On The Prowl in Marin County.
I read Rebecca Martin's editorial in the September/October 2019 issue ("A Wild Life") about exploding wildlife populations, and it struck a chord with me. In the past two years, I've seen more encroaching wildlife than ever before. I operate an urban chicken farm in Marin County, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Most of our customers live in the Silicon Valley area, where they work in the technology industry, and many spend a considerable amount of resources on their chickens. So, it's devastating when they lose their poultry to murderous wildlife.
I've operated my business for nine years, and we've never had a problem before. Now, we have daily invasions of raccoons, opossums, skunks, and burrowing rats. The raccoons have managed to break into our subbasement twice now, ripping out all our insulation and heating ducts, which makes for costly repairs. The first time we replaced them happened soon after moving in; the entire heating system had to be ripped out when a skunk got in and sprayed our heating ducts. Our video cameras capture skunks and coyotes coming down the driveway all the time. Our deer population has decreased, and we think it's because of the coyotes. We've always had rats, but in the last couple of years, they've started burrowing underground, threatening the eggs of our chickens. Recently, in a single month, I spent $5,000 to build a new chicken run because bobcats were climbing over the 14-foot fence during the day to get the chickens. This is happening throughout the Bay Area, and now I have a busy side business of retrofitting chicken coops.
I've been hearing about a family of foxes that moved into our neighborhood, and I hope they don't come to my property. Our yard is fully fenced in, but they can also burrow. Recently, an American bald eagle showed up! He comes and goes. We also deal with red-tailed hawks. They're always a problem in the winter months, when the foliage disappears from the trees and the yard is more exposed. We've lost many chickens to hawks, but we've learned to watch for our crow friends. The crows do their best to keep the hawks away, and I've also realized that when the crows come around, they're alerting us to bobcats in the area.
The bobcats arrive on nights when the half-moon shines. That's when the crows swoop down in our yard and really caw. I know it sounds crazy, but they're alerting us to an approaching bobcat. During the last half-moon, they were crowing, so I locked the chickens up. I had to leave, so I told my daughter to watch for the bobcat, and a few hours later she called to tell me she'd chased the bobcat out of the yard. It's frustrating that the chickens know he's coming but they can't hide.
Most recently, I heard a report that two mountain lions now live in San Francisco. I honestly feel that the changing climate is affecting the migration of animals, and that they know something we just don't understand.
MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA