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Sunday, March 16, 2014

ALARM IN THE DONKEY MEADOW

jenny

The donkeys were spooked this morning for one or more reasons I've been looking at in my head all day. I saw out the window they were quite a ways out into the meadow, looking the other way. Thought I'd put seeds in the birdfeeder first. Usually, when I step out the door Jack brays and starts a slow run to the gate to greet the ice cream man with morning carrots. This morning they didn't even look. I came back into the house, picked up three carrots for them and went back out the door. They stood out there and looked at me the way they look at somebody they've never seen before who walks into the meadow with me. I called to them by name. No response. They continued to look like they were wondering if they might do best to run the other way. I called Donkey Jack. No response. I held carrots up. Nothing. Jack eventually started walking toward me in a half circle, a very round about way, wary, looking, unsure. In the second part of the half circle he appeared to recognize me, but wasn't completely certain. He approached me warily, I held the piece of carrot to him, he took it with his lips and, for the first time, he seemed to recognize me. He smiled all over. Jenny came walking for her carrot after seeing Jack take the first plunge into the unknown. Jenny took her carrot, Jack wanted another and Jenny swung her head at him, he stepped back, I reached over to give the carrot to Jack, he took it and Jenny lunged at him again. She wanted another. She was sweet as pie with me. The calf came up from behind. I knew as well as the calf did that Jenny wasn't allowing it close enough for a carrot, so I tossed a chunk over Jenny's back to the ground in front of the calf. I gave Jenny and Jack the remaining couple of chunks.
 
jack
 
I unfastened the gate and carried the day's armload of hay into the meadow, Jenny on my left, Jack on my right. Today Jenny was not so much interested in snatching a swatch of hay to chew on following the ice cream man into the meadow. She wanted to keep Jack and the calf away from me. She didn't want them getting any of it. I walked out into the meadow with Jenny not far behind, actively keeping Jack and the calf behind her away from the ice cream man. The calf started a hop around dance, running and jumping, kicking backwards into the air like a donkey, calf gamboling. The calf doesn't have the quick mind of a donkey. When it gets excited like that, I watch out. It isn't as aware of its feet or its head as the donkeys are. I can trust them hopping around like that, but not the calf. I came straight to me, head down, dancing on the verge of out of control. I put the palm of my hand out and it stopped. Jenny darted at it and the calf jerked away and ran about twenty feet, turned and watched us, waiting for hay. Jenny and Jack are most demanding, not demanding of me, but demanding of the calf to remember, donkeys first, so I put their hay down first. It's nature rooted deeper than I can do anything about but observe their natural law.  Jack started pushing me sideways. I have learned this is his signal asking me to pet him. I ran my hand over his back and his rump, down his back legs, back to his back and his neck. Enough is enough. Not too much. I went off a ways and put some hay down for the calf and called to it, C'mon calf. Here it came running. It started grazing, Jenny left her hay and ran the calf off. I put the rest of the hay down someplace else for the calf, away from the donkeys. Jenny ran Jack away from his hay and he went to the hay she left. They go around like this first thing every day, but today had more aggression in it from everybody. It seemed like a nervous aggression. In a short time, Jenny and the calf were grazing from the same mound of hay, or Jenny and Jack were grazing together. It's only that first part that set's Jenny's jealousy into motion.
 

jenny
 
I noticed that a corner of the mineral block had been broken off. The donkeys chewed corners off it when I first put it in with them. As soon as they had the balance they needed they went to licking it daily and no more chewing. Every day they take their moment licking it. This was a big chunk broken off, and it's not on the ground. I've thought about coyotes in the night, but my ears are tuned to their shrill yipping such that I wake as soon as I hear it. I didn't wake, which tells me I may have slept through a coyote attack, but don't feel like that was it. Next thought was a bear. Just outside the upper gate a bear marks the road at a place where it can see a good landscape 180 degrees. It looks over the whole meadow. I have no doubt the bear has been in the meadow. This is its territory. I saw foot tracks in the snow last time it snowed that went down by the barn and back into the woods. The chunk missing from the mineral block, I can't help but think something with powerful jaws and a powerful need was chewing on it, licking not enough. I'm guessing that knowing the block is here, the bear will be back, if it was indeed a bear. I doubt bear and donkeys had a confrontation. The donkeys probably went to the far end of the field and the calf probably shuddered in the shed. Jack and Jenny are not confrontational with intruders, or so I believe I've observed. I'm guessing the bear will be back periodically and the donkeys will get used to it. They will stay away from the bear, the bear will not bother them and a peace will go between them. I don't mind the bear licking the mineral block. I imagine the deer have found it by now and lick on it at night when they dare to graze out in the open. The chunk chewed off the block is much bigger than the chunks Jack and Jenny chewed in the beginning. I may move the mineral block farther out into the meadow so four-leggeds passing through can have a lick without terrorizing the donkeys a little too close to their shed.
 
jenny with jack on her mind
 
I've convinced myself to satisfaction that it was very likely a bear. This may have been its first time in the meadow. I don't know anything about the night activities of the four-leggeds, except for the night pictures taken by a trail camera strapped to a tree in the woods across the road. The four-leggeds are as active as a shopping center in the woods at night. Coyotes, coywolves, bear, coons galore, squirrels. A friend wanted to put calves in the meadow, so I put two donkeys in, because the cattle farmers are now keeping a donkey or two with a herd of cattle to keep the coyotes away. I've only heard them in here once since Jenny has been in the meadow. My feeling is that Jenny being the Alpha donkey and having her streak of jealousy, she'll become possessive of the meadow in some way or another. She knows the night rhythms of the meadow as well as she knows the day. I sit here and stare out the window at the mineral block's missing corner, noting something big with a powerful need chewed off that much of it. It seems like the chunk would be about the size of a hard baseball. At the end of a long sleep, it more than likely needed a good bit of salt. I would imagine a bear crossing the far end of the meadow, but one coming up to about thirty feet from the gate and the donkey shelter would be penetrating a bit too far into donkey home territory for comfort. Chewing on their block must have disturbed them at least a little. The bear probably did take a leisurely walk around, smelling, surveying the land up close the bear knew from the road. It more than likely did not leave the meadow same way it arrived, it took its time, looking and sniffing, seeing if any new scents could be found. This is about as close as I'm going to get attempting to uncover why the donkeys and calf were so spooked. They are different every day, though this is the first time I've seen them like they were today.
 
jack
 
 
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