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Controversial Coyote Hunting 

Predator Control: You're Not Doing Enough of It

coyote hay bail camoflouge

Unlike wolves, coyotes often hunt solo and are mistaken as solitary instead of pack animals. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

Coyotes get a bad rep from hunters, farmers, and even homeowners alike. Known in First Nations’ cultures predominantly as tricksters, coyotes live up to the lore surrounding them. 

Regardless of their reputation, hunting coyotes is still seen as a controversial act, even amongst hunters, but especially in the more publicly polarized form of competition

Much to the surprise of anti-hunters, many competitions or scoring systems such as the one developed by The Boone and Crockett Club, were created to encourage hunters to target mature, larger, and predominately male ungulate specimens to help preserve populations. Conservationists and organizations such as this concluded many moons ago that prey numbers can falter faster and less predictably than predators such as coyotes.

It’s important for outsiders, in this case, anyone who doesn’t hunt predators, to realize, that if numbers didn’t require control, such derbies or even seasons wouldn’t be made available. Additionally, even during a derby, regular laws and regulations pertain to the derby, there are no exceptions to the laws hunters have to abide by normally.

There are safeguards in place to calculate the population and damage predators make year to year. A coyote's only true threat is that of humans, perhaps the odd wolf, cougar, or an injury that may catch up to them. The coyotes’ ability to multiply and raise young successfully, paired with sheer tenacity remaining unchecked could be devastating for deer, grouse, and hare populations. The only prey numbers they aren’t likely to affect negatively are mice. 

Some of the many species that are affected by coyotes and their prowess. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

Hunters seem to be just as divided about coyotes as non-hunters. 

A certain collection of hunters claim they won’t use a bullet or broadhead on anything they won’t be eating. As noble as that sounds, it doesn’t go a long way towards helping the deer populations you’re complaining are at an all-time low– but are still going to shoot anyhow. 

And for the hunters that cry wolf and claim “the only good coyote is a dead coyote” ask them how many they’ve harvested this season. I’m betting the number is low or zero. Not a lot of hunters put the effort into predator control that they do ungulates, including myself previously.

Derbies such as Barton's Big Country Furbangers Derby were created to ensure predator control happens year after year for their area due to this fact. They weren't created just for the camaraderie or prizes, or encouraging youth and new hunters to join in something helpful for prey species; those are just bonuses the event brings.

Few hunters, farmers, or chihuahua owners want to hear this, but as much as coyotes hinder prey populations they do help them. More often than not they can be found mousing, munching on fruits, and taking over other predator’s or nature’s kills by devouring the remains. Coyotes aren’t just nature's garbage disposals they act as a filter. As scavengers they eliminate potential diseases and pathogens before they have a chance to affect livestock, crops, and specifically, humans. These acts keep ecosystems safe, healthy, and moving forward. When their numbers are in check.

A healthy coyote and wolf population will create round grouse, strong hares, nimble calves, and fawns. An overpopulation of coyotes will bring but not limited to; mange, parvo, distemper, rabies, tularemia, tapeworm, and noteworthy distress to ungulate and small mammals' day-to-day survival. 

coyote taking a dirt nap

Much like wolves, only alpha coyotes mate while the rest of the pack, be it siblings from a previous litter or unrelated members help rear the young. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

Year after year, studies reveal when high coyote populations run wild, they become unhealthy, and carry diseases as well as other harbingers of death to prey animals, livestock, and themselves, it's not just their predation that is an issue. It is nature’s way of reducing a threat. However, it's not always as swift as it needs to be, often resulting in prey numbers plummeting before it takes effect on predators.  

Key Notes: 

  • Not as many people predator hunt as they do for ungulates (moose, whitetail, mule deer, elk, etc) 

  • Keeping predator hunting alive isn't about the money it produces for the hunting or gun industry and there are no bounties for coyotes during these competitions. Pelts are almost worthless and few lower-powered rifles are hot on the market.

  • To participate in a derby you have to follow all rules and regulations you’d need to outside of the derby and nothing changes about the way you hunt them, you just have a time constraint.

  • These highly adaptable songdogs have grown their numbers and range more than any North American predator.

  • Coyotes can run up to 45 mph, which means they can catch deer at full sprint going 30 mph, moose and mule deer at 35 mph, and perhaps a slower elk (45 mph) or elk calf.

Some wildlife management zones in provinces across Canada ban hunting coyotes, as their numbers are seemingly healthy and authorities feel confident they can be left unchecked by humans, their top predators. 

Predator derbies are found in areas of dense population where the harvest of predator pests is necessary. These derbies help farmers' livestock, wildlife, and the ecosystem as a whole by removing a fraction of the controversial troublemakers. Maybe enough of them, that livestock dogs wouldn’t have to kill 8 of them over two days to protect their flock. 

coyote hunting alberta

A coyote's territory boundary changes depending on urban or rural settings. Anywhere from two to an estimated 30 square miles by some studies. Photo: Alyssa Lloyd

It's been proven a million times over, that you’ll never truly eradicate coyotes– and that shouldn’t be the goal. The truth of the matter is, that we’ll likely only scratch the surface of their populations even with derbies and regular predator hunts. 

However, if we allow prey populations to plummet because we don’t focus as much or perhaps more energy on predator hunts than we would with say a whitetail hunt, we’re doing them and us a disservice.

When the Barton’s Big Country Furbangers Derby came to an end for another year, a gathering of hunters discussed size, numbers, coats, and the odd razzing about shot placements or misses, but the resounding message being spread among us was, “Wow, think of all the fawns and calves we saved this spring.”


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