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Companion or Cougar Bait?
Hi all ... after a week-long journey into the land of pain killers and dental work, I am once again "myself" and ready to continue trying to make the adventure of moving to an acreage as seamless as possible. Four weeks to go ... yikes!!!:oops:
So, we have two horses. My daughter's horse is a performance horse and she is determined that he will spend his nights in a stall (and yes, she will be doing all the work of mucking out said stall). I'd rather my boy live out in the pasture, but he gets freaky lonely without a companion. When we brought them to our current stable he just sat at the gate and weaved all day (and chewed through a few fence boards just for good measure). Since we put them both in a paddock together, he's been happy as a clam. Of course he still weaves when she pulls her horse to work with and I'm not riding my boy, but that doesn't happen as often.
But, in hopes of her not having to muck out two stalls every day, I have been looking into donkeys. I need not only a companion, but a protector of sorts as well. Our acreage is in the foothills of Alberta, right by the mountains and we back on to crown land so it's a wildlife corridor of sorts. We have coyotes, wolves, bears, moose and the dreaded cougar. That's the one I'm worried about.
I found a lovely little mini-donk jack (yes, I will get him castrated). The mother is bigger than average (closer to a small standard) but he doesn't know how big the father was (should I be concerned about that?). A friend has told me that "putting a mini-donk in our area is like putting out a spread of McDonald's at a Weight Watchers convention". Says it's just not fair, and it'll bring the cougars right on to our land. I'd like to get a standard, but can't seem to find any available in southern alberta. Lots of minis, though.
So here's my question - is it worth the risk? Should I hold off and wait until I can find a standard and stall my boy in the meantime? I would go with goats, but I'd have to re-do all my fencing as I know goats would escape ... I'm pretty sure it's good enough for a mini donkey. I don't care about conformation - won't be breeding or anything - just want a protective companion for my boy. And, quite frankly, if a hungry cougar does come on our land I'd like there to be something other than our horses that he chooses (does that sound heartless?).
Seems to be mostly horses around us. The immediate neighbours have llamas as well. Haven't seen any mini's.
Short answer? Yes, a mini donk would be more vulnerable to a cougar than a full grown horse. In my area, it's only ever large standard and mammoth donkeys (or mules) you see as guards. There are a few folks that have llamas or alpacas (I never could tell the difference...if there is one) and I've heard they make excellent guardians, but I've never been around one so I can't say for sure.
But, we generally don't have a predator problem around here. The folks with guardians are the folks that have cows/calves and they keep the guards to protect the calves from packs of coyotes.
keep in mind that lamas and alpacas HATE dogs so if you have one be careful
if they like to go into pasture
Llamas are quite a bit bigger than alpacas. I doubt an alpaca coudl take a cougar (not sure about a llama either).
I would follow your friend's advice, as she actually lives there. Sure, if a cougar comes onto your land, it might go for the donkey first, and leave your horse. But if it sees your acreage as a food source, it might try for your horse next.
I think this was her point - that a smaller animal might draw a cougar to our land instead of being the deterrent that I'd intend. She does know her stuff. Sigh. Am I wrong in thinking two horses alone might make them a target? This city girl (who regularly runs alone on mountain trails and really pooh-pooh's people who are afraid of wildlife) seems to be a little bit of a scaredy-cat on behalf of her horses. :-)
I won't say that it could never happen, but I think it's highly unlikely that a cougar would attack 2 full grown horses unless it was absolutely starving and desperate...maybe not even then. I'm assuming you have plenty of other prey wildlife in your area like deer, right? A cougar would go for a deer before it would go for a horse.
It's really hard to say. We have a few cougars around here, but they're very rarely seen (I'm in north-western Sask), and they don't take down cattle or horses, or even mini-donks.
But I don't know how aggressive they are in the foothills. I'm guessing you have way more of them than us, and they might be forced to expand their diet a little more.
I would listen to your neighbours. They'll have better advice than us. But, yes, I would definitly avoid keeping smaller animals that would draw them to your pastures.
I'd just stall both horses at night. Mucking out 2 stalls daily is not a lot of work, should be able to be done in less than 30 mins. It's considerably less heart wrenching than losing an animal to a predator. They can be out all day and in at night, just becomes part of their routine.
If we had cougars, I'd sure put my horses up at night. Cleaning stalls is good exercise. It will save you money on gym fees.
I, as well, think stalling at night is the way to go - at least for the interim. That gives you time to find a suitable large donkey if that's the way you want to go. It also provides security while you get a handle on what's happening with wildlife traffic in your new area.
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