Coyotes will kill and eat your babies if presented with the right opportunity. They’ll eat puppies, kittens and cats, raccoons, guinea fowl, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, mice, sheep, goats, calves and more. They also hunt larger animals and there are videos of coyotes bringing down deer. There are also some videos of human coyote encounters, typically showing the curious nature of coyotes. They love dog food served-up in a bowl on the porch and will eat fruit from your yard. Although highly unlikely, they are capable of eating an infant or toddler.
Coyotes are small to medium-sized animals and typically weigh around 40 – 45 pounds, but can grow much larger. Coyotes are smart (just ask the wolves that couldn’t survive the assaults of our forefathers). Snare a coyote once and it will likely never be snared again if it escapes. Coyotes are elusive but often spotted by people and they know the proper distance required to escape a hunter.
I have had coyotes sneak up on me on two separate occasions in Ohio. Each time the coyotes were trying to figure out what it was they smelled, as I often masked my scent prior to hiking. My wife and I had a small group of coyotes walking in stride with us in New Mexico. The intentions of the coyote pack may have been a little more ominous but on each encounter, I made an aggressive movement towards the coyotes and they all ran away, with tails tucked in, and didn’t return.
It’s very rare for people to be attacked by coyotes. A child or infant left alone in a yard or crib squirming like a helpless animal can attract the attention of coyotes. There are approximately ten coyote attacks on people each year. The last human to be killed by a coyote was a three-year-old child in the Los Angeles area in 1981. The girl was playing unattended in her front yard. It’s important to remember, there are hundreds of dog attacks on people each year.
Our only success in the war on coyotes was achieved by surrendering to the coyote. Simply leave the coyote alone and protect all of its predators. The problem is that you probably don’t live in Yellowstone National Park where we waived the white flag. Since the coyote has no real predators outside of protected national parks; the coyote is thriving. Man has empowered himself with the role of coyote predator and is failing miserably.
Over twenty years ago I saw a pack of coyotes chasing a big yellow Labrador through a field in Troy, Ohio. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My friend’s grandfather shot his gun in the air and the coyotes dispersed, letting the dog survive.
That was a rare sighting but now coyotes are everywhere. I have seen them dead on the roadsides inside the city limits. If you enjoy watching rabbits bounce through your neighborhood at dusk, chances are coyotes visit your neighborhood at night in search of those rabbits. Coyotes may inhabit every county in the contiguous United States.
Federal efforts to control coyote populations began in 1916. Prior to the 1940’s coyotes were hunted and trapped and their dens were poisoned with strychnine baits. People spent much more time hunting in those days and they were unsuccessful in slowing the coyote. From the 1940’s to 1972 chemicals such as thallium sulfate, cyanide and a something named 1080 were used on coyotes. Some of these chemicals are highly toxic.
Since 1972 cyanide canisters called M44’s have been used to fire spring loaded quantities of cyanide into the mouths of animals attracted to the bait. The cyanide does kill coyotes and also kills other animals; such as, dogs, bears, wolves, bobcats, mountain lions and more. These animals are killed searching for food other than livestock.
The war on coyotes began primarily to protect livestock in the 17 western states – mainly goats and sheep. It was believed that anywhere from 5 to 45 percent of livestock were lost to predation. I cannot find agreement on current numbers of coyote kills on livestock.
What is evident is that the coyote populations continue to grow and man’s efforts have not been successful. In most areas of North America coyotes can be hunted at any time, all year long and there are no “bag limits” on the numbers that can be killed. Some areas are offering bounty for coyote paws as proof of a kill. Many taxidermists will not accept coyotes at their shops anymore due to the number of animals being dropped-off and the fact that they often have a wretched odor.
The best thing to do to coyotes is to leave them alone. Nature will take care of the coyote population. Extreme winters that kill rabbits and other small animals will cause declines in coyote populations as food sources diminish. In most animal species if population density is too high, disease often controls their numbers and there is often territorial fighting between the animals. Nature has proven to be more effective than man at controlling itself.
History shows us numerous instances of man’s interference with nature causing more harm than good. I wonder if there is any correlation between man’s self-insertion as predator and coyotes having larger litters as a way to increase its survival rates. We know litter sizes vary due to population density and available resources for raising pups.
There are steps that can be taken to minimize encounters with coyotes:
1. Never feed coyotes. Aside from the obvious, this would include the shallow burying of a pet or “field dressing” of a deer in your yard.
2. Keep pets and animals completely fenced and include a top when possible.
3. Keep cats and small dogs inside. After 4 p.m. your pets are at their greatest risk of being attacked.
4. Never leave small children outside unattended.
5. Remove thick brush and potential hiding places and enclose the bottoms of porches and decks.
6. Feed pets inside and eliminate sources of standing water outside.
7. Store trash in heavy-duty covered containers.
8. When composting, do not use open pits.
If you love the outdoors and spend a lot of time hiking you may encounter a coyote. Never run, act scared or backup, just feel confident that it fears you and make an aggressive movement towards it. Throw a rock, stick or use pepper spray if you like. They will sometimes approach you in the wild, usually out of curiosity but typically bolt away as soon as they realize you are human.
I prefer to remain undercover and secretly observe coyotes when possible. Coyotes are often playful in nature and fun to watch. I once spent about 30 minutes watching a coyote’s amazing acrobatic display as it was trying to outmaneuver an aggressive snake. I always bear in mind, that coyotes are wild animals and can be unpredictable.