I saw a cougar on the private drive leading up to our ranch tonight! It ran in front of me along the road for a bit until it crossed the creek and could run down the other bank, so I got a good long look at it. Unmistakeable 4-foot long tail.
This is the second time the cat has been seen near our ranch. The last time was six weeks ago, a little closer to the house. Our neighbor and her children saw it in the daytime as they drove home. They watched it "play" for several minutes, also confirming the long tail and tawny coat. My neighbor also said that the cat seemed "young," and I'll have to second the impression. There was something rangy and half-grown puppy-like about the way the cat moved...like its feet were too big or something.
Well, exciting as that is, what it points out again, some more, is that though our female and baby alpacas enjoy the safety of a barn, our adult male alpacas sleep outside, unprotected. We don't worry too much about them for a couple reasons: 1) cougars are ambush hunters and tend to like to pounce on prey from underbrush or drop on them out of trees. We keep our pastures free of underbrush and keep branches from overhanging the fences. The New Zealand fence we have has no hope of stopping a cougar, but then, no fence really does. 2) Big male alpacas (especially a group of them) are formidable prey. If there are easier eats out there, the cougar will go there first.
We are planning on building the boys a barn this fall, but it will be for weather protection, not cat protection.
I am considering getting a Livestock Guard Dog (LGD). More than one of my alpaca friends has one, and have had good results. Of course, they may actually have a banana in their ear (as in, "it keeps the elephants away...what? you don't see any elephants, do you?"), but I'm thinking that a large, barking deterrent might help me sleep easier at night.
Do any of you, dear readers, have opinions about LGDs? I'd love to hear them! Suggestions for breeds and ways to keep them on my property and not the neighbor's would be appreciated, too.