How to deal with nuisance coyotes

How to deal with nuisance coyotes

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With the spread and proliferation of coyotes across the country, their conflict with humans is on the rise. Here’s how to deal with problem coyotes.

My sister lives on a small hobby farm just outside of the Twin Cities where she breeds and trains horses. She also has a number of other livestock such as chickens, goats, and peafowl, though these animals are really just pets. Many evenings you can hear a pack of coyotes howling in distant—and sometimes not-so-distant—fields. While this may sound charming and evocative of Westerns from your childhood, coyotes can be a real problem for livestock ranchers.

This isn’t to say I don’t like coyotes. They absolutely have a place on the ecological landscape. There is something undeniably beautiful about such enigmatic creatures, with their haunting yips and howls. Plus, they keep rodent populations in check. But coyote populations have exploded in recent years. In his book “Coyote America: A Natural and Supernatural History,” Dan Flores, a historian of cultural and environmental studies of the American West, explains that coyotes can now be found in every major American city, including New York and Chicago, and that almost all Americans live within one mile of a coyote. With coyotes living in such close proximity to so many people, conflicts are bound to occur.

Back on my sister’s farm, she has lost more than a dozen chickens and peafowl. A few weeks ago, I left the hocks of a deer I had shot that evening in the bed of her truck for her dogs, but in the morning, they were gone. A coyote had jumped into the bed of her truck—parked in her driveway—and absconded with the hocks. Finally, a little more than a week ago, while my sister was walking back to feed the horses in the pen behind the barn, a coyote ran across her path—no more than five feet in front of her and utterly dismissive of the fact that a human being stood so close. While coyote-on-human attacks are rare, it was still fortunate a coyote this brazen had things other than my sister on its mind.

Obviously, this coyote in particular has to go. So what do you do if, like my sister, you have a coyote problem?

Hire a professional

If it is a dire problem that needs to be solved immediately, there are professional trappers who will take care of the problem for you. However, this can be expensive. Personally, I prefer to take care of my own problems when possible.

Trap it yourself

This is definitely the most difficult option, but, if you’re up for a challenge, it can be really fun and rewarding. Personally, I find getting into the mindset of the animal you’re trying to trap fascinating. You have to place your trap exactly where the coyote is going to set its foot, while not leaving your scent everywhere or disturbing the landscape in an unnatural way. Otherwise the coyote will know something is up and go around your trap, or even dig it up.

When you begin thinking about where an animal is going to walk and eventually put its paw down, you start to look at the landscape in an entirely different way. The lessons learned from this mindset can be applied to just about every form of hunting you undertake.

Trapping, however, can be dangerous. If you don’t know what you are doing, some of the equipment can cause serious injury. By-catch is also a serious problem: Occasionally you might catch something other than what you intend. You must learn to reduce this as well as how to release incidentally caught animals safely.

If you are going to try out trapping, I highly recommend you get in touch with a local trappers organization like the Minnesota Trappers Association. Organizations like this exist throughout the country and are more than happy to help you get started and navigate local trapping regulations.

Dust off your rifle

With big game seasons coming to a close around the country, hunting these problem coyotes can keep you in the field until spring turkey arrives.

Set up a blind or tree stand on the downwind side of an area near where the problem coyote has been frequenting and get your hands on a predator call. These can be had for as little as a few dollars (for a manual handheld call) or for nearly $1,000 for extra loud, customizable, top-of-the line e-callers.

If this is a one-time endeavor for you, stick with a cheaper manual call. They’re quick to master and work pretty well. But if you are going to make coyote chasing a regular activity, I recommend biting the bullet and jumping into e-callers. They are so much more versatile, louder, and easier to run for extended periods of time. Personally, I use a FOXPRO HammerJack. It’s solidly in the mid-tier of e-callers, but provides all the functionality I need and even a few bells and whistles, including motion to target and provoke a coyote’s predatory instinct (check out my review of it here).

Once you’re all set up, there are a couple more things to keep in mind. Coyotes have excellent hearing and a phenomenal sense of smell. This means your scent control and noise discipline need to be spot on. Despite the way Disney portrayed them with the character of Wiley Coyote, coyotes are also extremely intelligent. If you show up at the same time, sit in the same place, and use the same call sounds every time you go out, the coyotes will catch on and will stay well away from you. Successfully hunting one of nature’s most skilled predators requires becoming a pretty extraordinary predator yourself.

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