If you have live sheep, you have dead sheep

Down by the creek there is a view into the neighbours paddocks and a few days ago I saw this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHello..I thought…that doesn’t look quite right and nor was it. I hopped over the fence and was met with this…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAit’s gruesome and I’ve never seen it before but heard about it all my life, “bloody hawks”. Farmers like to blame harrier hawks/kahu for all manner of ill but truth is, it is more likely to be a black-back gull or a bell-magpie. The native harrier is a timid creature for a bird of prey but are hated in a way that no other bird except shags are. I’m not saying it definitely wasn’t a hawk but it is way more likely to have been a magpie of which there has been quite an influx this year. Poor old kahu gets stuck into dead and nearly dead sheep and then gets labelled a vicious killer, vermin etc. It doesn’t help that the common name is Austral-asian harrier and many mishear this as Australian and think they’re introduced. Kahu do a marvelous job of cleaning up dead animals that would otherwise be breeding grounds for blowflies and rats and on that latter point, they hunt ship-rats here at Hestebu, when the rats are basking in blackbird nests with a belly full of acorns.  What would help is if farmers were better at removing the dead and dieing sheep from paddocks as going for cast sheep is probably a learned behaviour rather than instinctive for these three birds.
Anyway the poor old girl was still alive so I trotted home and let the neighbour know. He was fairly philosophical about it and didn’t venture an opinion other than ‘if you’ve got live sheep you’ve got dead sheep’ and that is right enough. I was expecting a comment about hawks and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t happen.

Dogs are a bigger worry now with townies getting their insurance payouts and moving out from the ruins of Christchurch to lifestyle blocks. We were heading out one morning and going past a gate, saw legs in the air away down by the west boundary. A quick run down and there was Little Black upside down in serious shock in a trampled circle and bloodied. Still bleeding, a dog had latched onto an ear and pulled her down in the last half hour or so.  It’s funny-peculiar how if a predator gets a prey animal down they give up and die even if the injuries aren’t that serious.  I’d had good lessons with this when putting transmitters on kokako to the effect that a hard release is better than being put somewhere quiet: so ‘come on girl on yer feet’.after going down a couple of times… ‘that’s it, now walk, come on run’  It takes that run to get them into the idea that they’re OK and burn off the accumulated adrenalin.

A bloodied Little Black and her Ma Old Black

A bloodied Little Black and her Ma, Old Black

She was lucky and we think (with good reason) that the owner called the dog off but never fessed up. In the end the ear went septic and we had to put her on a course of subcutaneous antibiotics and whack off 2/3rds of the ear.  At shearing we found a large growth of proud flesh in her neck which has since come away, all around not nice.

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