Attacks on humans are far rarer. Over the last 50 years in North America, there have been fewer than 10 coyote attacks per year on average, perpetrated by a tiny portion of the millions of coyotes on the continent.
Meanwhile, humans pose a far larger threat to coyotes. More than 500,000 coyotes are killed each year, by the government and private citizens, for a variety of reasons: for their fur, for sport, and often in the name of protecting livestock.
But killing is not the best option. Despite popular belief, killing coyotes actually causes the population to explode: Female coyotes have larger litters when there are fewer adult coyotes around. In addition many of the lethal control methods used can be inhumane and cause unnecessary suffering, and/or catch and harm unintended targets. Coyotes can also be helpful to have around, so it’s not always beneficial to get rid of them. They reduce numbers of pest species like rats and mice, which in the long run may cause more damage to your home than a coyote passing through. However, coyotes have no natural predators in much of their range (as wolves and mountain lions have been extirpated from much of the United States), so populations are also prone to growing as long as there is adequate food.
If protective hunting isn’t the best method for coyote control, what are long-term solutions that work? The following tips may come in handy, whether you’re a professional farmer or just trying to protect your vegetable garden, backyard chickens or pet cat.
Don’t attract coyotes in the first place
Prevention is key. If coyotes aren’t given opportunities to glean food on your property, they will likely move on and find somewhere better to hang out than by humans. However, most people aren’t thinking of coyotes when they go about day-to-day life, so it’s easy to unintentionally attract unwanted guests.
First, make sure you are not inadvertently providing any easy sources of food—an open trash can, or bowls of pet food. If coyotes find an easy-to-access food source, even if it’s a limited one, they are more likely to stay nearby and put energy into uncovering other food sources on your property. Protect trash cans by weighing down lids with bricks or other heavy objects, or secure them with bungee cords. Consider fencing off compost piles in order to deter scrap-seekers.
Be careful with cats and small dogs, as well. Many people feed their pets, typically outdoor cats, on their porches or otherwise around the home. Both pet food and small pets themselves may be considered food sources, so if you live in an area populated by coyotes, consider keeping pets indoors or at least feeding them inside. For similar reasons, it’s likely a bad idea to feed feral cat colonies in rural areas, as the coyotes may both be attracted to your home and predate on the cats.
These tips may also help you fend off other predators, such as fishers, American badgers and foxes. While these smaller predators rarely pose risks to humans, they can be dangerous for pets and backyard fowl.
Scare coyotes away
While small pets may attract coyotes, larger animals can deter them, even just their scent.
Bottled wolf or mountain lion urine (real or synthetic), commonly sold in fish and game stores, are typically enough to get the clever yet wary coyote to head elsewhere. For best success, alternate predator urines and place them in different locations around the property to keep coyotes guessing. This solution also deters other unwanted guests from feral cats to raccoons.
In addition, large dogs can intimidate coyotes and reduce risk of conflict. Some breeds, for example the Anatolian Shepherd, have been bred for centuries to protect flocks of sheep from powerful animals like wolves and bears. With the right training, these breeds can intimidate the more common American predator, the coyote.
Don’t want to worry about the responsibilities of a real dog? Life-sized dog statues or cutouts, if moved frequently, can be almost as good. Additionally, motion-activated Halloween decorations or other props that generate lights, sounds or other alarming effects can deter predators. The key is to frequently change surroundings on the property and make them unpredictable. Coyotes do best in environments they feel comfortable with, so keep them from ever becoming accustomed to your farm or property.
“Fladry” is a lesser known but effective method of coyote prevention that keeps your home unpredictable and uninviting. Fladry is a line of rope mounted along a fence line or property boundary with nylon red flags dangling every few inches that flap in the wind. While coyotes aren’t repelled by fladry permanently, it seems to at least temporarily keep them away (and it works even better for wolves). Fladry is most effective in combination with other methods of prevention.
Some of these methods do take work, and killing coyotes can seem the easier way out. But over the long run, nonlethal coyote deterrents are not only more humane, but far more effective at keeping your farm and home safe.
Patrick Kuklinski is a longtime writer whose work has been featured in publications including Reptiles, DogTime and Dogs Naturally, among others. After many years in North Carolina, he now resides in a small apartment in Concord, N.H., with too many animals. You can find more of his work and general chatter at todaysbird.tumblr.com.
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