Last spring I went out on the local roads looking for young goats and sheep to photograph. I found some kids. Click here to see one of those kids. I also found a ranch that raises miniature horses. Click here for a picture of one of them. However, I learned I was too late for lambs.
This year I went out looking a bit earlier and found a large flock of sheep with many lambs not far from my home. Here’s one of them. The sheep were watched over by a very large guard dog. It had a white coat and weighed about one-hundred pounds. It looked like a very light-colored yellow lab on steroids. I think it was a Maremma breed of protective dog. As I got out of my car to photograph, the dog came toward me to check me out. After a few sniffs he decided I was harmless and he let me pet him. He wasn’t just for “show” either. I had seen a coyote about a quarter mile from where I stopped and parked to photograph.
It was nice to see that this Sonoma County rancher used a guard dog (or dogs) to protect his sheep instead of the poisons and leg traps used on most ranches. Unlike the other counties in California (and other States), neighboring Marin County has a policy of not contracting with the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Unit to kill any and all predators by use of poisons and steel traps. Instead, it encourages sheep ranchers to use non-lethal predator control methods such as dogs and appropriate fencing to keep coyotes away from sheep and uses the money it would have paid Wildlife Services to subsidize the ranchers in the acquisition and use of non-lethal coyote control methods. It has worked extremely well. Coyote-caused deaths are down in Marin from the Wildlife Services days and the County has been spending less than it did when it contracted with Wildlife Services. Plus, non-target species (raptors, foxes, bobcats, badgers, weasels, domestic dogs, domestic cats etc.) aren’t being killed in Marin like they were in the Wildlife Services days. I wrote about Marin’s program in this blog.
I wish Sonoma County would follow Marin.