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Solving the Coyote Problem


Coyote preying on fawns impacts overall deer herd health.

Coyote preying on fawns impacts overall deer herd health.


A lot has been written in recent years about the influx of coyotes in the southeast. While their presence is not all that new, with some of the first reports coming in the late 1970’s. Their impact on the whitetail deer is just now beginning to be understood.

Many states have conducted extensive surveys, research and collected data on coyote populations, their range, breeding and feeding habits. Much of this data is overlapping and relevant to all land managers and whitetail hunters. When it comes to how does the coyote impact your deer and turkeys is really where the rubber meets the road. While there are many sources I could quote and data is all over the place, the significant point is that few researcher disagree that the coyote is having a significant negative impact on deer numbers across the southeast.

One such study conducted by Charles Ruth of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has shown that of the fawn mortality that occurs in South Carolina, approximately 80% can be directly attributed to coyote’s predation. What that translates to is an overall decline in the deer herd, the health of the deer herd and a negative impact on the deer herd in general. When in a recent discussion with Ruth about this and how it translates to our herd health, he explained it like this. In the 1990’s when the deer herd was at its peak, we were getting a survival rate of 1.7 fawns per adult doe. In other words, every adult doe was successfully raising 1.7 fawns to adulthood. Now with the influx of coyotes, it is taking three does to successfully raise one fawn!

With this information, what can land owners and managers do to fight the onslaught of the new predator problem? As a trapper who is always looking for land access, one of the issues I constantly run into is dealing with landowners who say, “I don’t have a coyote problem.” Or worse, “I’ve never seen one so they must not be here.” As all of the data supports, coyotes inhabit every county of our state and every city of the state. Coyotes are everywhere and they have habituated to their environment and adapted to the conditions. So the first step is to recognize that there is a problem, and that it is bigger than you realize.

Some suggestions on what to do to control the coyotes on your land. Notice I intentionally used the words control. Eradication is not possible, but controlling them is possible and very necessary if your efforts for quality deer management is ever to reach its full potential.

Some hunting clubs, land managers and owners have started adjusting their rules and bylaws to include the harvest of coyotes. For example, in a place I hunt, there are guidelines that stipulate that if you see a coyote, you must make every effort to kill it. Refusing to do so will bar you from the club in the future. Another club I know about has issued bounties for coyotes by reducing their dues by a dollar figure for the member who kills the most coyotes.

Killing all coyotes is important, in fact deer hunters annually kill over 25,000 coyotes annually in South Carolina. So as Jay Butfiloski, Furbearer biologist of the South Carolina DNR says, every dead coyote is one we do not have to worry about. So encourage your hunters to kill everyone they see whenever they are hunting.

Other things we can employ are taking advantage of the liberal hunting season which is year around with no limit. Take up the challenge of hunting coyotes. A lot of information is available about predator hunting, we will not cover that here. Lastly, hire a trapper. The good news about this is that most trappers will gladly trap your land for free during the trapping season that runs from Dec. 1-March 1. The law stipulates that only animals caught during the trapping season can be used. Pelts, skulls, etc can only be harvested and used or sold with animals caught during the trapping season. If you want to get a trapper after or before the season it will cost some money to hire them, but when you look at the overall cost of your management plan, this fee is inconsequential to other expenses.

Some of the most successful managers have budgeted for the hiring of a trapper and included it in their overall management plan. If you simply cannot afford to hire a trapper to make a dent on your coyotes, another angle is to hire one to come to your club and train you or your club members to trap themselves. Many trappers offer services of training others to trap predators.

One of the services I offer is to come for a weekend and spend two to three days showing members how to trap their land. This allows me or other trappers to see their land, and to show how the coyotes travel across their land and the best ways to trap them.

Trapping is by far the best method of controlling coyotes. As I’ve said before, that trap is very patient. It doesn’t car how hot it is or cold or wet. It will be there when that coyote comes by. If you do not have a trapping program you need to get one. Prolonging the implementation is not fixing the problem.

With all of the money land owners and managers are spending to acquire land, plow, plant, cut, clear etc. in order to give the deer the best possible opportunity to reach full potential. Implementing a thorough predator control program should at the very least be a part of your plan.