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March 19, 2019

 

Coyote Predation Problems

 
Alternative management practices can reduce conflicts.
 
On For livestock producers there are few experiences more defeating than walking into a pen and finding an animal dead from predation. Usually a healthy calf, lamb or kid, a season’s worth of husbandry is wasted, and a feeling of frustration and helplessness takes over, especially if there are multiple deaths.
 
Often, the predator is a coyote. They normally have little interest in the meat but prefer to open the animals flank and eat the vital organs. On occasion they may not even eat the animal and may kill more than one. Unlike coyotes, wolves prefer to eat the meat of the animal and not the organs.
 
A dog will chase an animal around before mutilating it but will usually not eat it. Bears on the other hand, tend to attack from the shoulders forward and will usually consume or remove the entire animal.
 
As most farmers know, once a coyote starts to pick off livestock it is unlikely to stop. The successful hunter soon teaches the rest of the pack how to do it and the problem can become magnified.
 
In a sense, the war is on. The livestock must be safely contained, and the coyote activity controlled. Either way it amounts to a lot of additional work moving stock, repairing pens and becoming proactive with best management practices that can include guard dogs, fencing, guns and traps.
 
Currently, coyotes are considered a nuisance under the Alberta Agricultural Pest Act and associated Pest and Nuisance Control Regulations, which are administered by Agricultural Service Boards throughout the Province.
 
The owner or occupant may prevent the establishment of and control or destroy, a declared nuisance pest on land under their control. Most boards will assist landowners in managing coyote predation of their livestock with information and procedures as set out by the Province.
 
Due to concerns about the effects on non-target species, the use of poison is not generally recommended. Best management practices that include a variety of approaches are preferred.  In the past little concern was given to sustaining or managing populations at a natural level, but today the coyote is recognized as a valuable part of the natural balance in our ecosystem.
 
Coyote predation of livestock is a learned behavior and anything that impedes, disturbs, or prevents this process will reduce losses. Keep in mind that the coyote has all day to observe human behavior and routines and is intelligent enough to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
 
Reducing or eliminating any potential food source will discourage interest. Extra efforts to confine weak, aged or sick animals will help to reduce conflicts. Learning from the coyotes themselves by being prepared to take advantage of an opportunity is important.   
 
Farm management and land use practices that reduce interactions between livestock and coyotes need to be considered, particularly with respect to open grazing. Heavy brush cover plays an important role in potential predation. Herd surveillance may need to improve, since increased management presence contributes considerably to a reduction in coyote conflicts.
 
Choosing an alternative calving, lambing or kidding site may be a consideration. Increasing stocking densities may prove to be an additional defense mechanism. Disposing of afterbirth following birth will reduce the attraction of coyotes as will the removal of livestock carrion.
 
Even if coyotes are not feeding on decaying flesh of dead animals., the mere presence can entice them to remain in the area, initiating the learned process of predation. Efforts to confine weak, aged or sick animals will help.  
 
Be observant and prepared while checking or feeding livestock. Most coyotes that are wily enough to threaten your animals are likely going to be wary. A warning shot can be effective, as any practice that makes it uncomfortable for the coyote to be near livestock will help to eliminate its presence.
 
Agriculture and Community Services recognizes that there are situations where some pests cannot be effectively controlled with the sole use of management practices and that on occasion, toxicants may be needed as a tool to help producers protect their investment.   
 
Clearwater County’s Agriculture and Community Services department is happy to assist residents with coyote predation issues by providing information about existing programs and can be reached at 403-845-4444.
 

 Upcoming Events
  • 2019 Conifer Seedling Program – In partnership with West Fraser, white spruce and lodgepole pine tree seedlings are available for purchase and planting in Clearwater County.  Order by April 19, 2019. Applications are first come first served. Email Danielle Ens at dens@clearwatercounty.ca or Gary Lewis at glewis@clearwatercounty.ca.
 
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