Predators - Coyotes & Wild Dogs

Photo of Coyote

Many people mistake coyotes for German Shepherds as the coyote population is increasing steadily in the Midwest and also across the country .... moving closer to rural areas and cities. Although there is no way to track the coyote population, it is now estimated that there are approximately 20,000 just in Indiana. These growing numbers impact farm producers by sometimes killing very young livestock. Sheep producers seem to be the hardest hit. Nationwide in 1991, coyotes killed more than 300,000 sheep which cost farmers and ranchers an estimated $21.7 million.

Coyotes in Indiana resemble a small German Shepherd and weigh 25-30 lbs. while measuring 40-50 inches from nose to tail. Any coyote-like animal weighing more than 50 lbs. is likly to be a coy dog - an offspring of a coyote and a domestic or wild dog. Their coloring tends to have a salt and pepper look blending well into the landscape. Their upper body appears gray or buff while the lower body is white, cream-colored or reddish yellow. Reddish brown markings may be seen along the legs and jaw. The muzzle is narrow and pointed ... the ears stand up. When running, coyotes' bushy tails are straight out behind them. When standing still, their tails hang straight down. Their keen senses of sight, smell, and hearing make the coyote adaptable to most any conditions and a great survivor.

Coyotes may be seen at any time of year, but more may be visible between April and August because the majority of coyote kits are born in spring and throughout the following months. Livestock attacks are more common during these times when the coyote parents range more often for more food to feed their young once the kits are ready for solid foods. Coyotes are territorial and will only leave their hunting range under duress. They are best known for their haunting songs at dusk. Although folklore suggests they are howling at the moon, the coyote's howl, a more high-pitched yipping than a true howl, is perhaps used to declare their territory or warn others to respect territorial boundries.

Their varied diet mainly consists of mice and squirrels as well as birds, rabbits, woodchucks, insects, and carrion, but they also eat poultry, livestock, and cultivated fruits and vegetables. Although coyotes are numerous enough to cause problems in some areas, they do serve a purpose in nature's plan - especially keeping the rodent population down.

Relying on sharp teeth alone, prey is immobilized when it is grasped by the throat and suffocated. A coyote kill can always be identified by tooth punctures around the throat. Small mammals and birds may be swallowed whole. Much predation to deer and domestic sheep has been blamed on coyotes, but multiple animal attacks are more commonly roaming packs of dogs. Dogs most often mutilate their prey on several parts of the body and mangle the flanks and hindquarters, but do not usually eat animals they have killed. Lone hunters, coyotes will feast on livestock killed by dogs and will shun fresh meat for something that is a day old or more. Tracks around the dead livestock is another way to determine whether the attack was dogs or a coyote. Coyote tracks are oval shape with the front track larger than the hind track. Dog tracks are rounder, and the nails show more prominently. Dogs generally travel and kill in packs so tracks around a kill showing a wide range in size would strongly suggest dogs rather than coyotes.

Sources:
Office of Animal Damage Control, Purdue University
Wild dogs by Erwin A. Bauer

Good Information and personal stories about Llamas As Guards

A very informative site about livestock predators
of all kinds, Predator FAQ, by Ronald Florence.
A Little Coyote Humor ..........

A few years ago, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Forest Service were presenting an alternative to Wyoming ranchers for controlling the coyote population. It seems that after years of the ranchers using the tried and true methods of shooting and/or trapping the predator, the tree-huggers had a "more humane" solution. What they proposed was for the animals to be captured alive, the males castrated and let loose again and the population would be controlled. This was ACTUALLY proposed to the Wyoming Wool and Sheep Grower's Association by the Sierra Club and the USFS. All of the ranchers thought about this "amazing idea" for a couple of minutes. Finally, an old boy in the back stood up, tipped his hat back and said, "Son, I don't think you understand the problem. Those coyotes ain't breedin’ our sheep, they're eatin' 'em!"

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