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Published February 03, 2014, 11:03 AM

Coyote control measures impractical for farms

While the coyote catalog might seem like a practical solution for both landowners and hunters, there are unintended consequences that result from using lethal control measures on coyote populations.

By: Keli Hendricks , Agweek

While the coyote catalog might seem like a practical solution for both landowners and hunters, there are unintended consequences that result from using lethal control measures on coyote populations.

My husband and I run 300 mother cows that calve in pastures alongside coyote packs and other predators. We use only non-lethal livestock protection methods and I can’t remember the last time we lost a calf to predation.

I am also on the advisory board of Project Coyote, a national coalition of ranchers and scientists working to foster coexistence between people and wildlife.

The prophylactic killing of coyotes might make ranchers feel like they are doing something to protect their livestock, but numerous studies have proven the exact opposite to be true. Coyotes biologically respond to hunting pressures by having more pack members breed, and in turn have larger litters in which more pups survive.

These packs that are fractured by hunting also leave juvenile coyotes orphaned, and thus more likely to come into conflict with pets and livestock.

Furthermore, we now know that while killing coyotes might offer short-term relief in terms of their numbers in certain areas, it also creates a vacuum in which the newly opened territory eventually draws new coyotes in to fill it.

This creates the endless war between wildlife and ranchers that has been waging for decades at untold cost to taxpayers, ranchers, wildlife and the environment.

There are many effective, non lethal methods available to protect sheep and cattle. These methods are being used successfully around wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions, on ranches from California to Northern Alberta and everywhere in between.

Livestock guardian animals, lambing pens, range riders, electric fencing, running sheep and cattle together, and fladry are just a few of the options available to ranchers. These methods, or sometimes a combination of them, lower and often eliminate conflicts with predators.

This allows the development of a stable coyote population which, studies show, manage their own numbers quite well. They also provide a free, eco-friendly pest control service to those lucky enough to live within their boundaries.

If left alone, coyotes might also eliminate the need for the other catalog system that is now being used to control deer numbers.

As consumers become more educated about the effects their food choices have on the environment, the spotlight is on the ranching industry to prove we have the ability to be responsible stewards of the land. By forcing consumers to choose between our livestock and wildlife, we only succeed in creating more vegans and vegetarians.

The livestock industry needs to change the way we treat predators and other wildlife, not only so we can improve our reputation with the public, but because it is the right thing to do.

Editor’s note: Hendricks owns and runs Bar C R Ranch with her husband in Petaluma, Calif., and is an advisory board member of Project Coyote.

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