The Problem with Coyotes

& How We Can Protect Ourselves

What Coyotes Look Like

Coyotes are medium-sized animals that resemble smaller German Shepherds with slimmer, longer snouts. Generally, they have gray fur with tan/brown spots and patches and a bushy, thick tail with a black tip at the end. Additionally, a coyote has a pointy nose and ears.

What Coyotes Do

The coyote population problem is a sure thing, as many residents of urban or suburban areas have reported cases of pets being dragged off by coyotes or up-close and personal encounters with the creatures. Many farmers and ranchers have also suffered many economic losses due to the coyotes' predation.

Coyote Population Problem Signs

Different things, such as droppings, being able to identify their howls & tracks, and holes created by digging under fences, could depict the presence of coyotes in human habituated areas. Good places to track these signs include stock trails, ranch roads, sandy draws, and watering points.

Natural Resource Management

Natural resource management includes caring for environmental resources and stabilizing the environment. In the case of overpopulated coyotes, Natural Resource Management's job would be to stabilize the coyote population in the environments of Galveston Houston, and Kingwood. As the coyotes are a keystone species, meaning that they have a large effect on their ecosystem (they eat many, many things and have large impacts on the environment), the mass removal of them would not be the best solution.

Predators of Coyotes

Coyotes do not have many natural predators, but they include: mountain lions, bears, and wolves. Since many of the wolves have been removed, humans seem to be the largest non-natural predators.

Coyote Food Chain

How coyotes fit into an ecosystem:

Grass ---> Meadow Vole ---> Coyote ---> Mountain Lion

This is just one of the many combinations of the flow of energy involving coyotes

Human-Induced Problems

Coyotes have been able to adapt to the changing surroundings caused by human activity, including the expanding urbanized areas and destruction of wildlife habitats. As a result, many coyotes have had to venture into areas full of humans. Their acute senses have allowed them to avoid traps set by humans and continue to share territory with them.

A recent study showed that even reducing coyote numbers by 75% annually would not show effective results, and would have to be continued through decades. This is why they have been able to overtake much of the United States and Canada.

Other Animal Population Problems

Like the coyote, the rattlesnake is a danger to pets and livestock, but the problem can give us insight on how to handle the coyote problem.

  • They have been found throughout Texas, Florida, California, and other southwestern states.
  • The population problem is ongoing (a dog was bitten in June 2013 in a backyard and almost died, but it was rushed to the vet and barely survived)
  • The issue was caused by the mass removal of its predators (like foxes), similar to the coyote issue with wolves, and an increase in abundant food supply
  • States have been trying to undo the damage by calling hunters to round up as many snakes as they can in events like the "Rattlesnake Roundup."
  • Also, traps and toxic gases are used

Limiting Factors of Coyotes

Food and human activity (rather than wolves and other predators) seem to be the largest, density-dependent, limiting factors of coyotes. There is a correlation between coyote mortality and human exploitation (shooting, hunting, trapping), proving the large effect humans have on the creatures. Due to the large urbanization in areas like Houston and Galveston, there is limited space for coyotes to live. Only small percentages of coyotes actually die from disease.

Pet/Livestock Care

Handling the livestock and pets properly prevents injuries. These tips are helpful in the proper care of preventing and handling injury:

  • Be calm around the animals and use slow movements- this makes them easier to handle
  • Do not come up behind the animal, because this could startle it and/or cause injury
  • Be able to identify injuries- some can be detected based upon observation (lameness/inability to walk). Changes in behavior or appetite can also signify problems.
  • For pets, try stabilizing injuries by splinting or bandaging
  • Try keeping them in more confined spaces to reduce risk of additional injury

How To Handle Non-Fatal Injuries In Pets and Livestock

Although most injuries to pets and livestock are life-threatening, some are non-fatal. These include bites and scratches from the coyotes. The injuries can be treated with special care to the wound area.

  • Wash the affected area immediately with water and soap.
  • A wound that is deep, profusely bleeding, or exposes nerves, major blood vessels, and bone should prompt you to visit the nearest emergency medical center/veterinary as soon as possible.
  • Additionally, rabies may be transmitted to your pet if bitten by a carrier. Make sure your pet has a rabies shot and all of its vaccinations.
  • If it did not receive a shot before, it may receive post-rabies treatment.

Social Impacts

In relation to people, the animals’ presence in neighborhoods wreaks havoc within the community. They create fear within the residents over the safety of themselves, their children, and their pets. Unhealthy thoughts could form over the presence of coyotes and cause irrational actions within people that could hurt themselves and possibly anger the animals.

Economic Impacts

Because coyotes prey on livestock, ranchers and farmers lose much money annually. Also, coyotes are very adaptive to their surroundings. They don’t just eat meat, but are actually ominvores. If one type of food they usually eat isn’t present (like vole), they may eat alternatives like crops, or even insects, which could cause greater economic losses. The large amounts of livestock lost to coyotes do, however, drive up the price due to higher demand, which can bring back some lost money to ranchers, but ultimately brings up prices for consumers.

Recommendations For Keeping You and Your Pets & Neighborhood Safe

A plausible plan for the coyote problem would be learning to try and cut-off contact with the creatures. Residents and livestock owners can follow these tips:

  • Don't feed them
  • Properly dispose food/trash that could lure coyotes into the neighborhoods
  • Don't use traps, as they might snare non-target pets.
  • Keep pets inside or on your watch
  • Install fences that are at least 6 feet tall with no gaps at ground level
  • Scare them away with hoses or sprinkler systems
  • Be persistent in deterring the coyote(s), because this behavior could eventually cause them to find other places to inhabit
  • In terms of livestock, remove the weakest/oldest of the herd, as they attract coyotes
  • Use guard dogs or llamas to protect sheep and other livestock, as they have been proven to be very effective

Education is one of the most important factors in being able to discourage coyotes and create awareness. Have community meetings or seminars to increase awareness on how to handle the coyote situation.

What Happens After We Take Action

Communities must continuously practice preventative measures from coyotes from their neighborhoods and reinforce the importance of hazing coyotes and protecting pets from them.

  • In respect to short-term effects, this may decrease the amount of reported coyote-related attacks or incidents by a small number and create a safer environment for the community.
  • The long-term effects, which would include the short-term results, would be that the reports of coyote attacks would decrease even more and possibly stop, and residents would feel much more at ease with their lives and their pets would be safe from harm. Additionally, the livestock and financial losses will go down.
Coyote PSA