If you go on to any whitetail forum ask about coyote management, you will get a ton of different opinions. Some people will say that you need to shoot them all and other say that it does not matter how many you kill it will not affect the population. And still others will say that coyotes do not really affect deer populations so do not worry about killing them. But who is right? Is there anything that can be done about coyotes?
NPR reported on a new study that sheds some light onto that question. Scientist University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry conducted would be the largest study of coyotes in the Southern US. For the next two years, scientists followed radio collared coyotes across hunks of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina in order why coyotes have become so ubiquitous across the region.
The study relieved a couple of things that hunters will find very interesting. First, deer in the south use deer as a year round food source. Conventional wisdom says that coyotes only eat deer during fawning season and ones that they are able to scavenge during hunting season.
Michael Chamberlain, lead scientist on the study says,“Well for one thing, coyotes in the Southeast are relying more heavily on deer as prey than Western coyotes do….By and far white tailed deer were the most important prey resource for resident coyotes. And this wasn’t just in hunting season, either. The constant consistent use of adults throughout the year is something you can’t just describe a way to scavenging.”
But probably the most interesting part of the study has to do with Coyote movements and how the spread from one area to another. The study described two types of coyotes, resident and transient. How these types of animals interact makes coyote management a real puzzle.
Resident Coyotes are mated pairs that set up shop in territories of about 10 square miles. They stick to their core areas and hardly ever venture out. Transients on the other hand are nomadic. They are usually young adults and move 60, 70 sometimes 100 miles at a time.
Here is the kicker. When you shoot a resident coyote a transient quickly moves in and takes its place.
“It essentially means that you need to put a 50 to 70 square mile circle around your property and recognize that that’s what you’re actually managing,” Chamberlain said by way of advice to owners of hunting land.
According to Charlie Killmaster, lead deer biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, It makes coyote management feel like a game of whack-a-mole. You have to think bigger than your hunting club, like statewide bigger, hence the open season on coyotes in Georgia. But ironically, shooting every coyote on sight doesn’t accomplish much.
“Indiscriminate coyote harvest is not really that effective for improving things for wildlife,” he said.
Instead, a landowner should do their homework, really target the animal that is causing you trouble. Even then, the effects of more discriminate trapping are short lived given the resident/transient relationship.
This study shows that coyote management is extremely difficult and can really feel futile. One thing for sure is that coyotes are here to stay and there is absolutely no way that we can effect their populations by hunting. What we can do is try and minimize their impact by being selective of when we target them.
The best advise I have received is to trap them right before fawning season. If you can reduce your local population during this time. You hope that the fawns can grow enough during the time the resident coyote you killed is replaced by a transient. This will give the fawns the best chance of survival. Even though this study showed that they still kill adult deer, it is more difficult and it takes less deer to feed them.
The more we learn the better we can manage them and help ensure healthy populations for all animals.