Coyote Damage Prevention and Control
Coyotes have been the focus of predator-control efforts for years in the western part of the United States where sheep production is big business. In these areas, poisons, traps, snares, airplane hunting, dogs and other methods have been used to control or eradicate coyote populations. For the most part, coyote numbers have remained relatively stable despite these extensive control efforts.
In Missouri, the situation is much simpler because sheep and cattle pastures and hog lots are usually small - between 40 and 80 acres - and are often well fenced. Many times only one or a few coyotes need to be dealt with to stop livestock loss.
When coyotes are causing damage, people want the problem corrected but don't always want the coyote killed. "Can't you just catch the coyotes and move them someplace else?" is a question sometimes posed to wildlife damage biologists. And the answer is, "No." Except on rare occasions, coyotes are too cunning to be caught in cage traps. There are, however, many nonlethal options available to cope with coyote problems. In some situations, the only option may be to use a lethal method.
The Missouri Department of Conservation's wildlife damage biologists can help decide what will work best in a particular situation. They provide technical advice in preventing problems. If lethal methods are needed, they can show how to use snares and traps and how to call and shoot problem coyotes. They also can sell traps or snares to landowners at cost.
When a coyote is suspected of killing livestock, the first impulse of many farmers is to kill the coyote. Although lethal methods of controlling coyotes may be the best short-term solution, the livestock producer should consider the following nonlethal methods that offer long-term protection.
A popular, nonlethal method of preventing coyote damage to livestock is to use guard animals. Specially trained guard dogs, donkeys and llamas have been used through-out Missouri to protect livestock.
A good guard dog can protect sheep and goats from coyote damage. Larger breeds, such as Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Anatolian shepherds and Akbash, often work well to intimidate the much smaller coyote.
Guard dogs should be acquired as puppies and habituated to the flock or herd at an early age. Human contact must be kept to a minimum. If the guard dog is treated as a pet, it will not properly bond with livestock and its effectiveness will be lost. On the other hand, the guard dog needs to be tame enough that the owner can approach it for vaccinations, worming and other care.
Dogs have individual personalities: One dog may bond with the sheep or goats while another dog may not work as well. A good guard dog remains with the livestock at all times and confronts coyotes and other dogs that approach.
Guard dogs require a lot of initial training and must be provided with shelter and food in the field. They may be excellent guard animals for a while and become less effective later. Occasionally guard dogs have been responsible for killing sheep.
Donkeys are used by Missouri livestock producers to guard sheep and goats. Hog producers have found that donkeys also give some protection to sows farrowing in the woods.
Most donkeys have a natural dislike for coyotes and dogs and bond well with livestock. Select a gelding or jenny because the more aggressive jacks sometimes injure or kill sheep and goats. Do not place two donkeys in the same pasture or in adjoining pastures because they will bond with each other and not with the livestock.
An effective guard donkey remains with the sheep or goats at all times. Advantages of donkeys are that they are not high priced and do not require as much training and care as guard dogs.
As with the guard dogs, there are no guarantees that a donkey will be 100-percent effective. It may be necessary to try more than one donkey to find one that functions as a good guard animal. One method of selecting a donkey is to put it in a small lot or corral with a strange dog, making sure the dog has plenty of escape routes. A donkey that reacts aggressively to the dog has a good chance of being an effective guard animal.
A few progressive livestock producers in Missouri use llamas as guard animals. Studies in Iowa have shown these animals to be quite effective in protecting sheep, goats and cattle. Aggressive toward both dogs and coyotes, llamas are easy to handle and bond with livestock in a matter of days.
Although expensive initially, their longevity of 12 to 18 years and their usefulness as guard animals make the price reasonable over time. Llamas require little attention because they feed with the animals they are protecting.
For tips on selecting and training guard animals, write for the free booklet, "Using Guard Animals to Protect Livestock." Send your request to Guard Animals, Missouri Department of Conservation, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, Mo. 65102-0180.
A well-built net or woven-wire fence can be 100-percent effective protecting pigs, poultry and sheep from coyotes. The fence should be at least 7 feet high to keep coyotes from jumping over it.
An outward slant to the wire at the top can be added to keep coyotes from climbing over, and an apron of wire extending outward from the bottom will keep them from digging under the fence. If the apron isn't used, a few well-placed snares or traps should catch the occasional coyote that digs under the fence.
A shorter, woven-wire fence can be made taller by attaching extensions to the posts and adding extra wire.
A high-tensile electric fence can serve as both a livestock and predator-proof fence if it is built to the right specifications. Contact a fencing company for specific details.
Initial costs for this type of fence are comparable to or even lower than a woven-wire fence with barbed wire at the top. Beginning with a hot wire at the bottom, the fence should have at least 7 strands of alternating hot and ground high-tensile wire. Be sure the wires are stretched tight.
The fence must be maintained to ensure there are no washouts that will allow coyotes to crawl under without getting shocked.
Installing a single electric wire near the bottom of the fence to keep coyotes from digging or crawling under the woven wire is a waste of time and money. A high-tensile predator-proof fence built to specifications is the best option. Fences can be cost effective for small enclosures but may prove expensive for large pastures. In the case of high-dollar exotic animals, a high fence or high-tensile electric fence should be considered. Losing a few expensive animals could quickly justify the expense of a predator-proof fence.
Scare cannons or propane exploders, which are timed to give off a loud boom every 15 to 20 minutes, are not usually effective in controlling coyote damage.
Propane cannons cost around $350 each, require maintenance, often do not work during rainy periods and may disturb neighbors. Coyotes soon learn that the cannons are not a threat and have been known to come in between working propane exploders to kill livestock.
The Electronic Guard is a device developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control program as a temporary way to protect livestock from coyotes. The battery-powered guard turns on only at night, the time when coyotes usually kill livestock. Approximately every 15 minutes, a strobe light and siren turn on to scare coyotes away from the area.
This method isn't a permanent solution. Coyotes eventually learn that the guard doesn't pose a real threat, and they may ignore it after a few weeks.
Electronic Guards cost about $250 each. If a pasture is 10 to 20 acres with a lot of cover, two or three guards should be used. From time to time, they should be moved from one position to another.
Because coyotes don't mind living near people, scarecrows, clothing with human scent and other similar tactics do not keep them away from an area.
Although there have been experiments applying coyote repellents to sheep, so far none have proven very effective.
Because most coyotes are too wary to be caught in cage traps, this method should be tried only with coyotes that are habituated to people and only as a last resort when shooting or snaring aren't possible. Use a large cage trap, bait it with meat and apply coyote trapping lure.
Live trapping is not as humane as it may seem because coyotes caught this way often bite and tear at the wire causing damage to their mouth and teeth.
Lethal methods are the quickest way to stop coyotes from killing livestock. In some situations, such as the killing of pigs, lethal methods may be the only cost-effective solution.
According to the Wildlife Code of Missouri, coyotes that cause damage may be shot or trapped at any time of the year without a permit by the farmer, landowner or some other person acting as the farmer or landowner's agent. This person could be a local trapper, friend or relative. Coyotes captured or killed by the above methods must be reported to a conservation agent within 24 hours and must be disposed of only in accordance with the agent's instructions.
Snares used on dry land are illegal in Missouri, but they can be used to control coyotes if the person experiencing the problem receives special authorization from a wildlife damage biologist. Below are some lethal ways of controlling coyote damage. The most effective methods - trapping and snaring - are described in more detail later in this booklet.
Shooting problem coyotes always is an option in rural areas and sometimes within city limits if ordinances allow it. Because coyotes are cunning but somewhat predictable, shooters should spend time observing the coyote's habits to increase their chance of success. Many nuisance coyotes show a pattern of stalking livestock or poultry at a certain time of the day. A coyote may visit its kill several times over a period of a day or two until the carcass is reduced to bones and hide.
Once the coyote's pattern becomes known, shooters must station themselves near the coyote's path, paying attention to wind direction so the animal won't catch their scent. Sunrise and sunset usually are good times to stake out a coyote kill.
Hunting with dogs
Experienced hunters using dogs sometimes are able to put hounds on the trail of the specific coyote that is causing damage, but it isn't easy to do. During hot, dry summer conditions when coyote problems often occur, most dogs cannot scent and trail coyotes. During these times, there is less chance that the coyotes doing damage will be the ones taken.
Hunting with dogs works best during the winter when conditions for hounds to trail coyotes are more favorable. It really doesn't do much good, however, to simply take a large number of coyotes. All too often the animals taken are the more vulnerable young coyotes.
Because of the danger to people, pets and other wildlife, it is illegal to use toxicants and poisons to control coyotes.
Using a call
Imitating the sound of a wounded rabbit using an electronic or hand- held call can increase the chances of drawing coyotes close enough to shoot them.
This method is legal during daylight hours only, unless special authorization is obtained from the Conservation Department.
To be successful, shooters must have a clear view so they see the coyote before it spots them. They also must be in the correct location so the coyote doesn't smell them.
Calling can be effective in early summer to draw the attention of coyotes with pups in nearby dens. Calling also works near livestock kills when coyotes return to feed.
Electronic callers and hand-held or mouth-operated calls can be purchased in sporting goods stores.
In Missouri, coyote pups leave the den about the time they are weaned. It is at this time that the parents, particularly the male, may start killing livestock to feed the pups.
By the time livestock are being killed, the pups usually are no longer in the den. However, if the pups are still in the den and they are destroyed, the parents usually stop killing livestock or poultry because they no longer have pups to feed.
According to the Wildlife Code of Missouri, it is illegal to molest the dens of wildlife, but conservation agents can give special authorization if the need arises.