The Unknown Predator at Fossil Ridge Farmstead

Janet Miller describes solving the mystery of disappearing Guineas. 

The Great Horned Owl Perches at the Fossil Ridge Farmstead

The Great Horned Owl Perches at the Fossil Ridge Farmstead

I was awakened in the pre-dawn hours to the sound of my phone ringing.
Nobody calls me at this hour I thought. Who could this be? It was my son,
Drake. He and his father were leaving early in search of the ever elusive
bull elk. It was his last chance at one since it was the closing day of his
first hunting season. "I know what has been killing your Guineas " he said
excitedly. 

That got my attention! I had found one amid a pile of feathers
without a head and most of it's breast meat gone the day before. I was
perplexed. I knew it wasn't the pigs, even though it was found in their pen.
If it had been a fox, coyote, mountain lion or bobcat that had killed the
bird, I definitely wouldn't have found anything but feathers. The guineas
had always perched on top of the chicken coop at night with the turkeys.
Even though this isn't 100 % safe from predators like bobcats, it's a pretty
safe spot from the foxes and coyotes. Besides, our guardian dog Charlie
keeps most predators at bay during his rounds at night.

"What is it?" I asked sleepily.

With urgency he replied "It's a great horned owl and she's
out here now eating another one." I was awake now. I threw on some clothes,
grabbed my camera and ran outside to see. Considering the situation I should
have been upset to say the least but somehow I just wasn't.

I was struck by the awesomeness of this beautiful and fierce predator.  I observed from a
distance for some time as she continued with her feast , turning her head to
look at me occasionally with her large yellow eyes. Finally I tried snapping
a picture and, frightened, she flew up and landed on the panel to the goat
pen. I snapped another and headed inside.

We now herd the few surviving guineas into the coop at night. The turkeys seem to be too large for her because even thoughthey have since then perched up closer to the house a
few times and we have found a few piles of turkey feathers, so far, no dead
turkeys. She is Artemis, goddess of the hunt. We see her at night regularly,
at times, just upsetting the birds as she swoops low and at times perched on
the house preening her feathers. She is one more predator added to our list
out at Fossil Ridge Farmstead.