Controlling Our Propensity toward Coyote Control


The natural world likes to teach us about the complexity of interaction – touch one strand in the web of life and it’s hard to know what else will get tugged; remove one butterfly and who knows what happens to the weather in New York. It also likes to remind us that often we can be most helpful by allowing these natural interactions to happen without our interference.

Mezquida et al. (2006) consider “Sage-grouse and Indirect Interactions: Potential Implications of Coyote Control on Sage-grouse Populations.” Not surprisingly, they present evidence that coyotes may help maintain healthy sage-grouse communities. As top-level predators (now that wolves are missing), coyotes help keep the mid-level predators (“mesopredators”) in check. This is important because mesopredators like foxes, badgers, and ravens are often implicated in chick and egg mortality, while coyotes show little interest in preying on grouse.

Read the rest of this essay by Erin Robertson of Center for Native Ecosystems.


3 responses to “Controlling Our Propensity toward Coyote Control

  1. queenlatrans

    Coyote control programs often select out younger animals (not the alpha pair). So in a sense, yes, naive coyotes are lured into traps, snares, and baits. If Wildlife Services is using aerial gunning, however, they kill as many animals in an area as they can.

    There’s lots of good studies coming out these days that show that predator control to “benefit” other wildlife species is often misguided. Arizona Game and Fish pays WS to kill lots of coyotes every year to “benefit” desert pronghorn. This species’ problem comes from many quarters including many years of consecutive drought and competition with livestock which overgraze desert ecosystems (also, livestock are often a vector carrying disease that wipe out native ungulates).

    The ironic thing is, people have been trying to eradicate coyotes for over a century and their range is now larger than ever. This is one adaptable animal.

  2. The problem is coyote controls cost a fortune and do very little to cut down the coyote population. Killing coyotes actually will A. select for “smarter” coyotes who are able to avoid control measures B. cause coyote litter sizes to increase, thus replacing all killed animals and C. create a territorial vacuum causing many young coyotes to enter an area to try to establish themselves. Millions thrown away every year for nothing!

  3. I don’t know who did the study that coyotes help sage grouse, but that is utter idiocy. I count sage grouse in the spring, and one lek I counted in Carbon county for several years had coyotes set up a den on the periphery of the lek.
    I have found piles of feathers and coyote scat in the area of a good sized lek here in Big Horn county. I don’t know if they eat the eggs or if that is foxes and ravens. I’ve also seen coyotes in the area.