Managing Coyote Conflict

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coyote in a field

Owning livestock comes with many challenges, one being protecting livestock from predators. Coyotes are a common threat that livestock face. A livestock owner/producer needs to know how to handle a coyote that comes onto their property and what options are available to get rid of this potential threat.

Coyotes were not placed in North Carolina by any government agency, although this may be a misconception. Coyote’s range expansion began in the early 1900s, spreading from Mexico through the western US and up into Canada. In 1983, North Carolina had its first confirmed sightings of coyotes. These sightings were only in five counties, but by 2009 all 100 counties had confirmed sightings.

Coyotes typically weigh 25-40 pounds and come in a wide variation of colors. Coyotes are extremely adaptable and will call just about anywhere home, from a farmer’s woods around pastures, to a highly populated neighborhood. A coyote’s diet also varies depending on their habitat. A coyote that lives close to people in a neighborhood will have a diet made up of trash and possibly small animals, such as outdoor cats or rodents. A coyote that lives in a less populated rural area will have a diet consisting of small rodents, rabbits, bugs, fruit and vegetables, and occasionally livestock and chickens.

Coyotes are very territorial. There will be a mated pair for every territory. Coyotes do not hunt in packs. On summer nights where you can hear coyotes barking and yelling back and forth, it is the parents teaching their pups how to hunt. Once the pups leave to go find their own territories, it will be just the mated pair again. Pups born in the spring will leave to find their own territories in the fall. These pups can travel hundreds of miles, even crossing over state lines looking for an unoccupied territory.

Coyotes can self-regulate their population. If there is an abundance of coyotes, mated pairs of coyotes will have fewer pups per litter. These pups usually are weaker and survival rates are low. If there is a disease outbreak or something that reduces coyote populations, the mated pairs will have larger litters with higher pup survival rates.

A big concern with any wild animal is the threat of disease. Rabies is a deadly disease that is zoonotic, which means it is an infectious disease that is transmitted between species, from animal to human, or from human to animal. Although coyotes can contract rabies they are less likely to develop rabies compared to other wildlife species, such as raccoons or foxes.

If you see a coyote on your property and feel it is a threat to you or your livestock, you can go to the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. This webpage has information about coyotes and options for management.

Hunting season is year-round for coyotes, day or night, and electronic calling can be used. If you are hunting on personal property, a hunting license is not required. If you are hunting on land that you do not own, a hunting license is needed to hunt coyotes. If a landowner has given you permission to hunt coyotes on their land, you will need a signed and dated letter saying you have permission to hunt coyotes on that property.

Trapping season is November 1 through the last day of February. Trapping is only allowed during trapping season and a trapping license is required, unless you are trapping on personal property. For trapping to be done outside of trapping season a depredation permit is required. A landowner or livestock owner can also hire a Wildlife Damage Control Agent. For more information about these agents visit the Wildlife Control Agent page.

It is important to remember that it is illegal to relocate coyotes. They have strong homing instincts and will return to the location they were removed from. Once the animal is trapped, it needs to be euthanized and disposed of, or used for its fur.

Fencing is key to keeping coyotes and other predators out of your pastures or chicken runs. High fencing, about 6’ tall with 12-18” under the ground, is a good start. Coyotes are great diggers, so running electric wire around the bottom of your fence is a good deterrent.

Coyote with chicken in its mouth

Another way to keep coyotes away from livestock and chickens is by securing them at night. This would be hard to do with a herd of cattle or large flocks of sheep, but horses and chickens can be secured in barns and coops very easily. During calving season, be sure to have a safe place for livestock to give birth. Coyotes will take advantage of a mama cow calving, not only killing the calf, but also wounding the mother while she is vulnerable. This applies to goats and sheep as well. Herd protectors, such as a donkey in a pasture with a herd of cattle or a guard dog out with a flock of sheep, are ways to prevent coyotes getting to livestock.

Not all coyotes are potential predators. If they are seen around property, but not harming livestock let them be. If you remove these coyotes, remember new coyotes can move in and may try and take advantage of livestock, if an opportunity arises. To learn more about coyote conflict for livestock operations visit the Jones County YouTube page. If you have additional questions contact area Livestock Agent, Katie Carter at kmcarte4@ncsu.edu.