Hunting coyotes is fun, exciting, challenging and good for ecology. But just how much impact does coyote hunting have on the circle of life? How many fawns and baby pheasants are you saving by taking out a coyote? Does coyote hunting really have that much significance to the survival of prey animals? Let’s look at some facts and I’ll let you decide.
Biologists conducted a study on a 78,000 acre plot of forest, and put collars on a number of fawns. 70 of the fawns were killed, mostly by coyotes, and 49 of them within the first three weeks after birth. The other 29 were killed between weeks four and nine.
Another research study was conducted in northern Alabama on 2,000 acres where 22 coyotes and 10 bobcats were removed. The number of surviving fawns was doubled from the year before. In a section of land in Georgia, totaling 11,000 acres, 23 coyotes and 3 bobcats were trapped out and the results were astounding. In the trapped area, 2 out of 3 does had fawns, whereas the year before only 1 in 28 does were observed with fawns.
It is clear that the problem is worse in the southern states than it is in the north, but one cannot deny that coyotes definitely make their mark. The problem is not getting any better as coyote populations continue to climb. According to a 2016 Whitetail Report, not a single state has a declining coyote population.
The surprising thing is that many biologists seem to play down the role of coyotes in predation. They do admit that coyotes will kill some fawns, but that the percentages are negligible. Many of them go on record stating that coyotes have very little impact, yet it seems that the numbers quoted above will prove otherwise. The documentation from study after study shows that higher coyote numbers will have devastating effects on fawns and game birds. From my own experience, hunting and trapping for over 30 years, I have seen first-hand some of the damage caused by coyotes to wildlife and domestic animals.
With a depressed fur market, coyote hunting and trapping has been at an all-time low, and the coyotes are surging. Regardless of fur prices, I have always tried to remove as many coyotes as possible from the areas that I hunt in. The truth of the matter is, coyotes are the only fur really worth much right now, and so everyone has an excuse to help bring in a few song dogs.
One of the problems facing those who are trying to reduce the coyote population is that it is nearly impossible to cause the numbers to decline. Coyotes adapt readily to conditions and circumstances and when their numbers are reduced and food is plentiful, litters will naturally be larger. With some litters up to 19 pups per female, it is a tall order to bring the numbers down. To effectively reduce the coyote population, 75% of the adults must be removed for the needle to move down at all. That’s a lot of coyotes!
For those who claim that nature will take care of it, I will say that nature is not kind. When animals become overpopulated, nature will indeed cause a reversal to reduce the numbers, but it will not be pretty. When food becomes scarce, starvation sets in, as well as an increase in predation of livestock and pets. Disease runs rampant, and animals die horrible deaths from sicknesses such as mange and distemper. Losing all or most of the hair and dying of exposure and weakness. The dangers to humans increases as the instances of communicable diseases such as rabies becomes more common. Pets and other outside animals may contract parasites and other disease from wild animals.
The case for lower coyote populations, and the effect that coyotes have on the environment, seems quite clear. Let’s all do our part, and help our deer, pheasant and quail populations by removing a few coyotes. Besides, it’s fun!
Taxidermy Tip of the Week
How many times have you heard someone say, “I shot this deer. The rack isn’t so big, but look how big the body is.”? After doing taxidermy for 35 years, I have seen a dramatic increase in the average body mass of deer taken in the midwest. I suppose this is partially due to more and better food crops available to the wildlife, overall milder winters in the last 10-15 years and just the fact that larger deer survive better and pass those genes down to future generations.
As a taxidermist, we often are asked to make the neck of the deer “as large as you can.” Leather will stretch, and you can many times make the neck larger than it was originally, but there are consequences to doing this.
In my shop, we take measurements from the carcass of the deer, and order forms accordingly. The skin will always fit, hair patterns will fall into place, and anatomical features are proportionate and in position. When you start to stretch the skin larger than it was meant to be, natural creases, wrinkles and hair patterns start to distort. You will be able to brag about how big the neck is, but your deer will not look as appealing and natural as it could.
Another consideration that one might not think of, is that a larger neck tends to minimize your antlers. If you have, for sake of conversation, an average 3-year-old deer with a 21-inch neck. If you try to stretch it to 23 inches, the average size of a 5-year-old deer, your antlers are going to appear smaller than they would on the 21-inch deer.
Like the old saying “the customer is always right,” we will do whatever the client wishes, but I will suggest that the deer be left in it’s original size.