Because of animals like the above cougar–which are becoming frighteningly more and more common in our valley–we are now clearing some more land in the front of our place in the hopes of discouraging them from entering our property. ‘Discouraging them’ is the best we can do. Unfortunately, there is no way of keeping these critters out of somewhere they want to be. Well, not any economically viable way. Even our local dump who recently built an electrified, chain-link fence around the dump has not been able to stop the bears. They’ve had to shoot about 18 grizzly bears and the blacks are presently digging under the fence and still entering!
We’ve hired our friend David to do the clearing for us. He’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. He’s also a cougar hunter and one of the two men who tracked the cougar in January when it was marauding the neighbourhood. That cougar was ‘only’ 128 lbs, the above cougar is 146 lbs. He harvested the meat off both cougars. He made roasts and some sausages and shared it with us. Surprisingly, cougar roast tastes a lot like pork roast–the best part of the pork roast. He tells me it is the 50th cougar that’s been killed here in less than 10 years, “And we still have plenty of them!” Like many of us, he thinks the hunting season on cougars should be open year round again. There used to be a bounty on them and people regularly hunted them. Consequently, twenty years ago I would sleep outside with my neighbour and not worry about them. No one used to talk about cougars back then. Now we are regularly seeing them and losing our cats, dogs, and livestock to them.
After consulting with Dave, we’ve opted to go with his suggestion of using 7 foot, 6 x 6 concrete wire for fending. “It’s what we put down at dad’s place for the hounds.” ‘Dad’ is our friend Clarence; David is Clarence’s son and helped build that fence. When I ask if it will be the solution to our wildlife problems he laughed, “No, it won’t stop a grizzly bear or be tall enough to stop a cougar,” reminding me of the night the grizzly bear broke into Clarence’s dog pen, “There was fur and dogs flying everywhere. The dogs weren’t backing down and the bear was killing them.” Clarence managed to shoot the bear, but not before they lost one of the dogs.”But it will stop a truck in case of a crash!” What a relief.
You can’t keep a cougar out without about 12 feet of chain-link fence with another couple of feet of slanted barbed wire on top (which of course we’d need about $100,000 to fence the property), and it is virtually impossible to keep bears out of anything. It would need to be electrified, buried, reinforced with concrete and have armed guards standing at the ready with bazookas 24/7. Even then, the guards should be nervous!
After some preliminary clearing of undergrowth and brush by hand and machine, Dave falls the first big alder. The birch at the centre of the photo was one of my best producers for syrup in February–it’s a keeper! At present, we are only taking out the dangerous snags or leaning trees along with the larger alders that are along the fence-line. It was logged many years ago now and they left a huge mess behind. Instead of felling a tree and cleaning it up, it is obvious they felled a bunch of trees and only took the best wood leaving behind all the limbs and stumps and mess. It is difficult to even walk through.
I don’t want a clear-cut when we are done, but I do want to shed some light on the subject. Already, it is a lot sunnier on that ground that it has been since Jesus walked on the earth.
Even though we don’t yet own a wood stove, we are now sitting pretty with several cords of firewood from the trees we have felled. Dave cuts and his wife and I clean up after him and we all move on. It is a great system and we are making good progress; certainly much moreso than when I’m out there with hand tools!
There is still a lot of work to be done and the fence to be erected, but it’s a start! On that note, I’ve got to go and join the work crew this morning.