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Pond answers some queries about animals
The Back Forty
By Roger Pond

Some days I wonder what this world is coming to. Our society has become so urbanized we are forced to rely upon television, books, and newspapers for most of our information about animals.

As a result, we have become fair game for all sorts of myths about wild and domestic animals. The news media does what it can to defend the critters, but the complete story is often lacking.

A reporter will write, ďJoe Blow was attacked by a bear as he walked to his outhouse last week. Wildlife officers were forced to destroy the bear, even though Mr. Blow built his outhouse in the bearís natural habitat.Ē

Folks seem to forget Joe Blow has lived there 30 years, and the bear was only three years old. Thereís no way this critter could be holding a grudge.

In an effort to be fair, I am going to a print a few letters about animals and answer some of the questions most folks would be afraid to ask.

Dear Mr. Pond:
We recently moved to the country and bought some sheep. There are lots of coyotes around, and Iíve read some coyotes will kill sheep if there arenít enough rodents around, or the weather is bad, or the individual coyote is mad about something. Is this true?

Signed,
Sheepish

Dear Sheepish:
I am happy you mentioned that ďsome coyotesĒ will kill sheep. We must constantly remind ourselves we are not talking about all coyotes. Only bad coyotes do this sort of thing.

Several things can cause a coyote to go bad. First he must be big enough to be bad. If the coyote is too small the sheep will just laugh at him.

This becomes part of the problem when the little coyotes grow up. There would be more sheep alive today if they hadnít laughed at the little coyotes.

The best thing a sheep owner can do is teach her sheep to remain as serious as possible. This isnít easy, as sheep seem to be born with a smirk on their face.

Dear Mr. Pond:
I recently noticed a furry, little animal visiting the chicken house and gathering eggs nearly every day. This animal has brown fur, black rings around its tale, and looks to be wearing a mask. My husband says itís a raccoon. What do you think?

Signed,
Ms. Demeggs

Dear Ms. Demeggs:
Your husband might be right, but letís not be too hasty. The animal you describe could be a groundhog in a Lone Ranger costume. (It takes a trained biologist to distinguish one of these from a raccoon.) Some biologists believe the raccoon is not a true species at all, but just a bunch of woodchucks looking for a party. From what Iíve seen of them, I tend to agree with this theory.

This farm news was published in the June 14, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

6/14/2006