Coyote sightings, problems on rise

Larry Woody • Dec 6, 2017 at 9:30 AM

I was deer hunting with Roy Denney on his Gladeville farm awhile back when I heard him shoot just after daylight. When we met up later in the morning he hadn’t bagged a buck -- he had whacked a coyote.

On up in the day as I walked across a field on the back to Roy’s house, another coyote trotted out. I dispatched it with my muzzleloader.

A few days later I was hunting in another part of Wilson County with Clarence Dies when a coyote jogged across the food plot, disappeared into a hollow, and proceeded to yip and howl, doing its best to ruin my deer hunt.

One the drive home I saw two more coyotes that had been killed on the highway.

In the Nashville suburbs where I live, coyotes are common sights. I saw three on the hillside behind our house one afternoon. They routinely trot up and down the street in broad daylight.

Since their migration into Tennessee from the Southwest began a couple of decades ago, the coyote population has grown steadily. And the more coyotes there are, the more problems they create.

Initially the biggest concern was coyotes’ toll on wildlife. They are super-predators and prey on anything they can catch. That includes new-born fawns and wild turkeys.

Wildlife experts initially claimed coyotes didn’t have much of an impact on fawns, but have since changed their minds. One survey found that coyotes killed at least 40 percent of new-born deer in a certain area – and possibly as many as 70 percent.

Coyotes also catch turkeys. I once saw one trotting across a field holding a freshly-killed gobbler by the neck.

Granted, coyotes prey on nuisance species like mice and rats, but they exact a toll on small game as well. A hungry coyote is not a picky eater.

That’s why what used to be a wildlife problem has, in recent years, evolved into a suburban problem. If a coyote can’t catch a wild critter, it will settle for the family pet. Reports of cats and small dogs disappearing are becoming more frequent amid the coyote invasion.

What can be done about it? Not much.

In the wild, hunters are encouraged to shoot coyotes – I have killed eight over the years while deer hunting – and specialized varmint hunting is growing in popularity. Coyotes are a challenging quarry, and a prime pelt makes an attractive trophy. But coyotes are prolific, averaging five to seven pups per litter, and hunters can hardly put a dent in the population.

In the suburbs where hunting is not permitted, the situation is even more out of control. Coyotes can roam at will without fear of humans, and parks and nature preserves represent a wild-game smorgasbord. When the wild game runs out, there are plenty of backyard pets nearby.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency advises not leaving pet food outdoors because it can attract coyotes, but that’s no real solution. It only makes the coyotes hungrier. Keeping pets indoors or fenced in will protect them, but not all pets enjoy that luxury.

Coyotes can be trapped, but it’s difficult because they are so cunning – especially when live traps are used, as required in residential areas. Most communities have animal-control units and professional wildlife removers who can sometimes remove a specific problem coyote. Problem is, there’s probably a dozen others waiting to take its place.

There is little evidence of coyotes attacking humans, but in the case of an unattended toddler it can’t be ruled out. The animals are becoming bolder as they lose their natural fear of humans – particularly non-threatening suburbanites.

Coyotes are here to stay – and so are the problems they cause.

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