Coyote Control

Coyote Removal, Trapping, and Prevention

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Coyote Facts


In body form and size, the coyote (Canis latrans) resembles a small collie dog, with erect pointed ears, slender muzzle, and a bushy tail (Fig. 1). Coyotes are redominantly brownish gray in color with a light gray to cream-colored belly. Color varies greatly, however, from nearly black to red or nearly white in some individuals and local populations. Most have dark or black guard hairs over their back and tail. In western states, typical adult males weigh from 25 to 45 pounds (11 to 16 kg) and females from 22 to 35 pounds (10 to 14 kg). In the East, many coyotes are larger than their western counterparts, with males averaging about 45 pounds (14 kg) and females about 30 pounds (13 kg). Coyote-dog and coyote-wolf hybrids exist in some areas and may vary greatly from typical coyotes in size, color, and appearance. Also, coyotes in the New England states may differ in color from typical western coyotes. Many are black, and some are reddish. These colorations may partially be due to past hybridization with dogs and wolves. True wolves are also present in some areas of coyote range, particularly in Canada, Alaska, Montana, northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Relatively few wolves remain in the southern United States and Mexico.


Historically, coyotes were most common on the Great Plains of North America. They have since extended their range from Central America to the Arctic, including all of the United States (except Hawaii), Canada, and Mexico. Weaker lambs are also present. Usually,
the stronger lamb is on the periphery and is more active, making it more prone to attack than a weaker lamb that is at the center of the flock and relatively immobile. Coyote predation on livestock is generally more severe during early spring and summer than in winter for two reasons. First, sheep and cows are usually under more intensive management during winter, either in feedlots or in pastures that are close to human activity, thus reducing the opportunity for coyotes to take livestock. Second, predators bear young in the spring and
raise them through the summer, a process that demands increased nutritional input, for both the whelping and nursing mother and the growing young. This increased demand corresponds to the time when young sheep or beef calves are on pastures or rangeland
and are most vulnerable to attack. Coyote predation also may increase during fall when young coyotes disperse from their home ranges and establish new territories.

General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior

Coyotes are most active at night and during early morning hours (especially where human activity occurs), and during hot summer weather. Where there is minimal human interference and during cool weather, they may be active throughout the day. Coyotes bed in sheltered areas but do not generally use dens except when raising young. They may seek shelter underground during severe weather or when closely pursued. Their physical abilities include good yesight and Habitat Many references indicate that coyotes were originally found in relatively open habitats, particularly the grasslands and sparsely wooded areas of the western United States. Whether or not this was true, coyotes have adapted to and now exist in virtually every type of habitat, arctic to tropic, in North America. Coyotes live in deserts, swamps, tundra, grasslands, brush, dense forests, from below sea level to high mountain ranges, and at all intermediate altitudes. High densities of coyotes also appear in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Phoenix, and other western cities.

Food Habits

Coyotes often include many items in their diet. Rabbits top the list of their dietary components. Carrion, rodents, ungulates (usually lawns), insects (such as grasshoppers), as well as livestock and poultry, are also consumed. Coyotes readily eat fruits such as watermelons, berries, and other vegetative matter when they are available. In some areas coyotes feed on human refuse at dump sites and take pets (cats and small dogs). Coyotes are opportunistic and generally take prey that is the easiest to secure. Among larger wild animals, coyotes tend to kill young, inexperienced animals, as well as old, sick, or weakened individuals. With domestic animals, coyotes are capable of catching and killing healthy, young, and in some instances, adult prey. Prey selection is based on opportunity and a myriad of behavioral cues. Strong, healthy lambs are often taken from a flock by a coyote even though smaller, C-53 hearing and a keen sense of smell.

Documented recoveries from severe injuries are indicative of coyotes’ physical endurance. Although not asfleet as greyhound dogs, coyotes have been measured at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 km/hr) and can sustain slower speeds for several miles (km).

Distemper, hepatitis, parvo virus, and mange (caused by parasitic mites) are among the most common coyote diseases. Rabies and tularemia also occur and may be transmitted to other animals and humans. Coyotes harbor numerous parasites including mites, ticks, fleas, worms, and flukes. Mortality is highest during the first year of life, and few survive for more than 10 to 12 years in the wild. Human activity is often the greatest single cause of coyote mortality.

Coyotes usually breed in February and March, producing litters about 9 weeks (60 to 63 days) later in April and May. Females sometimes breed during the winter following their birth, particularly if food is plentiful. Average litter size is 5 to 7 pups, although up to 13 in a litter has been reported. More than one litter may be found in a single den; at times these may be from females mated to a single male. As noted earlier, coyotes are capable of hybridizing with dogs and wolves, but reproductive dysynchrony and behaviors generally make it unlikely. Hybrids are fertile, although their breeding seasons do not usually correspond to those of coyotes. Coyote dens are found in steep banks, rock crevices, sinkholes, and underbrush, as well as in open areas. Usually their dens are in areas selected for protective concealment. Den sites are typically located less than a mile (km) from water, but may occasionally be much farther away. Coyotes will often dig out and enlarge holes dug by smaller burrowing animals. Dens vary from a few feet (1 m) to 50 feet (15 m) and may have several openings. Both adult male and female coyotes hunt and bring food to their young for several weeks. Other adults associated with the denning pair may also help in feeding and caring for the young.

Coyotes commonly hunt as singles or pairs; extensive travel is common in their hunting forays. They will hunt in the same area regularly, however, if food is plentiful. They occasionally bury food remains for later use. Pups begin emerging from their den by 3 weeks of age, and within 2 months they follow adults to large prey or carrion. Pups normally are weaned by 6 weeks of age and frequently are moved to larger quarters such as dense brush patches and/or sinkholes along water courses. The adults and pups usually remain together until late summer or fall when pups become independent. Occasionally pups are found in groups until the breeding season begins. Coyotes are successful at surviving and even flourishing in the presence of people because of their adaptable behavior and social system. They typically display increased reproduction and immigration in response to human-induced population reduction.

Damage and Damage Identification

Coyotes can cause damage to a variety of resources, including livestock, poultry, and crops such as watermelons. They sometimes prey on pets and are a threat to public health and safety when they frequent airport runways and residential areas, and act as carriers of rabies. Usually, the primary concern regarding coyotes is predation on livestock, mainly sheep and lambs. Predation will be the focus of the following discussion.

Since coyotes frequently scavenge on livestock carcasses, the mere presence of coyote tracks or droppings near a carcass is not sufficient evidence that predation has taken place. Other evidence around the site and on the carcass must be carefully examined to aid in determining the cause of death. Signs of a struggle may be evident. These may include scrapes or drag marks on the ground, broken vegetation, or blood in various places around the site. The quantity of sheep or calf remains left after a kill vary widely depending on how recently the kill was made, the size of the animal killed, the weather, and the number and species of predators that fed on the animal.

One key in determining whether a sheep or calf was killed by a predator is the presence or absence of subcutaneous (just under the skin) hemorrhage at the point of attack. Bites to a dead animal will not produce hemorrhage, but bites to a live animal will. If enough of the sheep carcass remains, carefully skin out the neck and head to observe tooth punctures and hemorrhage around the punctures. Talon punctures from large birds of prey will also cause hemorrhage, but the location of these is usually at the top of the head, neck, or back. This procedure becomes less indicative of predation as the age of the carcass increases or if the remains are scanty or scattered.

Coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, and bobcats usually feed on a carcass at the flanks or behind the ribs and first consume the liver, heart, lungs, and other viscera. Mountain lions often cover a carcass with debris after feeding on it. Bears generally prefer meat to viscera and often eat first the udder from lactating ewes. Eagles skin out carcasses on larger animals and leave much of the skeleton intact. With smaller animals such as lambs, eagles may bite off and swallow the ribs. Feathers and“whitewash” (droppings) are usually present where an eagle has fed. Coyotes may kill more than one animal in a single episode, but often will only feed on one of the animals. Coyotes typically attack sheep at the throat, but young or inexperienced coyotes may attack any part of the body. Coyotes usually kill calves by eating into the anus or abdominal area. Dogs generally do not kill sheep or calves for food and are relatively indiscriminate in how and where they attack. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to differentiate between dog and coyote kills without also looking at other sign, such as size of tracks (Fig. 2) and spacing and size of canine tooth punctures. Coyote tracks tend to be more oval-shaped and compact than those of common dogs. Nail marks are less prominent and the tracks tend to follow a straight line more closely than those of dogs. The average coyote’s stride at a trot is 16 to 18 inches (41 to 46 cm), which is typically longer than that of a dog of similar size and weight. Generally, dogs attack and rip the flanks, hind quarters, and head, and may chew ears. The sheep are sometimes still alive but may be severely wounded.

Accurately determining whether or not predation occurred and, if so, by what species, requires a considerable amount of knowledge and experience. Evidence must be gathered, pieced together, and then evaluated in light of the predators that are in the area, the time of day, the season of the year, and numerous other factors. Sometimes even experts are unable to confirm the cause of death, and it may be necessary to rely on circumstantial information. For more information on this subject, refer to the section Procedures for Evaluating Predation on Livestock and Wildlife, in this book.

Legal Status

The status of coyotes varies depending on state and local laws. In some states, including most western states, coyotes are classified as predators and can be taken throughout the year whether or not they are causing damage to livestock. In other states, coyotes may be
taken only during specific seasons and often only by specific methods, such as trapping. Night shooting with a spotlight is usually illegal. Some state laws allow only state or federal agents to use certain methods (such as snares) to take coyotes. Some states have a provision for allowing the taking of protected coyotes (usually by special permit) when it has been documented that they are preying on livestock. In some instances producers can apply control methods, and in others, control must be managed by a federal or state
agent. Some eastern states consider the coyote a game animal, a furbearer, or a protected species.

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

For managing coyote damage, a variety of control methods must be available since no single method is effective in every situation. Success usually involves an integrated approach, combining good husbandry practices with effective control methods for short periods of time. Regardless of the means used to stop damage, the focus should be on damage prevention and control rather than elimination of coyotes. It is neither wise nor practical to kill all coyotes. It is important to try to prevent coyotes from killing calves or sheep for the first time. Once a coyote has killed livestock, it will probably continue to do so if given the Wolf Red fox 4" Large dog Fig. 2. Footprints of canid predators Federal statutes that pertain to wildlife damage control include the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which deals with using toxicants, and the Airborne Hunting Act, which regulates aerial hunting. Laws regulating coyote control are not
necessarily uniform among states or even among counties within a state, and they may change frequently. A 1989 Supreme Court action established that it was not legal to circumvent the laws relative to killing predators, even to protect personal property (livestock) from predation. Equally important is taking action as quickly as possible to stop coyotes from killing after they start.


Most coyotes readily cross over, under, or through conventional livestock fences. A coyote’s response to a fence is influenced by various factors, including the coyote’s experience and motivation for crossing the fence. Total exclusion of all coyotes by fencing, especially from large areas, is highly unlikely since some eventually learn to either dig deeper or climb higher to defeat a fence. Good fences, however,
can be important in reducing predation, as well as increasing the effectiveness of other damage control methods (such as snares, traps, or guarding animals). Recent developments in fencing equipment and design have made this technique an effective and economically
practical method for protecting sheep from predation under some grazing conditions. Exclusion fencing may be impractical in western range sheep ranching operations.

Net-Wire Fencing

Net fences in good repair will deter many coyotes from entering a pasture. Horizontal spacing of the mesh should be less than 6 inches (15 cm), and vertical spacing less than 4 inches (10 cm). Digging under a fence can be discouraged by placing a barbed wire at ground level or using a buried wire apron (often an expensive option). The fence should be about 5 1/2 feet (1.6 m) high to discourage coyotes from jumping over it. Climbing can usually be prevented by adding a charged wire at the top of the fence or installing a wire overhang. Barrier fences with wire overhangs and buried wire aprons were tested in Oregon and found effective in keeping coyotes out of sheep pastures (Fig. 3). The construction and materials for such fencing are usually expensive. Therefore, fences of this type are rarely used except around corrals, feedlots, or areas of temporary sheep confinement.

Electric Fencing

Electric fencing, used for years to manage livestock, has recently been revolutionized by the introduction of new energizers and new fence designs from Australia and New Zealand. The chargers, now also manufactured in the United States, have high output with low impedance, are resistant to grounding, present a minimal fire hazard, and are generally safe for livestock and humans. The fences are usually constructed of smooth, high-tensile wire stretched to a tension of 200 to 300 pounds (90 to 135 kg). The original design of electric fences for controlling predation consisted of multiple, alternately charged and grounded wires, with a charged trip wire installed just above ground level about 8 inches (20 cm) outside the main fence to discourage digging. Many recent designs have every wire
charged. The number of spacings between wires varies considerably. A fence of 13 strands gave complete protection to sheep from coyote predation in tests at the USDA’s US Sheep Experiment Station (Fig. 4). Other designs of fewer wires were effective in some studies, ineffective in others. The amount of labor and installation techniques required vary with each type of fencing. High-tensile wire
fences require adequate bracing at corners and over long spans. Electric fencing is easiest to install on flat, even terrain. Labor to install a high-tensile electric fence may be 40% to 50% less than for a conventional livestock fence. Labor to keep electric fencing functional
can be significant. Tension of the wires must be maintained, excessive vegetation under the fence must be removed to prevent grounding. Coyotes and other predators occasionally become “trapped” inside electric fences. These animals receive a shock as they enter the pasture and subsequently avoid approaching the fence to escape. In some instances the captured predator may be easy to spot and remove from the pasture, but in others, particularly in large pastures with rough terrain, the animal may be difficult to remove.

Electric Modification of Existing Fences

The cost to completely replace old fences with new ones, whether conventional or electric, can be substantial. In instances where existing fencing is in reasonably good condition, the addition of one to several charged wires can significantly enhance the predator-deterring ability of the fence and its effectiveness for controlling livestock . A charged trip wire placed 6 to 8 inches (15 to 230 cm) above the ground about 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) outside the fence is often effective in preventing coyotes from digging and crawling under. This single addition to an existing fence is often the most effective and economical way to fortify a fence against coyote passage. If coyotes are climbing or jumping a fence, charged wires can be added to the top and at various intervals. These wires should be offset outside the fence. Fencing companies offer offset brackets to make installation relatively simple. The number of additional wires depends on the design of the original fence and the predicted habits of the predators.

Portable Electric Fencing

The advent of safe, high-energy chargers has led to the development of a variety of portable electric fences. Most are constructed with thin strands of wire running through polyethylene twine or ribbon, commonly called polywire or polytape. The polywire is available in single and multiple wire rolls or as mesh fencing of various heights. It can be quickly and easily installed to serve Fig. 5. Existing woven-wire livestock fence modified with electrified wire. Outrigger post with four wires Fig. 4. High-tensile, electric, antipredator fence. Perhaps the biggest advantage of portable electric fencing is the ability to set up temporary pens to hold livestock at night or during other predator control activities. Portable fencing increases livestock management options to avoid places or periods of high predation risk. Range sheep that are not accustomed to being fenced, however, may be difficult to contain in a portable fence.

Fencing and Predation Management

The success of various types of fencing in keeping out predators has ranged from poor to excellent. Density and behavior of coyotes, terrain and vegetative conditions, availability of prey, size of pastures, season of the year, design of the fence, quality of construction, maintenance, and other factors all interplay in determining how effective a fence will be. Fencing is most likely to be cost-effective where the potential for predation is high, where there is potential for a high stocking rate, or where electric modification of existing fences can be used. Fencing can be effective when incorporated with other means of predation control. For example, combined use of guarding dogs and fencing has achieved a greater degree of success than either method used alone. An electric fence may help keep a guarding dog in and coyotes out of a pasture. If an occasional coyote does pass through a fence, the guarding dog can keep it away from the livestock and alert the producer by barking. Fencing can also be used to concentrate predator activity at specific places such as gateways, ravines, or other areas where the animals try to gain access. Traps and snares can often be set at strategic places along a fence to effectively capture predators. Smaller pastures are easier to keep free from predators than larger ones encompassing several square miles (km2). Fencing is one of the most beneficia investments in predator damage control and livestock management where practical factors warrant its use. As a final note, fences can pose problems for wildlife. Barrier fences in particular exclude not only predators, but also many other wildlife species. This fact should be considered where fencing intersects migration corridors for wildlife. Ungulates such as deer may attempt to jump fences, and they occasionally become entangled in the top wires.

Cultural Methods and Habitat


At the present time, there are no documented differences in the vulnerability of various breeds of sheep to coyote or dog predation because there has been very little research in this area. Generally, breeds with stronger flocking behaviors are less vulnerable to predators. A possible cause of increased coyote predation to beef cattle calves is the increased use of cattle dogs in herding. Cows herded by dogs may not be as willing to defend newborn calves from coyotes as those not accustomed to herding dogs.

Flock or Herd Health

Healthy sheep flocks and cow/calf herds have higher reproductive rates and lower overall death losses. Coyotes often prey on smaller lambs. Poor nutrition means weaker or smaller young, with a resultant increased potential for predation. Ewes or cows in good condition through proper nutrition will raise stronger young that may be less vulnerable to coyote predation.

Record Keeping

Good recordkeeping and animal identification systems are invaluable in a livestock operation for several reasons. From the standpoint of coyote predation, records help producers identify loss patterns or trends to provide baseline data that will help determine what type and amount of coyote damage control is economically feasible. Records also aid in identifying critical problem areas that may require attention. They may show, for example, that losses to coyotes are high in a particular pasture in early summer, thus highlighting the need for preventive control in that area. Counting sheep and calves regularly is important in large pastures or areas with heavy cover where dead livestock could remain unnoticed. It is not unusual for producers who do not regularly count their sheep to suffer fairly substantial losses before they realize there is a problem. Determining with certainty whether losses were due to coyotes or to other causes may become impossible.

Season and Location of Lambing or Calving

Both season and location of lambing and calving can significantly affect the severity of coyote predation on sheep or calves. The highest predation losses of sheep and calves typically occur from late spring through September due to the food requirements of coyote pups. In the Midwest and East, some lambing or calving occurs between October and December, whereas in most of the western states lambing or calving occurs between February and May. By changing to a fall lambing or calving program, some livestock producers have not only been able to diversify their marketing program, but have also avoided having a large number of young animals on hand during periods when coyote predation losses are typically highest. Shortening lambing and calving periods by using synchronized or group breeding may reduce predation by producing a uniform lamb or calf crop, thus reducing exposure of small livestock to predation. Extra labor and facilities may be necessary, however, when birthing within a concentrated period. Some producers practice early weaning and do not allow young to go to large pastures, thus reducing the chance of coyote losses. This also gives orphaned and weak young a greater chance to survive. The average beef cattle calf production is about 78% Nationwide. First-calf heifers need human assistance to give
birth to a healthy calf about 40% of the time. Cow/calf producers who average 90% to 95% calf crops generally check their first-calf heifers every 2 hours during calving. Also, most good producers place first-calf heifers in small pastures (less than 160 acres [64 ha]). When all cows are bred to produce calves in a short, discreet (e.g. 60-day) period, production typically increases and predation losses decrease. The birth weight of calves born to first-calf heifers can be decreased by using calving-ease bulls, thus reducing birthing complications that often lead to coyote predation. Producers who use lambing sheds or pens for raising sheep and small pastures or paddocks for raising cattle have lower predation losses than those who lamb or calve in large pastures or on open range. The more human presence around sheep, the lower the predation losses. Confining sheep entirely to buildings virtually eliminates predation losses.


Although predation can occur at any time, coyotes tend to kill sheep at night. Confining sheep at night is one of the most effective means of reducing losses to predation. Nevertheless, some coyotes and many dogs are bold enough to enter corrals and kill sheep. A “coyote-proof” corral is a wise investment. Coyotes are more likely to attack sheep in unlighted corrals than in corrals with lights. Even if the corral fence is not coyote-proof, the mere fact that the sheep are confined reduces the risk of predation. Penning sheep at night and turning them out at mid-morning might reduce losses. In addition, coyotes tend to be more active and kill more sheep on foggy or rainy days than on sunny days. Keeping the sheep penned on foggy or rainy days may be helpful. Aside from the benefits of livestock confinement, there are some problems associated it. Costs of labor and materials associated with building corrals, herding livestock, and feeding livestock must be considered. In addition, the likelihood of increased parasite and disease problems may inhibit adoption of confinement as a method of reducing damage.

Carrion Removal

Removal and proper disposal of dead sheep and cattle are important since livestock carcasse tend to attract coyotes, habituating them to feed on livestock. Some producers reason that coyotes are less likely to kill livestock if there is carrion available. This may be a valid preventative measure if an adequate supply of carrion can be maintained far away from livestock. If a coyote becomes habituated to a diet of livestock remains, however, it may turn to killing livestock in the absence of carcasses. Wherever there is easily accessible carrion, coyotes seem to gather and predation losses are higher. Conversely, where carrion is generally not available, losses are lower. A study in Canada showed that the removal of livestock carcasses significantly reduced overwinter coyote populations and shifted coyote distributions out of livestock areas.

Habitat Changes

Habitat features change in some areas, depending on seasonal crop growth. Some cultivated fields are devoid of coyotes during winter but provide cover during the growing season, and a corresponding increase in predation on nearby livestock may occur. The creation of nearly 40 million acres (16 million ha) of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres may benefit many species of wildlife, including predators. These acres harbor prey for coyotes and foxes, and an increase in predator populations can reasonably be predicted. Clearing away weeds and brush from CRP areas may reduce predation problems since predators usually use cover in their approach to livestock. Generally, the more open the area where livestock are kept, the less likely that coyote losses will occur. Often junk piles are located near farmsteads. These serve as good habitat for rabbits and other prey and may bring coyotes into close proximity with livestock, increasing the likelihood for opportunistic coyotes to prey on available livestock. Removing junk piles may be a good management practice.

Pasture Selection

If sheep or beef cattle are not lambed or calved in sheds or lots, the choice of birthing pastures should be made with potential coyote predation problems in mind. Lambs and calves in remote or rugged pastures are usually more vulnerable to coyote predation than those in closer, more open, and smaller pastures. In general, a relatively small, open, tightly fenced pasture that can be kept under close surveillance is a good choice for birthing livestock that are likely targets of coyotes. Past experience with predators as well as weather and disease considerations should also serve as guides in the selection of birthing pastures. A factor not completely understood is that, at times, coyotes and other predators will kill in one pasture and not in another. Therefore, changing pastures during times of loss may reduce predation. There may seem to be a relationship between size of pasture and predator losses, with higher loss rates
reported in larger pastures. In reality, loss rates may not be related as much to pasture size as to other local conditions such as slope, terrain, and human populations. Hilly or rugged areas are typically sparsely populated by humans and are characterized by large pastures. These conditions are ideal for coyotes. Sheep pastures that contain or are adjacent to streams, creeks, and rivers tend to have more coyote problems than pastures without such features. Water courses serve as hunting and travel lanes for coyotes.


Using herders with sheep or cattle in large pastures can help reduce predation, but there has been a trend away from herders in recent years because of increasing costs and a shortage of competent help. Nevertheless, tended flocks or herds receive closer attention than untended livestock, particularly in large pastures, and problems can be solved before they become serious. We recommend
two herders per band of range sheep. If herders aren’t used, daily or periodic checking of the livestock is a good husbandry practice.

Frightening Devices and Repellents

Frightening devices are useful for reducing losses during short periods or until predators are removed. The devices should not be used for long periods of time when predation is not a problem. To avoid acclimation you can increase both the degree and duration of effectiveness by varying the position, appearance, duration, or frequency of the frightening stimuli, or using them in various combinations.
Many frightening methods have been ridiculed in one way or another; nevertheless, all of the techniques discussed here have helped producers by saving livestock and/or buying some time to institute other controls. Lights. A study involving 100 Kansas sheep producers showed that using lights above corrals at night had the most marked effect on losses to coyotes of all the devices examined. Out of 79 sheep killed by coyotes in corrals, only three were killed in corrals with lights. Nearly 40% of the producers in the study used lights over corrals. There was some indication in the study that sheep losses to dogs were higher in lighted corrals, but the sample size for dog losses was small and the results inconclusive. Most of the producers (80%) used mercury vapor lights that automatically turned on at dusk and off at dawn. Another advantage of lighted corrals is that coyotes are more vulnerable when they enter the lighted area. Coyotes
often establish a fairly predictable pattern of killing. When this happens in a lighted corral, it is possible for a producer to wait above or downwind of the corral and to shoot the coyote as it enters. Red or blue lights may make the ambush more successful since coyotes appear to be less frightened by them than by white lights. Revolving or flashing the lights may enhance their effectiveness in frightening away predators. There is some speculation that the old oil lamps used in highway construction repelled coyotes, presumably because of their flickering effect.

Bells and Radios

Some sheep producers place bells on some or all of their sheep to discourage predators. Where effects have been measured, however, no difference in losses was detected. Some producers use a radio tuned to an all-night station to temporarily deter coyotes, dogs, and other predators.


Parking cars or pickups in the area where losses are occurring often reduces predation temporarily. Effectiveness can be improved or extended by frequently moving the vehicle to a new location. Some producers place a replica of a person in the vehicle when losses are occurring in the daylight. If predators continue to kill with vehicles in place, the vehicle serves as a comfortable blind in which to wait and shoot offending predators.

Propane Exploders

Propane exploders produce loud explosions at timed intervals when a spark ignites a measured amount of propane gas. On most models, the time between explosions can vary from about 1 minute to 15 minutes. Their effectiveness at frightening coyotes is usually only temporary, but it can be increased by moving exploders to different locations and by varying the intervals between explosions. In general, the timer on the exploder should be set to fire every 8 to 10 minutes, and the location should be changed every 3 or 4 days. In cattle pastures, these devices should be placed on rigid stands above the livestock. Normally, the exploder should be turned on just before dark and off at daybreak, unless coyotes are killing livestock during daylight hours. Motion sensors are now available and likely improve their effectiveness, though it is still only temporary. Exploders are best used to reduce losses until more permanent control or preventive measures can be implemented. In about 24 coyote depredation complaints over a 2-year period in North Dakota, propane exploders were judged to be successful in stopping or reducing predation losses until offending coyotes could be removed. “Success time” of the exploders appears to depend a great deal on how well they are tended by the livestock producer.

Guarding Animals

Livestock Guarding Dogs

A livestock guarding dog is one that generally stays with sheep or cattle without harming them and aggressively repels predators. Its protective behaviors are largely instinctive, but proper rearing plays a part. Breeds most commonly used today include the Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Anatolian Shepherd, and Akbash Dog (Fig. 7). Other Old World breeds used to a lesser degree include Maremma, Sharplaninetz, and Kuvasz. Crossbreeds are also used. The characteristics of each sheep operation will dictate the number of dogs required for effective protection from predators. If predators are scarce, one dog is sufficient for most fenced pasture operations. Range operations often use two dogs per band of sheep. The performance of individual dogs will differ based on age and experience. The size, topography, and habitat of the pasture or range must also be considered. Relatively flat, open areas can be adequately covered by one dog. When brush, timber, ravines, and hills are in the pasture, several dogs may be required, particularly if the sheep are scattered. Sheep that flock and form a cohesive unit, especially at night, can be protected by one dog more effectively than sheep that are continually scattered and bedded in a number of locations. The goal with a new puppy is to channel its natural instincts to produce a mature guardian dog with the desired characteristics. This is best accomplished by early and continued association with sheep to produce a bond between the dog and sheep. The optimum time to acquire a pup is between 7 and 8 weeks of age. The pup should be separated from litter mates and placed with sheep, preferably lambs, in a pen or corral from which it can’t escape. This socialization period should continue with daily checks from the producer until the pup is about 16 weeks old. Daily checks don’t necessarily include petting the pup. The primary bond should be between the dog and the sheep, not between the dog and humans. The owner, however, should be able to catch and handle the dog to administer health care or to manage the livestock. At about 4 months, the pup can be released into a larger pasture to mingle with the other sheep. A guarding dog will likely include peripheral areas in its patrolling. Some have been known to chase vehicles and wildlife and threaten children and cyclists. These activities should be discouraged. Neighbors should be alerted to the possibility that the dog may roam onto their property and that some predator control devices such as traps, snares, and M-44s present a danger to it. Many counties enforce stringent laws regarding owner responsibility for damage done by roaming dogs. It is in the best interests of the owner, dog, and community to train the dog to stay in its designated area.

The use of guarding dogs does not eliminate the need for other predation control actions. They should, however, be compatible with the dog’s behavior. Toxicants (including some insecticides and rodenticides) used to control various pest species can be extremely hazardous to dogs and are therefore not compatible with the use of guarding dogs. The M-44 is particularly hazardous to dogs. Some people have successfully trained their dogs to avoid M-44s by allowing the dog to set off an M-44 filled with pepper or by rigging the device to a rat trap. The unpleasant experience may teach the dog to avoid M-44s, but the method is not foolproof—one error by the dog, and the result is usually fatal. With the exception of toxic collars, which are not legal in all states, toxicants should not be used in areas where guarding dogs are working unless the dog is chained or confined while the control takes place. Dogs caught in a steel trap set for
predators are rarely injured seriously if they are found and released within a reasonable period of time. If snares and traps are used where dogs are working, the producer should: (1) encourage the use of sets and devices that are likely not to injure the dog if it is caught, and (2) know where traps and snares are set so they can be checked if a dog is missing. Aerial hunting, as well as calling and shooting coyotes, should pose no threat to guarding dogs. Ensuring the safety of the dog is largely the producer’s responsibility. Dogs may be viewed as a first line of defense against predation in sheep and cow/calf operations in some cases. Their effectiveness can be enhanced by good livestock management and by eliminating predators with suitable removal techniques. Donkeys. Although the research has not focused on donkeys as it has on guarding dogs, they are gaining in popularity as protectors of sheep and
goat flocks in the United States. A recent survey showed that in Texas alone, over 2,400 of the 11,000 sheep and goat producers had used donkeys as guardians. The terms donkey and burro are synonymous (the Spanish translation of donkey is burro) and are used interchangeably. Donkeys are generally docile to people, but they seem to have an inherent dislike of dogs and other canids, including coyotes and foxes. The typical response of a donkey to an intruding canid may include braying, bared teeth, a running attack, kicking, and biting. Most likely it is acting out of aggression toward the intruder rather than to protect the sheep. There is little information on a donkey’s effectiveness with noncanid predators such as bears, mountain lions, bobcats, or birds of prey. Reported success of donkeys in reducing predation is highly variable. Improper husbandry or rearing practices and unrealistic expectations Fig. 7. Livestock guarding dog (Akbash dog)

*The above information was taken from a University of Nebraska Web site with
express permission of Stephen Vatassel, wildlife damage project coordinator.

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