Nicole McClain: Are Coyotes Dangerous and Should They Be Hunted?

In my younger years, a coyote being in my backyard wasn’t a thought. And had I run into one at the age of 8, I probably would have mistaken it for a runaway dog and tried to feed it.

I’m sure Mom would have loved that. I can flashback and hear my brother yelling out, “Mom, Nicole is trying to feed her egg salad sandwich to a coyote. Is she allowed to do that?”

Nicole McClain Dead Coyote

“Not sure what larger predator attacked this coyote, but it was found dead and headless on property in North Carolina where I visited two weeks ago. Not a pleasant sight.” (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

Coyotes attacks on people, pets and poultry

According to the Wildlife Restoration Pittman-Robertson Program, only a very small number of attacks on people have ever been reported.

However, while the risk of a coyote attacking a person is extremely low, if coyotes begin to associate people with food, you or your child could run into a serious problem, not to mention your pets. They will become prey for coyotes as well, especially cats and dogs under 25 pounds. Keep your fury friends inside at night, on a leash during the day with supervision, or (my least favorite) penned in a secure kennel outside.

We had an apple tree in our yard as kid—today this would have been a problem as coyotes will seek out decaying fruit on the ground, as well as table scraps, pet food, and compost piles left outdoors. We didn’t have sheep or chickens in the yard, but those are fancied by coyotes as well so if you have them, keep them couped up—no pun intended.

Coyotes are keener than the average dog

Coyotes are highly adaptable members of the canine family that have migrated and learned to navigate our neighborhoods, even suburbs.  Coyotes are generally brown in color and can weigh 30-35 pounds—as much as 55 pounds in the Northeast—and unlike dogs, coyotes carry their tail at a 45-degree angle when trailing along.

Best coyote caller: ICOTec Predator Callers Here

But coyotes are more aware of their surroundings than the average dog (average does not apply to my Rottweiler Mogador), noticing everything in their environment—from the wind is blowing across their fur to the meadow voles under the crust of snow. Hearing, sight and sense of smell are tremendous, and their senses allow coyotes to gain the advantage over rabbits, squirrels, and even deer in the bitter winters of Northeast.

If you encounter a coyote – or three

Contrary to popular belief, most coyotes are wary of humans. My advice has been that one coyote isn’t worth batting an eyelash at but is certainly worth keeping an eye on. If you encounter a few of his buddies, hopefully you’re armed or you can walk back inside through the patio door.

Nicole McClain at the Range

Nicole is using a computerized system to improve her shooting accuracy with various types of weapons, including this AR, plus a Glock 17.

The Wildlife Restoration Pittman-Robertson Program recommends making loud noises and acting aggressively if you encounter a coyote by shouting, using an air horn, or banging pots and pans, waving your arms, throwing sticks, or spraying coyotes with a garden hose. “Homeowners should realize that if they live near suitable habitat, fencing may be the only method to completely eliminate coyotes from travelling near homes. In rare cases, efforts to remove coyotes may be justified.”

Unlike dogs, coyotes “direct register” and place their rear foot in exactly the same spot as their front foot—and they often walk in a straight line as if they have no energy for the scenic route. Typically, dog tracks look random in comparison, meandering as they smell all-things-outdoors.

Do coyotes have rabies, distemper or diseases?

Coyotes are most active at night but that doesn’t mean you won’t see these guys running amok  during daylight hours.

According to The Wildlife Restoration Pittman-Robertson Program, their daytime activity alone is not indicative of rabies. “Coyotes appear to have low susceptibility to the ‘raccoon’ or mid-Atlantic strain of rabies found in Connecticut. Coyotes are susceptible to strains of rabies that occur elsewhere in North America and to the other common canine diseases, such as canine distemper. Sarcoptic mange, a parasitic disease, can affect large numbers of coyotes, particularly when the population is dense and the chance of transmission is high.”

Coyotes can and do kill deer – but not the herd

While it’s more common for coyotes to affect deer population in the Northeast, and coyotes have taken down healthy deer in both areas, it’s rare and overblown in common speak among hunters. They are more of a threat to livestock or pets than anything else.

Areas like the Southwest (especially in the summer) or the Northeast (in deep snow and extended cold winters) are most affected by high coyote populations affecting their deer hunting properties. But in other territories, taking a few coyotes out of the mix will not make a difference on your deer population and ‘save the herd.’

It’s almost the same percentage of bear attacks on fawns, around 20-25 percent. And those percentages sometimes include death by car accidents, birth defects, malnutrition and starvation.

Learn more about coyotes with Trapper & Predator Caller Magazine.

Quebec is an exception to decimation of deer herds by coyotes

Of course there are exceptions, and extreme cases, like that in Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, where a herd of 14,000 whitetails (and a small coyote population) existed in 1986 was flip-flopped by 1991 with a remaining deer herd of 500-600. Regulations were enforced in the province for a temporary ban on deer hunting and an aggressive setup of coyote snares resulting in a successful turnaround. However, when the snaring stopped for a brief period of time, the deer population once again decreased. Harsh winters with deep snow and extended periods of cold weather also helped coyotes foster and become successful with their hunts.

Laws and regulations for hunting and trapping coyotes

Some states require hunters and trappers to report and tag coyote pelts before they are sold, tanned or mounted. Livestock owners can also apply for permission to trap and hunt coyotes that have attacked their livestock. And in certain areas and rare cases, coyotes can be removed from residential areas if justified. Always check your local and state laws before removing coyotes at your own discretion.

Tell me your coyote stories

Do you shoot or snare? What type of bow or caliber are you using? Do you have a coyote migration problem where you live? Drop me a comment on Facebook or tweet me your coyotes stories. I’d love to hear from you!