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Small - medium sized predators: The Problem is the Solution

 
Posts: 212
Location: near Athens, GA
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This morning, I awoke with a an odd craving.  Another cold front moved in last night, and either the temperature or the smell of wood smoke created a desire for a dish from my childhood..... 'Possum and Sweet Potatoes"!  Where I come from, the old folks used to keep opossums in a pit out back.  They would live trap every one that came poking around their chickens and gardens, put them in the pit and feed them a good, clean diet of wild persimmons, "wild" apples, dent corn, turnips, etc.  Possum was food for the winter, and it was good.  I can attest, that it was mighty good!  Possums get a bad reputation, due to being omnivorous scavengers, that are just as likely to eat garbage and rotting meat as cleaner food.  They are pre-historic survivors, remarkable creatures, really.  Their meat is rich and delicious if their diet has been clean and their fat is not offensive.  The old timers used to roast a "cleaned out" possum, with sweet potatoes and onions.  It was a remarkable dish with collard greens and corn bread.

People often ask about how to deal with such predators, especially raccoons.  When I was a kid, most folks burned any trash that wasn't composted or didn't go to the dogs, horses, hogs or chickens.  Canned, packaged and fast foods weren't as common where I grew up.  'Coons lived on wild plants, wild birds, crawfish, corn and the occasional chicken.  Coon hunting and trapping was just a part of life.  You did it not only to protect the farm from these nocturnal raiders, but for the excellent meat, the valuable fur and the joy of running with the hounds.  Fur prices have pretty much bottomed out these days, and coons seem to eat as much garbage as possums... and people have forgotten how to eat wild meat, preferring factory farmed meat from abused animals from the grocery store., all wrapped in plastic and "nice".  The coon problem for a gardener is the same as the possum problem: "clean them out".  Live trap and feed them a good diet.  Baby coons make great pets, but you won't have that temptation with an adult - they are among the most aggressive, vicious critters in nature!  Give the coon a good life, comfortable, with clean water and food, kill it humanely and utilize the fur.  Cook it southern barbecue style, low and slow over hardwood coals, using whatever spice rub or sauce you like.  The fat will take in the smoke, just like pork.

What other "raiders" do you have on your property?  Rabbits are fine eating - among the best!  Groundhog is one of my 5 favorite meats, as is beaver.  Muskrats are common in Cajun cooking - I haven't cooked one myself, but have enjoyed eating them.  Nutria is said to be delicious - I haven't tried it yet.   Fox was once a meal enjoyed by British royals.  Crows are delicious, as are rice birds, magpies and pigeons. Squirrel is a perennial favorite for me.  I also love snails.  I not only catch all the common garden snails I can find, but I raise them in a little pen.  Clean out the wild snails with flour, and raise your "farmed" snails on radish tops... cook them with butter or cream, garlic, shallots or chives... maybe some bacon and mushrooms, and they are among the best wild food in nature.  Some swear by bobcat meat, but I haven't tried it.  I enjoy snake, crawfish, gator, snapping turtle, frog legs, deer, bear, etc, but most of them are rarely a true nuisance (except for deep sometimes) or predator.... and deer, bear, geese and gators are heavily regulated where I live...  Wild hogs are a staple - hogs are a big problem where I live and absolutely destroy farms... I can actually get paid for trapping hogs, so that is meat, money and helping farmers.

Bill Mollison famously said that the problem is the solution.  What predators and pests can we turn into an asset?  Do any of you eat wasp larvae or cicadas? What else?  I'm curious.  I love to eat and I live to eat diverse foods!
 
garden master
Posts: 2747
Location: West Tennessee
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I'm also a foodie, along with my wife, but currently our exposure to wild game is limited. I'm not hunting at this point in my life, though I have interest in it. I've had deer jerky and sausages, and wild boar sausage (the dried cured kind with all sorts of seasonings) and some rabbit. I grew up in a fairly average american family, with a stay at home mom who cooked supper every night, but it was all grocery store proteins- beef, chicken, fish and turkey on thanksgiving. I will note that as a child I loved liver & onions, and would request it much to the dismay of my siblings, and I also wanted the heart, liver and gizzard when mom cooked chicken. Those were cooked just for me. I'm certainly open to incorporating more small to medium sized critters such as 'possum and raccoon into my diet, at least trying them first, and one day hope to do so.
 
Wj Carroll
Posts: 212
Location: near Athens, GA
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Here is my list of essential cookbooks wild game cookbooks for the beginner (if you are already a great cook, these are still fantastic books)- these are all classics and I left out some good modern ones such as Hank Shaw's books:

1) The Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer (older editions have more info on game and organ meats - look for pre-1980, but the older the better). Mrs. Rombauer's daughter was our summer neighbor when I was a kid, and a big influence on my perception of food.
2) The Fireside Cookbook by James Beard

Both of the above are perfect to start with, because they don't focus only on game and the techniques necessary for each recipe are explained fully and simply for the home cook, which when they were written, was the "house wife".  They have lots of game and fish recipes, but also soups, casseroles, meats and vegetables, deserts, etc.

3) The Bounty of The Earth by Sylvia Bashline
4) The L.L. Bean Cookbook

Those two really focus on the classic game recipes from the old hunting and fishing lodges pre-1960.  That was the classic era; really high class.

5) The Bull Cook by George Herter

Herter was a great cook, a great story teller, a great outdoorsman and kind of a nut.  He wrote 3 volume of the Bull Cook.  It is certainly the most enjoyable cookbook to read, ever... but should not be taken literally.  Don't try cooking any of the recipes in it until you have done some from the Joy Of Cooking and the Fireside Cookbook.  Herter must have written a lot of his recipes from memory, because things are sometimes left out or quantities are wrong.  Use his recipes as a framework, but trust your judgement and taste buds.

You can get all of these books on ebay - some are out of print.  Don't pay more than $10 for any of them.  Good luck with everything and if you need any advice, don't hesitate to ask.  Food is really my passion.
 
gardener
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I love the idea of keeping possum and fattening them up.
In my experience they are slow moving and not smart,but can eat anything and reproduce quickly.
Almost seems like a  perfect candidate for domestication.
 
Wj Carroll
Posts: 212
Location: near Athens, GA
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A lot of the old timers in NC used to raise them, almost like chickens.  Those traditions held on just long enough for me to see them in the remote areas where I grew up, which were very rural.  Possums are smarter than you may think though.... easily caught and hunted... but they can figure out how to get into a chicken coop or a barrel of horse feed.  I like possums and think they get a bad rap.  Not by folks like us, but by those who think they are nasty pests, only.    Yes, they will eat out the back end of a large dead animal, like a horse or cow, and live inside.... but that is really a pretty smart strategy!  They eat the most perishable bits first and make dual use.  Bill Mollison recommended gutting out a cow and bedding down inside the carcass to survive the cold... intelligence comes in many forms!
 
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Location: Beulah, CO
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We have foxes, dogs, packs of coyotes, mountain lions and neighbors have bears.  The coyotes, skunks and foxes have been our biggest problem.  Electric fence net works 99% of the time just great with a 3 Joule charger.  In 5 years, we've had a few instances of our entire flock being wiped out by coyotes and foxes.  Once they learn the sweet taste of chicken or duck, they keep coming back.  The only obvious solution I've found being catching them in the act and shooting the bugger.   They make fine compost.  
 
William Bronson
gardener
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Maybe the possums here about are devolved,but last time I chased one off it ignored the easy escape in favor  of trying to squeeze through the poarch railing...
It got stuck.😂
Not wanting to get bit, I freed it with a broom.

That, and watching them pump flail thier legs mightily to move at glacial speeds,made me wonder how they could survive as a species.
Iron stomaches and fecundity apparently.
Takes all kinds.

Im curious about fattening up livestock in general.
Can you feed them "junk food"to get them big and finish them on clean foods,or will the junk food taint the taste and/or nutrional profile irretrievably?

For example, feeding hogs fish offal or rancid fat.
They will bulk up, but will they taste fishy? Or rancid?
Will their fat be as unhealthy as the source of calories?
Will finishing them on apples for a week clear up taste or nutritional issues?

Do fish fed pigs have fat high in omega 3's?😁
 
Posts: 45
Location: Northern BC Zone 3
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I would say about half our meat is black bear.  Tasty, easy to hunt and we don't like having them hang around where the children play.  The bears occasionally steal a goat or some chickens.  Bears are tasty and make great lard.  We like to make ham just like you would with pork.
 
pollinator
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Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Keeping wild animals to fatten them up would be very illegal in MO.

I like the idea though. Maybe a hidden pit in the woods?

We have too many possums here. They kill my chickens and steal my dog food.
 
Wj Carroll
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Black bear is one of my favorite meats, and bear hams really rank high on my list.  Around here, we are only allowed to take by hunting one bear a year.  The season is far too early in my opinion.  The reason so many folks have a poor opinion of bear meat is because it is too often taken when the weather is too warm.  Bears have plenty of fat and wear a heavy fur coat!  By the time many folks get them field dressed and skinned, the meat is already spoiling due to not cooling quickly enough.... especially if they drive around showing off their bear to friends.  Killing a bear on your own property, if they are damaging property or threatening your livestock, family etc is permissible and not considered hunting.  So, on the rare occasion I take one, it is done in that manner.... the bear is chosen carefully, its patterns learned, on the coldest week of dead winter, it meets a quick end, is dressed, skinned and quartered immediately, the meat cooled asap.  Legally, I can only take a bear in the manner I prefer if it is truly a nuisance/threat, and bear is a lot of meat for just one guy - so, I don't get to harvest bear very often... every few years, only.
 
Posts: 7
Location: Sunny Valley, Oregon
fish bike bee
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If eating the problem is the solution, how best should I cook my neighbors dogs?
 
pollinator
Posts: 168
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Stephen Cross wrote:If eating the problem is the solution, how best should I cook my neighbors dogs?

there are no bad pets, just bad owners. invite your neighbor to a bonfire and shove him into the flames. kidding! no violence please.
 
Stephen Cross
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Location: Sunny Valley, Oregon
fish bike bee
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Seriously, the pack of pit bulls next door has killed a dozen chickens, destroyed an electric poultry fence and  terrorized my guernsey milk cow. Animal control confiscated one of their pit bulls, now they have seven more pit bull puppies. The owners haven’t paid their power bill in over a year. They subsist by renting out space to parolees and their deralect RVs.
 
pusang halaw
pollinator
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Stephen Cross wrote:Seriously, the pack of pit bulls next door has killed a dozen chickens, destroyed an electric poultry fence and  terrorized my guernsey milk cow. Animal control confiscated one of their pit bulls, now they have seven more pit bull puppies. The owners haven’t paid their power bill in over a year. They subsist by renting out space to parolees and their deralect RVs.

I sympathize as you are far more patient than I am.

Tranquilizer darts? then take the dozing beasties to Cesar Milan? or whoever the nearest dog whisperer might be. Properly trained, those dogs could do good in many homesteads - protecting livestock instead of terrorizing them.
 
James Freyr
garden master
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Stephen Cross wrote:Seriously, the pack of pit bulls next door has killed a dozen chickens, destroyed an electric poultry fence and  terrorized my guernsey milk cow. Animal control confiscated one of their pit bulls, now they have seven more pit bull puppies. The owners haven’t paid their power bill in over a year. They subsist by renting out space to parolees and their deralect RVs.



Sorry to hear about the problem next door. I recommend researching the law in the state you live in. The following is an excerpt from tennessee state law regarding dogs:

§ 44-8-413. Injury caused by dogs; civil liability; exceptions; limitations

(a)(1) The owner of a dog has a duty to keep that dog under reasonable control at all times, and to keep that dog from running at large. A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another.

(2) The owner may be held liable regardless of whether the dog has shown any dangerous propensities or whether the dog's owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensities.



There are other sections in the law that note the dog owner is responsible for property damages and death of animals if said dog is running at large on other peoples property.

I imagine your state has something very similar in place. There are more sections of the law in Tennessee that allows me as a property owner to defend my animals from dogs running at large. I can shoot a dog on my property that is killing my chickens or cats or any other animal. I can not go killing a dog just because it's on my property, and I never would (I'm not into indiscriminate killing), but once I lose a chicken or a cat, then out comes the gun, and I have the law on my side.

Fun fact I must note: As I typed this just now, my neighbors dog who lives across the street, (and the only person in the neighborhood who does not restrain their dog by the way and lets it run at large), that dog just puts it's nose in the electric fence I have around my chickens. I keep my electric fence hot, having a 1 joule energizer going through a small amount of fence. I heard this awful yelping and I jumped up and looked out the window and the bad dog is high tailing it back across the street. Good!! That dog need not be over here, and maybe it learned a lesson. I do my part to protect my chickens with an electric fence. Every other person in the area around me has their dog in a fence, on a runner, or (unfortunately in my opinion) chained to a tree or dog house. The person across the street is the lone individual who lets their dog run loose when it's out (It's indoors most the time). It looks like some sort of german shepherd medium size mix. Every time I've been somewhat near that dog it crouches down, barks aggressively with a mouth full of teeth, hair standing up on it's back, like it's ready to jump on me. It appears to be an aggressive dog.
 
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