FLOCK SAFETY A Multi-Pronged Approach To Keeping Coyotes At Bay

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It takes more than an anvil and a roadrunner to chase off or kill a wily coyote.

Sheep producers need to employ a variety of approaches to battle coyote predation, expert Ken Wick told attendees at a recent predator control seminar.

Killing coyotes is actually a measure of last resort, said Wick, an inspector with the Inspection and Investigation Branch of Alberta Agriculture.

Predation is a learned behaviour and adult coyotes who kill livestock teach this behaviour to their young, he said. Keeping a healthy flock is a simple way to reduction predation, as coyotes target sick animals, along with the young and old.

Good fencing around the entire flock, with special care paid to the young animals is another deterrent, said Wick, who is based in Olds. Six-or seven-wire fences, electric fences, or page wire fences commonly used on elk or deer farms are the best fencing options. However, coyotes are quite smart and can learn how to go under or through fences, said Wick. Many of them learn to jump fences, or dig under them.

Dogs, donkeys, llamas and horses can deter predators. Some horses do not like canines, and will chase coyotes or dogs out of their pasture, but it is learned behaviour and Wick suggested experimenting with an older mare. And llamas or donkeys cannot be housed with mates when they are used for coyote control.

When dogs are used for livestock predation control, they must be part of the flock, added Wick. This is the best, nonlethal coyote control method and the single most important factor in reducing coyote predation in the province.

Bringing the flock in at night also helps.

If the situation gets out of control, producers should first call their ag fieldmen before resorting to using lethal methods, as regulations vary by county. Den hunting is regulated but can be time consuming. Coyotes use the same den every year, and these are often found near water, along fencelines or in secluded fields with good cover. When most people go den hunting, they usually call and shoot the adults and then gas the pups. Den hunting is more successful in southern areas of the Prairies.

Shooting live animals and using electronic calls are legal and effective, however they only work once, said Wick.

You call them in once, you better get him because he won t come back for that call again, he said. You don t trick a coyote twice. They learn fast.

Some of the calls are so effective that coyotes will come barrelling at the caller/hunter, who should keep a rifle or a shotgun loaded to shoot the animal. This method works best in fall or spring.

Poisoning the animals is another option, but one Wick does not like to recommend, since it can be fatal to dogs, or other wildlife. Counties regulate poisoning of animals, and anyone who wishes to use poison on their property needs to consult with their ag fieldman. Anyone who uses poison on a coyote needs to obtain a Form 7 permit, which is regulated by the Regulatory Services Division of Alberta Agriculture.

Poisons should only be used as a last resort and will only provide a short-term relief, said Wick.

The 1080 tablet is used at the predation site and is usually stuck in a carcass or chicken head. An M-44 is a small capsule filled with cyanide and placed in a coyote lure in the ground, and works best in the summer months. It needs to be set about two or three days before a predator will accept it.

They re very effective and if they go off, something is dead, said Wick.

When a coyote pulls on this lure, a cyanide capsule will explode in its face, and the animal will die a short while later. Any neighbourhood dogs that investigate or pull on the capsule could also be killed and other wildlife might also be affected by secondary poisoning, which is why this method is not commonly used. The cyanide will disperse quickly and the amount of cyanide in the capsule is minute. M-44s work best in fall, and are available from ag fieldmen.

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Goodfencingaround theentireflock,with specialcarepaidto theyounganimalsis anotherdeterrent.

KEN WICK

ALBERTA AGRICULTURE &INVESTIGATION INSPECTOR

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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