Mostly Trapping

Possible article referenced in Game and Fish
Oct 21, 2019 11:18 ET
Comments: This is possibly the paper by, Dr. Carly Summers, an Agricultural Resource Educator with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service from the summer of 2018 referenced in the November 2019, "Game and Fish" magazine (East) article entitled, "Coyotes: Their Eco-Impact and Spread."

The article itself (not this paper) said verbatim.... "Seriously, don't trap or shoot any of them," along with "With all that said, do you still want to reduce the number of coyotes in your area to minimize predation on the deer herd?"

Timed nearly perfectly with the opening of trapping season in the east.

Text for posterity:

Coyotes help farms? Can this be true? What about the converse: killing coyotes hurts farms.

Yes. Both true, albeit, perhaps surprising, statements.

I think many of us get the impression that since coyote populations seem to be doing well, coyote shooting tournaments or occasional hunting can’t hurt the coyotes.

However, killing coyotes does hurt farms.

Here’s why:

Coyotes live in socially-complex packs where members teach each other and play specific roles. Coyotes mate for life and are monogamous. When coyote packs are stable, coyotes hunt wild prey and teach their young to hunt wild prey. They settle into their territory and learn the patterns and habits of their wild prey, and their diet consists largely of rodents.

They do not risk encounters on farms to kill livestock when their natural prey surrounds them in a familiar territory.

Stable packs also defend their territory, ensuring that stray (unstable) coyotes stay away; this also helps limit the coyote population in your area, as stable packs naturally self-regulate to maintain lower populations that they can easily feed.

When we shoot any member of the coyote pack, the pack is destabilized.

This results in several outcomes that create problems for our farms (and neighborhoods where perhaps your small pet becomes an easy target for a hungry, afraid refugee).

The coyote pack disperses, causing the territory to dissolve. Fearful, desperate coyotes will roam land unfamiliar to them where they do not have a grasp on the wild prey habitat.

The coyotes, knowing the danger that exists in hunting livestock on farms, will nevertheless be driven by hunger to kill obvious prey, like sheep, as they cannot establish a stable territory in which to hunt wild prey. Ironically for us, but logical for the pack, as soon as we start shooting coyotes, they breed more and have larger litters.

For now, living in the Adirondack Park where some coyote packs can find stable, unthreatened territories, we still have essential members of stable packs present to teach their young how to hunt wild prey and prefer it.

However, it is of utmost importance that farmers understand the ecology of coyote behavior and how hunting coyotes drives them to prey on livestock. The more we can encourage our neighbors to respect coyote packs and resist shooting them, the easier it will be to establish and maintain peaceful cohabitation with coyotes.

We really don’t have a choice. Killing coyotes doesn’t work.

Not only this, peaceful coyotes in your midst who kill rodents have important benefits for your herd. Livestock herds suffer from the increased tick pressure resulting from predator eradication, just like we do. Coyotes keep rodent populations down around your farm, providing an irreplaceable service to you. Unlike predators, rodents also consume a surprising quantity of forage, competing for the food source of your herds.

Knowing all this, perhaps now you are willing to give the coyotes a chance. But you are still worried and need to know what to do if one of the coyotes fleeing a destabilized territory desperately attacks your herd. First, remember that if you are lucky enough to have a stable pack around your farm, it will actually protect you from other coyotes.

Yet another reason you should treasure your stable pack. Local farmers and coyote researchers also swear by guardian animals. Whether you choose llamas, alpacas, donkeys or guard dogs (Project Coyote has useful resources about this subject), guardian animals are highly effective at deterring predators of all sorts— even ravens that attack from above.

Also important: make sure to check the health of your livestock frequently, taking care of sick and weak members and removing carcasses promptly. As you can imagine, sick and weak members, or carrion, can attract predators who otherwise would not approach healthy livestock.

For those of you who love coyotes and happen to sneak them treats with the hope you can glimpse one in your yard: please resist the urge.

Coyotes need to rely on wild prey and learn to avoid, not approach, humans. If a coyote is exploring too near your farm, try hazing: actively scaring the coyote away by shouting, waving your arms, and even throwing objects in its direction.

Coyotes are keystone creatures in the ecosystem. We benefit just as much from them living in stable, healthy packs as does the rest of our environment. Hopefully this little ecology lesson will inspire you to envision coyotes in a new, positive light the next time you hear a pack singing.

Interested in learning more about predator-farm and predator-community relations? Contact Carly at —Carly Summers serves as the ag educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westport