February 13, 2023


Of all the varmints we have to deal with on our homestead, coyotes are the most worrisome. We've lost poultry to stray dogs, skunks, 'possums, rats, snakes, hawks, and owls, but except for a large hawk when the goat kids are still very small, none of these are a serious threat to our goats. Coyotes, on the other hand, are a concern. 

We've heard and seen coyotes on occasion over the years; always in pairs and always moving on. I don't know what their range is, but there is a vast stretch of vacant fields and wooded land that offer cover all the way from our small town up to the mountains. It's not a surprise that we see them from time to time.

Late last month, I heard what sounded like several coyotes off in the distance - first alert. Last week, I heard them again, just before sunrise, and was surprised by how many I heard; five or six maybe, possibly a family group(?) I was especially alarmed at how close they were; just across our bottom fence in the woods where I walk the girls. They were hidden by the ridge and brush. Our neighbors told us they saw them from their backyard, traveling along the edge of the woods. Too close for comfort.

Our neighborhood could provide a plush hunting ground for coyotes. Many of our neighbors have poultry, plus we have the goats. Then there are abundant populations of rabbits, ground hogs, mice, rats, squirrels, chipmunks, and pets. Deer too, and the larger the coyote pack, the larger the game they attack.

Last Friday afternoon, Dan saw a coyote running across the neighbor's field. The folks who live over there have chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Crows were chasing it and it disappeared into the woods. It was just the one, maybe a scout? Those neighbors have pens for their birds, but not the fencing we do. Even so, our fences are only four feet tall, and coyotes can easily jump those. 

According to our state Department of Natural Resources, coyotes were introduced in the state 1978 for hound running (an illegal activity). They can now be found in every county and natural expansion continues as the coyote population grows. According to National Geographic, coyote populations are expanding all over North America. 

The concern, of course, is that this recent pack of coyotes will stay. I figured it was a good time to review the research I did when I wrote the Prepper's Livestock Handbookto see if there's anything else we can do. I'll share the coyote segment of the extensive predator chart in the book, and information from the relevant coyote passages.

Clicking on the chart below should enlarge it.

From Prepper's Livestock Handbook.

Coyote deterrents
  • Fencing is the first line of defense, but be aware that coyotes can easily jump 5 to 5½ feet. 
  • Keep fences in good repair and fence lines clear of brush to deter predators from spying on your stock.
  • Walk fence lines frequently to check for areas needing repair.
  • For problems with digging predators (coyotes or foxes), run an electric hot wire on the outside of the fence close to the ground.
  • Guardian animals. Livestock guardian dog breeds are the most useful to protect against coyotes. Llamas and donkeys might be useful against a single coyote, but they are no match for an aggressive pack.
  • Roosters are always on the alert and quick to sound an alarm if they spot a threat.
  • Most predators are shy, so it is helpful to check livestock frequently, walk fence lines often, and generally make your presence known.
  • If you are able to, secure stock indoors for the night. 
  • Motion detector lights at night or radios can be useful deterrents. If using lights, keep stock from becoming visible by letting the lights shine out and away from the barn or barnyard.
Coyote controls
  • Before taking action, check federal and state laws and regulations regarding wild predators. Some are protected by wildlife laws, others have legal hunting seasons.
  • County animal control may or may not be able to help, but can advise on a course of action.
  • Killing predators can be controversial, especially amongst people who don’t understand the real-life problems of protecting livestock. In general, killing an animal is a temporary solution, because it won’t eliminate the possibility of another of its species taking its place.
  • Live animal traps are usually considered more humane than killing, but there are a couple of considerations in regards to relocating predators and pests.
    • Don’t let your solution become someone else’s problem. Relocating a predator to where it can kill and maim someone else’s pets or livestock is bad form. The golden rule applies here—would you want someone to relocate their problem predators close to you?
    • When you relocate an animal, you will be placing it in unfamiliar territory. It will not know where to find water, food, and protective shelter. Your kindness may not be as kind as you think.
I'd like to think that these, like coyotes in the past, will move on. But I'm not going to take that assumption for granted. Hunting coyotes is legal on one's own property in our state, without a license and any time of the year. We'll do what we have to to protect our critters.

Coyotes © February 2023 by Leigh


Cederq said...

I had three donkeys and a jumbo mule. They hated canines except for my two dogs. But I did most of the predator deterrents and it worked very well. I did shoot a few 'yotes and had a nice disposal pond that had two alligators in it on the property behind me. Actually the bigger problem was dropped off dogs that turned feral were more of a problem. They didn't have a inane fear of humans. All the years I had my goat herd I only lost a kid to predators and wasn't sure it was a 'yote, a dog or a bobcat.

Nylon12 said...

If you're selecting a rifle as a solution to coyote control, how close are the neighbors and what are their thoughts on guns? If they're OK with this solution and there's room,then that's the way to go. There are PLANTY of yotes out there, might want to think about leaving a carcass out on the property, other yotes will take notice of that. After all.....the time, effort and money you put into your animals require you do your best for them.

deb harvey said...

lots of very handsome coydogs here in eastern ohio
when pups are born they need 2 parents to raise them
I hate killing them in case there are babies but they are cat killers and small dog killers
if live trapped it is kind to trap the whole family
it is terrible they were ever brought here in the first place
nature red in tooth and claw
yes, I am soft on them but I don't have to deal with them
they have been seen in all the towns here and that accounts for the scarcity of rabbits
one was seen chasing a deer
sorry to be so long winded
sounds like dogs and bullets are necessary
how about putting out something that will sicken but not kill
they may learn avoidance?

Linda said...

Sheep farming friends of mine use electric mesh fencing to protect their animals. The coyotes stay clear.

Leigh said...

Kevin, that's a convenient disposal method, I must say. One of the reasons we hate killing animals, even predators, is firstly, it seems like a waste, and secondly, having to bury the carcass.

I agree about domestic dogs, whether dropped off or allowed to roam freely because "we're in the country." We've had more problems with them than coyotes and more than one of them has disappeared to protect our livestock.

Nylon12, hello and welcome! I enjoy your contributions to TB's blog.

Our neighbors are of the same mindset and except for the clusters of houses on the road, we're spaced out enough for folks to do their target practice on their own property. Our next door neighbors have already been out hunting those coyotes; unfortunately with no results. We live in a hunting state, and our DNR has an active "save our deer" campaign to encourage hunters to target coyotes.

That's a good idea about leaving a carcass as a deterrent. Thank you for mentioning that.

Deb, good to hear from you! Dan has thought about lacing meat with x-lax, but I wonder if they'd make the connection(!)

We hate killing animals too, whether predators or meat for the table. Except for rodents and snakes, we re-home small predators, but considering that doesn't seem to decrease the population, we wonder if they aren't finding their way back.

When we take on livestock, our part of the bargain is to feed and protect them. So unless one is lucky, it usually comes to this.

Leigh said...

Linda, electric fences do seem to help, until they learn they can jump them. We have some electric fencing to subdivide grazing areas, but I have to say it's a lot of work to keep it functioning properly.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh - Coyotes are an issue both in New Home and at The Ranch. Here in New Home, because of the amount of people moving in, we inevitable get individuals who are used to letting their animals roam free outside in neighborhoods - and every year, we see notices of animals that have mysteriously disappeared. There are a pair of coyotes running in our neighborhood - all of us have seen them driving or walking Poppy the Brave. They are very disinterested us when we walk by - Poppy and I have been within 20 feet of one, making its way off somewhere.

At The Ranch, of course, this is a different tale. As long as they are "out and about" outside of the property line they are fine; if they are in the property line, The Cowboy addresses the issue.

It is hard for even me, who loves animals in general, to condone such things, but coyotes in fact represent a threat to livestock - someone's bread and butter. Balanced with that is the reality that coyotes keep down a lot of the herbivore population (ironically, people are forever complaining about deer in their yards destroying things, forgetting that they have eliminated the natural process for deer culling. The Great Balance of Life and all.

Glad Nylon12 made his way here. He is good folk.

Jenn Jilks said...

Our neighbours with livestock often have Maramemmo sheep dogs to keep the coyotes at bay. You are right, though, if you kill them, they just move in from elsewhere.

Leigh said...

TB, yes, there is definitely a balance to maintain, although I'm not sure we humans are very good at discerning that balance. Human nature seems to go either all one way or the other. I think it's our emotions that keep us out of wack.

Jenn, that's an excellent breed for guardians.

Ed said...

We have always had coyotes yipping in the distance around our farm but never any problems. Well I take that back, at the old original farm where we raised chickens, we lost a few that failed to make it into their roosting house at night when we locked them up. But we never lost any pigs do to them. We did mostly birth inside if at all possible though which decreases chances.

Many years ago, I knew a family that raised sheep and ran a couple llamas as protection. Evidently they worked quite well. We do have a number of people whose sole goal in life is to hunt coyotes with dogs though we run them off our lands whenever we see them. Like you mentioned, they are really ineffective in controlling the population.

Kelly said...

The sound of coyotes yipping gives me the willies. I hate it. Back when we had goats, we purposefully got donkeys to guard them. The biggest problem was that the barbed wire fencing kept the donkeys in, but not the goats.

Even though we don't have goats anymore, we still don't like hearing them since we have calves. Coyotes will kill dogs, too. Over the years most of our dogs have stayed close to the house when the coyotes are active, but we have two new dogs (strays we took in) who don't seem fazed. Our cattle partner saw one of them go after a coyote during the daytime not long ago.

Mama Pea said...

Coyotes (and wolves) can be a serious problem when they are prevalent enough to go after livestock of any kind. I've been very surprised we haven't heard of any family pets being taken by the wild canines around us this winter. Several years ago, there were reports of 5 or 6 dogs killed by the wolves in our area. Do whatever you can to keep your goats safe.

Leigh said...

Ed, I think in general, they leave livestock alone if hunting is good elsewhere, or if it's especially easy pickings. (For some reason, everybody seems to love chicken). If they are hungry, they get bolder. We haven't seen them in a couple of days, but I'm not assuming they've moved on. The girls want me to take them down into the woods, but I just don't feel safe about that right now.

Kelly, it is a creepy sound. Donkeys are supposed to really not like canines, so I'm glad that worked for you. I'm not surprised barbed wire fence didn't work!

Mama Pea, wolves sound worse than coyotes, at least bigger and more bold. I'm guessing winter is especially bad for them, since game may be scarcer and they get hungrier.

Quinn said...

Coyotes are an issue in Massachusetts, even in urban areas. Out here in rural MA, it's the reason I put up a 6-foot fence with 2x4" openings back when the only animals here were me and the cats. I call that perimeter fence "a coyote exclosure" and within it, all my paddock fences are stock panels. No system is perfect (I've had bears get over that perimeter fence!) but my goats are all inside that fence from dusk to daylight. A friend lost 2 Boers to a coyote that had killed one, dragged it out UNDER a well-built fence, then come right back and was attacking a second. That coyote was dispatched on the spot and buried before my friend left for work (by the way, there's lore about coyotes "getting the message" from the sight of a dead coyote but I've never heard of it working), but it was a pretty heartbreaking way to start the day. Good luck - I hope you don't have any trouble.

Kate said...

We have chickens, goats and sheep and I love the wild eerie sound of coyotes.

Annie in Ocala said...

I remember first hearing them in 1997. I was mare watching, watching the pregnant mares at work at night. They are not to prevalent here at home but where I work is prime coyote territory. At home I'm in Ocala national forest fringe and everyone shoots. At work its pristine horse country and very little shooting. I was work 3rd shift and hear them often. They get close, sometimes I see them in the moonlight. I lived near there for a while and shot 13 in the 6 years I was in the area. Not only did i have the goats and chickens we raised a couple foals a year. There was 800 acres of woods and fields and cows around my home there. The research I done at the time I learned they roam a 20ish square mile radius, that if there is good natural foods for them they are much less likely to work hard for domestic stock, and if they do leave your stock alone leaving them alone is better than killing them because their replacement may be conditioned to go for chix, goats, cats, etc. They take the youngsters out on moonlit nights on training hunts and I hear them more on moonlit nights for sure. They will move on and I will not hear them for 3-4 months and then they are back and I hear them often.
Take from that what you will. My problem here is the nuisance bears get turned loose in the area and yea, they don't eat berries and grubs. Lost a couple piglets to them but luckily the catahoula dogs are doing a good job and haven't had any problems lately.

Leigh said...

Quinn, I'd love to have a 6-foot fence! Even so, coyotes are diggers, so there's a danger there. Bears are another matter entirely.

Kate, good for you! I could enjoy it too, if I wasn't concerned about the threat to our livestock. Being mauled and eaten alive sounds like a terrible way to go.

Annie, your research pretty much echos mine. They aren't a threat to become hysterical about (unless they are starving) but prudence in livestock management is a must.

We have occasional bear sightings in other parts of our area, but so far (knock on wood) no problem here.

Flynn said...

yeah coyotes are a big problem around here too. We tried a donkey and it worked to keep the coyotes away but he was really mean to the goats. After he killed several babies I moved him in with my bucks and he started biting my herd sire's neck. Although I know some people do it successfully, I have since heard similar stories from other people who've tried to keep donkeys with goats. Instead, I got two (now 3) livestock guardian dogs and I absolutely love them. They sleep with the babies when it is cold and help keep the babies' bottoms clean from colostrum poops. Some dogs take more work to train than others in my experience, but they are totally worth the investment. My chickens and ducks are completely free ranging at the moment and I don't worry about anything getting them except hawks.

Leigh said...

Flynn, wow. Dan has talked about getting a donkey from time to time, but I've always dissuaded him. I'll mention this next time he brings it up, although I'm guessing it depends on the individual (which is an unknown until they're part of your farm.)

I'm thinking guardian dogs would be best, but who can afford to feed them nowadays(!?!?!) We've had three, the first one died of Lyme disease, the second, a Pyrenees puppy took to killing chickens, and the third, an adult Pyrenees, ran away within his first hour of being here. So we haven't had much luck with dogs. :(

Flynn said...

I'm so sorry for your bad experience with the dogs. Pyrenees are pretty notorious wanderers, I've heard them referred to jokingly as disapear-enees. I have one and she is great, super sweet, except she does like to wander and I probably won't get another because of that. The good thing is, contrary to what I've heard at least about other dog breeds, an lgd pup can be trained not to kill chickens. Two of our dogs were great with the chickens from the start and I never even thought about it, but the third dog did kill 1 chicken and 2 ducks before he learned that poultry are our friends. It takes a fair bit of patience, persistence and consistency, but by the time he was about 5 months old, I didn't have to worry anymore. A tip I got that seems to have worked is that you stop them immediately if they even follow the chicken/duck with their eyes. So if a chicken walked by and he turned his head to watch them, that is when I sternly told him "no!". My experience is they're pretty smart dogs and want to please you. But yeah, the food!!!! My husband jokes we should get a rail line put in so we can just buy food by the train car load.

Nina said...

Coyotes are an issue here too. You can hear them yipping and howling at night, during the non-winter seasons. I've seen them in the neighbour's field across the road and at night you can tell that sometimes the whole pack of them are either in the field or the bush lot behind it. However, they haven't done as much damage here as the raccoons, foxes and hawks have. There are so many raccoons.
Our drop off problems is cats. So many of them sometimes. We no longer can compost because it attracts the raccoons, and also the starving cats. Without the compost the raccoons stay away and the cats then move to the dairy and cattle barns where they're more likely to easily find food and learn to hunt. Plus they don't get hit by cars, which is heart breaking. If people accepted what really happens to their discarded animals, they'd be horrified.

Leigh said...

Flynn, good for you for sticking with your pup. We knew beforehand that there is no guarantee how an individual dog will turn out. We were able to give this one back to his original owner, who only gave him to us because his wife didn't want the dog. So it worked out. The disappearing dog was a lesson about Pyrenees as adults. I suspect he ran home.

A good working dog is priceless though, even with pet food costs and scarcity being a concern for everyone with pets nowadays.

Nina, we've been fortunate to not have resident raccoons here, even though they are native to our state. Animal populations and territories change all the time, though, so we're always on the alert.

I hear you about drop offs. People are the worst about cats, which is really cruel. Re-homing wild animals is one thing, because they have the knowledge to find food and shelter. Domestic cats, on the other hand, are dependent on humans.

Fundy Blue said...

From all the comments I'm seeing, you wrote. about a popular topic. We have wily coyotes in our area in Aurora. I haven't seen them that often, but I hear them. Coyotes are great at adapting to different situations. I was astounded that they made it across the ice to Newfoundland in the mid-1970s. Ihope you are able to protect your livestock from them.

Leigh said...

FB, yes, but I'm not sure why! Migration really is the way of things though. Living things are in a continual state of ebb and flux. To try to maintain a constant in terms of numbers or location would ultimately result in extinction. I guess what I'm trying to say, is that living things can't be put in "boxes" and controlled without killing them.

From the beginning we accepted that death is inevitable as natural as life and that we would lose livestock. It's always a sad thing, though, and it's hard not to take it personally and feel like a failure, especially when we're trying so hard to nurture and protect. We work hard to keep our critters safe, but loss is just the way things are.