than a ten mile radius, and that females stay to a closer range – likely raising young a good part of the year. They are generally solitary. I think we will always have problems with them, and will have to remain vigilant. It’s really sad this summer between the neighbor’s dogs running loose killing, and now the coyote problem. I haven’t seen any small mammals all summer and now the deer are gone.

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  6. My gosh, you certainly do have your hands full with those coyotes. Do you ever worry about coyotes being a threat to you when you’re out in the woods? It always gives me a bit of a thrill to come across them when I’m hiking here in Ohio. They seem to be afraid of humans but I’d still worry about an aggressive one.

    I’ll keep Emma and Ronnie in my thoughts, hoping for continued improvement.

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    1. Thank you, Kim. Emma and Ronnie are progressing well. The healing ways of wild animals is nothing short of amazing. Of course these two are getting a super great diet so I would like to think I’m doing my part to assure they heal well.
      I don’t fear any critters when I hike. Well, except for snakes. Ha ha! The only thing I am mindful of are the wild hogs. I usually keep my eyes open for trees with low crotches and easy branches to climb in case that I should happen on a sow with piglets. But like most wild things, they fear humans and would most likely try to get away.

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  7. My neighbor across the street is rolling in acorns and in season you will see him out there vacuuming his yard with his Sears shop vac. Of course tall grass and lack of anything other than a vehicle batter for electricity could be problematic. 🙂

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    1. Ha ha! I did have a guy bring his raked pecans (along with twigs and grass and year-old acorns) in trash bags. I quickly realized the trash bags were cedar-scented. So I emptied them and let the sun do it’s magic to get rid of the smell. Nothing doing though… the deer won’t touch those acorns. It’s too bad because there were a lot of good acorns from this year in the mix.

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