March 20, 2009

You Dirty Rat!

Or muskrat rather. While feeding the goats this evening I heard an awful ruckus of barking and growling going on in the goat shed. Abby and Bayla, the livestock guardian dogs were fighting with something, though I didn't have a clue as to what it was at first. The hay feeders had just been filled and there wasn't anything in there a minute before, at least not that I saw. A dozen goats came running out of the shed as the commotion started looking all kinds of bewildered and upset. I had my hands full at that moment with the herd wimp Ruthy on a collar and leash, standing guard over her share of grain while she ate to prevent the other goats from taking her dinner, so Jamey hurried to the shed to see what was going on.

Jamey got to the shed just in time to see one of the dogs flip what looked like a huge rat through the air, then they cornered it again. Abby and Bayla were just being good guardian dogs by attacking this strange animal they perceived as a threat in their herd's home. I was impressed that they both stopped and backed off when told too, but they stood close by, alert and ready to jump on this strange intruder again if need be.

By that time I was able to let Ruthy go and see for myself what was going on in the goat shed. I expected to find some nasty barn rat or the usual opossum but there in the corner of the shed under guard of two dogs was a huge muskrat. I don't know what he was doing down by the house, their habitat is near water at marshes, ponds or streams. They will fight one another, especially during food shortages. The defeated individual is pushed out; the victorious remains. Perhaps this one had been driven from his home, maybe up at one of our two farm ponds and was searching for a new one. Their diet is typically things such as cattail, pond weeds, white clover and they readily utilize dry land weeds, grasses and cultivated corn. Snails, frogs, crayfish and salamanders are also on the menu. Perhaps he was attracted to the prairie and alfalfa hay in the shed. Whatever reason he was in the goat shed, it was a very bad place for him to be and it did not turn out well for him I am afraid.

He was still feisty enough to try and bite Jamey's boot so I didn't see at first until after the first picture were taken that he was actually severely hurt by the dogs. His leg or back was broke because he could only drag his back end and he was bleeding from a wound on his stomach. Some may find it strange but it isn't the way I would have preferred for things to turn out. The soft hearted side of me would have preferred to catch it alive and release it far away at the creek, however that was not going to happen because he was mortally wounded and the only humane thing to do was to end his suffering. I don't enjoy seeing anything killed but after the deed was done we did have a morbid curiosity to see just how big he was.

All of the commotion has settled down now. The dogs are fine and the goats did go back in their shed to finish their hay after all the excitement was over with. Just another day on the farm!

15 comments:

KathyB. said...

Muskrat ......interesting visitors you have. It is a little sad for the muskrat, and that was the only humane thing to do for him. Have you seen many muskrats around your place?

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

Muskrat Love. remember that song? haven't seen aby around here. yeah, you just had to put it out of its misery. Most people freak out over rats, but I think they are cute.

Fencepost said...

I don't believe I've ever seen a muskrat in real life.
I agree that you couldn't let the poor thing suffer. I'm all about catch and release too, but not when something is suffering.

Amy said...

I'm glad I've never ran into a muskrat here yet though. Good dog's though protecting their livestock.

Jenny said...

We hadn't lived in our area long when I saw a muskrat dead on the road. I thought, man, the rats grow HUGE around here! Someone told me it was a muskrat later. They are fun to watch if you can find them at home along a river bank. They make little slides into the water in the mud. Too bad yours had to wind up in your barn. Guess he was lost.
~Jenny~

JLB said...

Wow, he's a big sucker. Too bad you couldn't have released him but good dogs. I don't think we have any of those. One of these days I'm going out wildlife shooting (camra) and will post pics of what I find.

Jennifer said...

KathyB - We have two ponds and a very small creek running across one corner of our property so there is plenty of habitat for them, but I have never seen one so up close before.

Joanna - I don't like barn rats because of the damage they do, and they can be mean little things but I do like domestic rats. I had some of the domestic black hooded rats as pets in grade school. They actually make great pets!

Mom L said...

Great job, dogs! I'm sorry you weren't able to release the creature, but with its wounds you had no choice. But the dogs were just doing their job and protecting their goats!

Nancy in Atlanta

Patrice Farmer said...

When I was a kid we used to do something that seems so heartless now that my mom let us do and that was to go to Belle Isle, an island park in Detroit where you can see Canada right across the river and throw big giantic rocks at muskrats. We thought it was fun and we'd do that for hours but now I would never let my daughter or anyone else do that. You did what you could, he wasn't tortured, it happens in nature. How big was he, I couldn't see the numbers.

Jennifer said...

Hi Patrice! He was a little over 21 inches long from his nose to the top of his tail. If you click on pictures it makes them bigger.

Southern Comfort said...

I love blogs about animals and farms because I am a life long country girl. That was some muskrat. I don't think I've ever encountered one. Our biggest problem is usually skunks. My husband has an ongoing battle with them. Thanks for stopping by my blog, too.

Mary @ Annie's Goat Hill said...

I had no idea muskrats were that big. Interesting! I feel the same way, I hate to see anything die. I want them to leave, but without harm.

Lanny said...

How much did he weigh? Ours are huge, well for muskrats anyway. They do a lot of damage to the sides of the ponds. What excitement.

Oz Girl said...

I'm with you, I'd rather catch and release than kill anything. Hubby does NOT agree with me on this one... matter of fact, while out working on fence again today, he killed a snake. He really, really hates snakes, and he never lets them get away. :-(

Jennifer said...

I am not sure how much it weighed, I would guess 2 & 1/2lbs probably.

I don't mind non-poisonous snakes at all. I see them as beautiful, useful creatures since many eat mice & rats. I do wish the cats would not bring them in the house though!