Coyote Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Overview of Damage Prevention
and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

  • Reduce cover for prey species
  • Eliminate all intentional and unintentional feeding of coyotes 
  • Remove carrion or bury carcasses of livestock 
  • Change the season and use shed practices for lambing, kidding, and calving  
  • Raise livestock in confinement or put them in pens at night 

Exclusion 

  • Net-wire, electric, and roller exclusion fences 

Frightening 

  • Sonic and visual frightening devices – propane cannons, sirens, strobe lights   
  • Haze and harass coyotes in residential areas 
  • Guard animals- dogs, donkeys, llamas 

Repellents 

  • None registered  

Toxicants 

  • Livestock protection collars (LPC) with Compound 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) are registered in some states.  
  • M-44 cyanide ejectors are highly restricted and registered only for use by certain personnel of the USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services (WS) 
  • Gas cartridges are registered as a burrow (den) fumigant in many states 

Shooting 

  • Rifles- .223, .22-250, .220, or .243  
  • Shotgun- 12-gauge with No. 4 shot  

Trapping 

  • Foothold traps- Nos. 1.75 or greater 
  • Cable-restraints- passive and spring-loaded  
  • Cage traps- 54 x 20 x 24-inch (minimum) 

Other Control Methods

  • Denning

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Habitat Modification 

Habitats change in some areas depending on the season and the growth of crops. Some cultivated fields are devoid of coyotes during winter but provide cover during the growing season, which could lead to an increase in predation on nearby livestock. Clear weeds and brush from areas to reduce predation, as predators usually use cover to approach livestock. In general, areas that are more open are less likely to have problems with predation by coyotes.   

Piles of junk located near farms are good habitat for rabbits and other prey, and may bring coyotes into proximity with livestock. Eliminate sources of cover and food to make yards and landscapes less attractive to coyotes. 

Eliminate intentional and unintentional feeding of coyotes. Bury livestock carcasses, as carcass dumps are attractive sources of food to coyotes. Do not allow small pets outdoors unsupervised, especially at night.  

All breeds of sheep appear to be equally susceptible to predation by coyotes and dogs, but breeds with strong flocking behaviors generally are less vulnerable to predators.  

Change the season for birthing and employ shed practices for lambing, kidding, and calving so that they do not correspond to the birth times for coyotes. Coyotes raising pups are more likely to predate young livestock to feed young. Raise livestock in confinement or pen the herd at night.  

Exclusion 

Most coyotes readily cross over, under, or through conventional fences made for livestock, or in residential areas. The response of a coyote to a fence is influenced by various factors, including the experience and motivation of the coyote. Total exclusion of all coyotes by fences, especially from large areas, is unlikely. Some coyotes learn to dig under or climb over fences of almost any size.  

The success of fences ranges from poor to excellent. Density and behavior of coyotes, terrain, vegetative cover, availability of prey, size of pastures, season, design of the fence, quality of construction, maintenance, and other factors combined determine how effective a fence will be. Fences are most likely to be cost-effective where predation is high, there is potential for a high stocking rate, or electric modification of existing fences can be used.  

Fences can be effective when incorporated with other means of predator control. For example, combined use of guard animals and fences has achieved a greater degree of success than either method used alone. An electric fence may help keep guard animals in and coyotes out of a pasture. If a coyote does pass through a fence, the guard animal likely will keep it away from the livestock and alert the producer.  

Fences also can be used to concentrate activity of predators at specific places such as gateways, ravines, or other areas where they try to gain access. Traps can be set at strategic places along a fence to capture predators. Smaller pastures are easier to keep free from predators than larger ones that encompass several square miles.  

Fences can pose problems for other types of wildlife. Impacts on wildlife should be considered where fences intersect corridors for migration. Ungulates, such as deer, may attempt to jump fences, and they occasionally become entangled in the wires. Nevertheless, fences can be useful in reducing damage by predators and management of livestock. 

Net-wire fences in good repair can deter many coyotes from entering a pasture. Horizontal spacing of the mesh should be less than 6 inches, and vertical spacing less than 4 inches. Coyotes can be discouraged from digging under a fence by a barbed wire placed at the level of the ground or with a buried wire apron. A fence should be at least 5½ feet high to discourage coyotes from jumping over it. A charged wire or wire overhang at the top of the fence usually can discourage climbing. Barrier fences with wire overhangs and buried wire aprons are effective in keeping coyotes out of pastures that confine sheep (Figure 6). The construction and materials for barrier fences usually are expensive, so they rarely are used except around corrals, feedlots, or areas of temporary confinement of sheep. 

Figure 6. Barrier fence with wire overhang and buried apron. Image by PCWD. 

Electric fences were revolutionized by the introduction of low-impedance energizers that have a very short pulse duration (1/3,000 second). Low impedance chargers produce 3,000 to 10,000 volts, are resistant to grounding, present a minimal fire hazard, and generally are safe for livestock and humans. The fences usually are constructed of smooth, high-tensile wire stretched to a tension of 200 to 300 pounds. The original design of electric fences for controlling predation consisted of multiple, alternately charged and grounded wires. They had a charged trip wire installed just above the level of the ground, about 8 inches outside the main fence to discourage digging. Many recent designs charge every wire. 

The distance between wires varies considerably. A fence of 13 strands (Figure 7) gave complete protection to sheep from coyote predation in tests at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Sheep Experiment Station. Other designs with fewer wires were effective in some studies and ineffective in others.  

Figure 7. High-tensile, electric, anti-predator fence.  
Image by PCWD. 

The amount of labor and the techniques for installation vary with each type of fence. High-tensile wire fences require bracing at corners and over long spans. Electric fences are easiest to install on flat, even terrain. Labor to install a high-tensile, electric fence may be 40% to 50% less than a conventional fence for livestock. The amount of labor required to keep electric fences functional can be significant. Tension of the wires must be monitored seasonally, vegetation under the fence must be removed to prevent grounding, damage must be repaired, and the charger must be checked regularly to ensure that it is operational.  

Coyotes and other predators occasionally become trapped inside electric fences. The animals receive a shock as they enter the pasture and subsequently avoid approaching the fence to escape. A coyote that has been captured may be easy to spot and remove from the pasture. In large pastures with rough terrain, the animal may be difficult to remove.  

Electric Modification of Existing Fences 

The cost to replace old fences, whether conventional or electric, can be substantial. Where existing fences are in good condition, the addition of wires can significantly enhance the predator-deterring ability of the fence and its effectiveness for controlling livestock (Figure 8). A charged trip wire placed 6 to 8 inches above the ground and 8 to 10 inches outside the fence often is effective in preventing coyotes from digging and crawling under. This addition to an existing fence often is the most economical way to fortify a fence against coyotes.  

Figure 8. Woven-wire fence for livestock that has been modified with electrified wire. Image by PCWD. 

If coyotes are climbing or jumping a fence, charged wires can be added to the top and at intervals. The wires should be offset outside the fence. Professional fencing companies offer offset brackets to make installation relatively simple. The number of additional wires depends on the design of the original fence and the predicted habits of the predators.  

Portable Electric Fencing 

The advent of safe, high-energy chargers has led to the development of portable electric fences. Most are constructed with thin strands of wire that run through polyethylene ribbon (polytape) and ribbon (polywire). Both are available in single and multiple wire rolls, or as mesh fencing. They can be installed easily to serve as a corral or to partition pastures. Portable electric fences allow for the setup of temporary pens to hold livestock at night or during activities to control predators. Animals that are not accustomed to being fenced may be difficult to contain in a portable electric fence.  

Modification of Chain link and other Non-electric Fences 

The Coyote Roller™ is marketed as a device to prevent coyotes from climbing fences. Coyotes normally do not jump 6-foot fences. Instead, they grab the top of the fence and pull themselves over (Figure 9).  

The spinning action of Coyote Roller’s™ prevents coyotes from gaining a foothold (Figure 10). The Coyote Roller™ is suitable for fences at least 6 feet tall. The fences must be secured to the ground to prevent coyotes from digging underneath.  

Figure 9. Coyotes are capable of climbing chain-link fences. Photo by Ron Case. 
Figure 10. The Coyote Roller™ installs on top of chain link and solid fences. Image by Coyote Roller, Inc. 

Frightening Devices  

Devices that frighten coyotes are useful for reducing losses during short periods of time, or until the predators are removed. Avoid habituation and increase the effectiveness by varying the position, appearance, duration, or frequency of the stimuli, or use them in combinations. 

Audio  

Bells and Radios Some producers of sheep place bells on some or all of their sheep to discourage predators. Where effects have been measured, no difference in losses were detected. Producers keep a radio on all night to deter predators temporarily. Coyotes often can determine real danger, so such devices are not very effective. 

Propane exploders produce loud explosions at timed intervals when a spark ignites a measured amount of propane gas. On most models, the time between explosions can vary from 1 to 15 minutes. Effectiveness usually is only temporary, but it can be increased by moving exploders to different locations and by varying the intervals between explosions.  

In general, the timer on the exploder should be set to fire every 8 to 10 minutes and the location should be changed every 3 or 4 days. In pastures for cattle, exploders should be placed on rigid stands above the livestock and turned on just before dark and off at daybreak, unless coyotes are killing livestock during the day.  

Motion sensors are available and likely will improve the effectiveness of exploders. Exploders are best used to reduce losses until more permanent measures of control can be implemented. In 24 coyote depredation complaints over a 2-year period in North Dakota, propane exploders were judged to be successful in stopping or reducing losses from predation until the offending coyotes were removed. The amount of time for which this technique is successful appears to depend on how well they are tended by the livestock producer.  

Yelling, waving arms, throwing things, blowing whistles, or other hazing may temporarily frighten coyotes in residential areas. Harass or chase coyotes until they are out of sight to reinforce fear of humans. To be effective, these techniques must be widespread, consistent, and associated with removal of sources of food. 

Visual  

Bright lights installed above corrals reduce losses of sheep to coyotes. Most producers use mercury vapor lights that automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn. Set the lights to revolve or flash to enhance effectiveness.  

If predators continue to kill livestock with lights in place, the lighting can aid producers in shooting coyotes at night. Producers can wait above or downwind of an illuminated corral and shoot coyotes as they enter. Use of red or blue lights may make the ambush more successful, as coyotes appear to be less frightened by them than by white lights.  

Vehicles Park cars or pickups where losses are occurring to reduce predation temporarily. Effectiveness can be improved or extended by frequently moving the vehicle to new locations. Some producers place a replica of a person in the vehicle when losses are occurring during the day. If predators continue to kill with vehicles in place, the vehicle serves as a comfortable blind from which to shoot offending individuals.  

Audio-visual 

Some devices provide both audio and visual stimuli to frighten coyotes out of an area. Combinations of lights and previously mentioned noisemakers are common. The Electronic Guard incorporates a strobe light and siren that are activated by a light sensor to turn on at dusk and off at dawn. One Electronic Guard can effectively deter coyotes from a 20-acre area of rangeland. 

Livestock Guard Animals 

Dogs, donkeys, and llamas have been used successfully to protect livestock from predation by coyotes. A livestock guard animal stays with sheep or cattle without harming them, while aggressively repelling predators. The protective behaviors are largely instinctive, but proper rearing is important.  

Breeds of dogs most commonly used as guard animals include Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Anatolian Shepherd, and Akbash Dog (Figure 11). Other breeds that are used to a lesser degree include Maremma, Sharplaninetz, and Kuvasz. Crossbreeds also are used. Dogs may be a first line of defense against predation in sheep and cow-calf operations. Their effectiveness can be enhanced by good management of livestock and removal of predators.  

Figure 11. Livestock guarding dog (Akbash dog).  
Image by PCWD. 

The characteristics of the livestock operation will dictate the number of dogs required for effective protection from predators. If predators are scarce, 1 dog is sufficient for most fenced pastures. Range operations often use 2 dogs per band of sheep. The performance of individual dogs will differ based on age and experience. The size, topography, and habitat of the pasture or range also must be considered. Large, flat, open areas can be adequately covered by 1 dog. When brush, timber, ravines, and hills are in the pasture, more dogs are required, particularly if the sheep are scattered. Sheep that flock and form a cohesive unit, especially at night, can be protected by 1 dog more effectively than sheep that are scattered and bedded in several locations.  

The goal with a new puppy is to channel its instincts to produce a mature guard dog with strong protective behaviors toward livestock. It is best accomplished by early and continued association with sheep, which produces a bond between the dog and sheep. The optimum time to acquire a pup is between 7 and 8 weeks of age. The pup should be separated from its litter mates and placed with sheep, preferably lambs, in a pen or corral from which it cannot escape. The period of socialization should continue with daily checks from the producer until the pup is about 16 weeks old. Daily checks do not necessarily include petting the pup. The primary bond should be between the dog and the sheep, not between the dog and humans. The owner should be able to catch and handle the dog to administer health care or to manage the livestock. At about 4 months, the pup can be released into a larger pasture to mingle with other sheep.  

A guard dog likely will include peripheral areas in its patrol. Some have been known to chase vehicles and wildlife or threaten children and cyclists: activities that must be discouraged. Neighbors should be alerted to the possibility that the dog may roam onto their property. Many counties enforce stringent laws regarding the responsibility of the owner for the control of damage done by dogs. It is in the best interests of the owner, dog, and community to train the dog to stay in the designated area.  

The use of guard dogs does not eliminate the need for other control actions, though they should be compatible with the presence of the dog. Predator control devices such as traps, snares, and M-44s present a danger to dogs. Toxicants, including some insecticides and rodenticides, used to control pests can be extremely hazardous to dogs and are therefore not compatible with the use of guard dogs.  

The M-44 device is particularly hazardous to dogs. Some technicians have successfully trained their dogs to avoid M-44s by allowing the dog to set off an M-44 filled with pepper or by rigging the device to a rat trap. The unpleasant experience may teach the dog to avoid M-44s, but the method does not guarantee that the dog will avoid the devices forever. One error by the dog and the result usually is fatal. With the exception of toxic collars, which are not legal in all states, toxicants should not be used in areas where guard dogs are working, unless the dog is confined while the control takes place. 

Dogs that are caught in a foothold set for predators rarely are seriously injured if they are found and released within a reasonable period of time. If traps are used where dogs are working, the producer should:  

  1. encourage the use of sets and devices that are not likely to injure the dog if it is caught, and 
  2. know where traps and snares are set so they can be checked if a dog is missing. Aerial hunting and shooting coyotes should pose no threat to guard dogs. The safety of the dog is the responsibility of the producer. 

Repellents 

Researchers have tested a variety of potentially repellent chemical compounds for coyotes on sheep, rabbits, and chickens. None were able to prevent coyotes from killing consistently, although some, such as lithium, showed some promise.  

No repellents are registered by EPA for the control of coyotes. 

Toxicants 

Pesticides are restricted by federal and state laws. Pesticide use is dictated by the EPA under the authority of FIFRA, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), presidential order, and the Endangered Species Act.  

The only oral toxicants currently registered for control of mammalian predators are sodium cyanide used in the M-44 ejector device, and Compound 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) for use in the livestock protection collar. All are Restricted Use Pesticides and may be used only by certified pesticide applicators. M-44s may only be used by personnel of the WS. Information on the status of registration and availability of these products in individual states may be obtained from the respective state Department of Agriculture.  

Carbon monoxide is an effective fumigant for burrows and recently was re-registered by the EPA. Gas cartridges, which contain 65% sodium nitrate and 35% charcoal, produce carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other noxious gases when ignited. They are registered by the EPA for control of coyotes in dens only. It is the only fumigant registered for this purpose.  

Shooting 

The shooting of coyotes is legal in many situations, and it often ranks high among the choices for removing a predator. Safety is a critical factor that, in some circumstances, may preclude the use of firearms. Local regulations may prohibit shooting and neighboring property may be too close to enable safe shooting. 

A medium-powered, bolt-action rifle fitted with a scope is recommended for shooting coyotes. The .223, .22-250, .220, or.243 are capable of killing a coyote up to 250 yards. Coyotes can detect the scent of humans, so shooters should be positioned downwind from where the coyote likely will approach. Use an elevated location where the lighting works to the shooter’s advantage. If coyotes are killing sheep during the day, construct a comfortable blind in the pasture where the killing has occurred. Whenever possible, rest the rifle on a solid support while aiming, such as a bi-pod. Use of suppressed rifles and night vision can add further flexibility and stealth to an operation designed to control coyotes, where legal.  

Figure 12a. Target locations for broadside shots to humanely kill coyotes.  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

A shotgun, preferably a 12-gauge semi-automatic, can be used for shooting at short range (less than 50 yards). A 12-gauge shotgun and a scoped rifle should both be available. Copper-coated (BB) lead shot, No. 4 lead buckshot, and in new shotguns, large-sized steel shot works well for killing coyotes. A metro-barrel and subsonic rounds can significantly reduce the report and are useful in urban areas. Specific shot location is critical in the humane killing of coyotes (Figures 12a and 12b). 

Calling and Shooting 

Coyotes may respond to calls of other predators, but should be used sparingly. Coyotes can be called at any time of day, although the first hours after dawn and last hours before dark usually are best. Call in areas where signs of coyotes, such as tracks or droppings occur. In some situations, coyotes can be located by listening for howling at sundown and sunrise. Use sirens to elicit howls from coyotes. A human imitation of a howl also may work. Coyotes often come to a howl without howling back, so the prudent hunter is always ready to shoot. 

Hunting at Night 

Predation of livestock rarely is witnessed because most of the time it occurs at night and away from human activity. Where legal, hunting at night with the use of artificial lights is effective. Red or blue light does not spook coyotes like white light does. The act of calling without the use of artificial lights is effective only with snow cover and the light of a full moon or with night vision scopes. 

Figure 12b. Target locations for straight-on shots to kill coyotes humanely.  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.  

Shooting from Vehicles such as snowmobiles, motorcycles, and pickups is possible in open, flat prairie country for effective and immediate results. Under most circumstances, however, this method is not practical. It requires keen driving skills, is dangerous, and is illegal in most states. 

Aerial Gunning 

The use of aircraft for shooting coyotes is regulated strictly by the provisions of the Airborne Hunting Act. It is allowed only under special permit in states where it is legal. Aerial gunning is selective and allows the taking of only the target species. Although it is costly, it may be the most cost-effective method for reducing damage by predators when all factors are considered. It is often the best method where conditions are right for removing depredating animals that have successfully evaded traditional methods for control on the ground, such as trapping. 

Fixed-wing aerial gunning is limited to open areas with little vegetative cover. The greater maneuverability of helicopters makes them useful for shooting in areas with brush, scattered timber, and rugged terrain. Aerial gunning can be conducted over bare ground, though it is most effective over deep snow cover. Animals are more visible against a background of snow and are much less mobile in their attempts to avoid the aircraft. Under optimal conditions of clear, sunny skies and fresh snow cover, much of the shooting can be accomplished by searching for and following fresh tracks of coyotes. Success of aerial gunning can be increased when conducted with the assistance of a ground crew. Before the plane arrives, a ground crew can locate coyotes in the area by eliciting howls with a siren, a mouth-blown howler call, or a voice howl. Communication by 2-way radios allows the ground crew to direct the aircraft toward the sound of the coyotes, thus reducing time in the air spent searching for coyotes. 

Aerial gunning is not recommended for, nor undertaken by most producers of livestock because of the special skills required of both pilot and shooter and the inherent danger of low-level flight. Although weather, terrain, and state laws limit the application of aerial gunning, it often can provide a prompt resolution to problems of depredation. 

Trapping 

Location is very important when setting traps. Place traps where activity of coyotes is concentrated, such as along trails, intersections, gates, crossings of bodies of water, and feeding areas. In urban and suburban areas, trapping at entry and exit points from open space into residential areas, waterways under bridges, or through large culverts or utility easements often work well. Use topographical maps or Google Earth to locate potential sites for dens. Place traps where the prevailing wind wafts the odor of the lure toward a travel way. Two or 3 different sets can be made in proximity at strategic locations. 

Trap Preparation and Care 

Traps should be painted or dyed a natural or neutral color with a non-glare finish. They should be power-washed or cleansed with a weed burner. Deodorize traps by placing them outside for several days. After a catch, each trap should be carefully inspected for flaws or damage and repaired or reinforced as necessary. It takes only a couple of missing or weakened hog rings or cage clamps to allow the next coyote to escape. Clean traps prior to reusing them. 

Use of Lures, Scents, and Baits 

Attractants can be used to increase trapping success. Scents appeal to territory or dominance instincts in coyotes. Use a natural, scent-post approach with droppings of coyotes, gland lure, or urine. Alternatives are scents of red foxes or domestic dogs. Scraps of meat and fur of deer, a road-killed rabbit, or dried pet food can be effective. Compounded or call lures are a blend of glands, oils, and foods that can have multiple appeals, such as food, curiosity, territoriality, and sex. Essence of skunks can be added for more calling power in cold conditions. Baits generally are food-based compounds or putrefied meat. Use foods similar to those that the coyotes are exploiting. 

Checking and Resetting Traps 

Most states require that traps be checked at least daily. In residential areas, twice a day is recommended, especially where pets are present. Check from a distance if possible. Reapply lures and baits every 1 or 2 weeks, depending on weather and approach. The same site can be reused after a catch, but it is best to replace the trap with one that has been sanitized and deodorized. 

Problems in Trapping Coyotes 

Educated or trap-shy coyotes can be caught using a variety of lures and sets by continually offering a coyote something new or different. On occasion, 2 traps at a set, blind sets, or cable-restraints may be necessary.  

Non-target catches, including pets, can be a problem. Selection of the lure, tension of the pan, and location of the set can minimize the likelihood of capturing non-target species. In urban and suburban areas notify residents of trapping activities and consider posting the locations of sets.  

Human Scent and Coyote Trapping

 It is important to minimize the scent of humans at sets. Wear gloves and clean footwear, use a ground cloth or knee pads, bathe before setting traps, and use scent neutralizers. Set traps early in the day and make sets quickly to minimize the amount of human scent in the area. 

Foothold Traps 

Foothold traps are available in many makes and models. Old-style, double-longspring traps continue to be favored by some trappers. New coilspring models have several advantages and often are the preferred style. Models include No. 3, No. 4, and heavier models of No. 2. Some of the brands that are custom-designed use different numbers for comparably sized models (e.g., 600, and 650). Jaws can be square, round, offset (i.e., with a slight gap), and thickened (e.g. malleable cast or laminated). The best models are equipped with about 18 inches of kinkless anchor chain that is center-swiveled on the bottom of the trap. Additional swivels help minimize foot damage. Reduce captures of non-targets by adjusting tension of the pan. Rubber-padded jaws can minimize damage to feet and have value for public relations or where pets could be caught. 

New traps should be cleaned of oil, slightly rusted, and dyed. Commercial dyes (e.g., logwood dye and water- or gasoline-based dips are available through companies that supply traps. Old or dirty traps should be cleaned of debris and excess rust and dyed. Traps should be adjusted so that the pan is level when set and has a short, crisp action – ideally at about 3 pounds of tension. 

Traps should be anchored to the ground with a rebar stake or cable anchor. It is paramount that a trapped coyote cannot pull the stake and escape. Various lengths of stakes or even double stakes can be used, depending on soil conditions. A swiveling action at the stake is important. In rocky, hard soils, an alternative to staking is to attach the trap to a heavy, pronged drag. Heavy cover or brush must be present, and a 6- to 8-foot chain is needed (Figure 13). 

Select the exact spot just off the natural travel way where the trap can be blended, up against a wire fence or tucked into a brush pile or cluster of shrubs.

Figure 13. Trapping drag. Image by PCWD. 

The trap should look subtle or natural, not imposing or out-of-place. It must be well bedded (i.e., level, stable, and solid). The floor and pan should be well-blended with soil or native soil. Where cover is present, the sides, back, and top of the trap should be covered with limbs pruned from local brush, shrubs, or trees. In more open areas, such as along a wire fence, little blending may be necessary. A ½-inch diameter stepping stick can be placed just in front of the pan, 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Minimize human scent by wearing gloves and knee pads. Make sets quickly early in the day. 

Types of sets can be categorized as hole sets, flat sets, or blind sets. The classic dirt-hole set simulates where an animal has dug a hole to bury or retrieve something. The trap is placed near the hole under the apron of dirt. Flat sets include a lure holder on top of the ground, such as a patch of hide, small bone, or droppings of an animal. Blind sets are carefully concealed in a natural travel way (e.g., cow trail) of the coyote, with no other attractant.  

The following materials are needed to place a set: 

  1. 24-inch rebar stake (½-inch diameter) or anchor for the trap; 
  2. trowel for digging a bed (depression) for the trap and hole for the bait; 
  3. hammer for digging and driving the stake into the ground; 
  4. gloves to protect hands and minimize scent; 
  5. kneeling pad, knee pads, or ground cloth; 
  6. pan cover or under-pad to keep dirt from obstructing movement of trap pan; 
  7. screen sifter for sifting soil over the trap; 
  8. whisk broom or other device to level and blend soil over the trap; and 
  9. lure, scent, or bait for an attractant. 

To make a typical set, first select the exact spot close to the travel way or distinctive feature, preferably upwind. Level, open areas, even if relatively small, are preferred over steep terrain or heavy cover. A low backing, such as a small shrub, grass clumps, rock, or cow pie is helpful. 

Dig a dish-shaped depression where you want the trap. It should be slightly larger than the trap and deep enough that the set trap will be ¼ inch below the surrounding ground. The excess soil can be put in the sifter or discarded if wet or unsuitable. Drive the stake through the connector into the ground, slightly off-center in the trap bed.  

Set the trap and press or twist it into the bed with the trap dog (i.e., trigger) toward the attractant. The trap must be level, firmly bedded, and very stable. The chain and stake can be used to help support the loose jaw. With an under pad or pan cover in place, sift and pack soil over, around, and inside the trap until smoothly covered. Extra sifted, dry soil can be carried to the set if necessary. When dealing with wet or frozen conditions, peat moss, pulverized manure, waxed-soil, or table salt can be mixed with dry soil. 

Dig a 3-inch diameter hole on a 45° angle away from the trap and 6 to 8 inches deep. Some of the fine, loose soil from the hole can be pulled or lightly raked over the trap for blending. A few pebbles or small dirt chunks can be placed strategically to subtly guide the coyote to step on the pan. Place a couple of chunks of bait or a tablespoon of paste bait in the hole. Place several drops of gland or call lure on the lip of the hole or a few squirts of urine on the backing. A whisk broom can be used to further blend the area and brush out tracks. A flat or blind set needs to be blended a lot more naturally than a dirt-hole set. The trap pan should be 6 to 9 inches from the attractant and offset right or left a couple of inches. Some trappers prefer to set 2 traps at each set. 

Figures 14a through 14f illustrate the procedures for making a foothold set.  Photos by Ron Case.

Cable-restraints 

The technique of snaring involves setting a steel cable loop in the path of an animal to capture it by the neck, body, or leg. Recent advances in equipment and technique has led wildlife biologists to prefer the term “cable-restraints” over snares. Most modern cable-restraints are made from a 5- to 10-foot galvanized steel aircraft cable with a slide lock on one end used to create a loop or noose. A small loop or swivel on the other end is used to attach the cable-restraint to an anchor (Figure 15).  

Cables vary in number of wire strands and type of twist. Standard number of strands is 7 x 7 (flexible), 1 x 19 (stiff), and 7 x 19 (very flexible). Lethal cable-restraints are designed and set to capture an animal around the neck and kill it quickly by strangulation. 

Most lethal cable-restraints for coyotes are made from 3/32– or 5/64– inch cable and constructed with non-relaxing slide locks. Non-lethal cable-restraints capture an animal by the neck or foot and hold it alive. Non-lethal cable-restraints usually are made from heavier cable (e.g., 7/64– or 1/8-inch) to minimize “chew outs” and constructed with relaxing locks. A variety of locks are available.  

Figure 15. Cable-restraint for a coyote. Image by PCWD. 

Cable-restraints offer several advantages over foothold traps. They are lightweight, compact, simple, affected little by weather, easy to set, inexpensive, and offer a high degree of safety for humans. Cable-restraints were 10 times more selective over steel foothold traps for coyotes and bobcats in Texas. Cable-restraints can be a hazard to livestock. Use of deer stops and break-away or relaxing locks has improved specificity of cable-restraints. 

Newly purchased, commercial cable-restraints and extension cables can be cleaned by boiling the cable-restraints in a pan or bucket of water with 4 tablespoons of baking soda for at least 15 minutes. Pour off the oily water, rinse, and hang to dry. After boiling, cable-restraints should be kept clean of foreign odors. The cable-restraints will turn a dull gray color. Camouflage cable-restraints by treating them with brown logwood crystals and dye, or with low gloss paint. Choose colors that match the coloration of the areas in which the cable-restraints will be placed. Wear clean gloves when handling and setting cable-restraints.  

Cable-restraints that are designed to capture predators by the neck or leg are set directly in the path of the animal and held in place using various techniques. One support that works particularly well incorporates a 36-inch piece of 12-gauge galvanized or 9-gauge soft wire. Form a V-shaped bend in the support wire, about 4 inches from the end, and drive the wire into the ground with a notched rod (Figure 16) to prevent the support from moving in the wind.  

Wrap the cable-restraint around the support 3 times and hold it in place with a U-bend formed in the upper end of the cable-restraint support. Bend the cable-restraint cable slightly upward, just inside the lock, to ensure that the cable- restraint loop is not closed by the wind (Figure 17). Cable-restraints should be attached to a solid object so that coyotes that have been captured cannot escape. Use a steel ½-inch diameter rebar, 24 to 30 inches long for coyotes and smaller predators (Figure 18). Attach the cable-restraint to the rebar with a strong swivel to prevent tangling and breaking. Use a lead cable that is at least as strong as the cable of the cable-restraint can be used to attach a short cable-restraint to the rebar stake. Avoid using 9-gauge wire or several strands of 14-gauge wire to anchor cable-restraints to a rebar stake because they may bend, crystallize, and break. When used for coyotes, a cable-restraint can be secured to a dead tree limb that is at least 6 inches in diameter and 6 feet long. 

Figure 16. Demonstration of driving the support wire. Image by PCWD. 
Figure 17. Setting a cable-restraint. Image by PCWD. 

Cable-restraints that are set in holes under woven-wire fences can be held in place 1 to 2 inches from the fence with the cable-restraint support system (Figure 19). The restraint should be set far enough away from the fence to prevent the lock from catching on the bottom wire. The bottom of the loop should be about 2 inches above the bottom of the hole. The cable-restraint can be anchored to the heavy-gauge wire on the bottom of the fence. Use 2 strands of baling wire or S-hooks to fasten the cable-restraint to the bottom wire.  

Figure 18. Fastening the cable-restraint to the stake. Image by PCWD. 

Cable-restraints usually are set in a round or oval loop. In a trail set (Figure 20), a round loop that is 12 inches in diameter can form an oval loop that is about 14 inches high and 10 inches wide.  

Figure 19. Cable-restraint set at a cross-under near a woven-wire fence. Image by PCWD. 
Figure 20. Trail cable-restraint set. Image by PCWD. 

Vary diameters and heights of round-look when trapping coyotes (Table 1).

Type of Set Diameter of round-loop Height above ground 
Trail 9 to 12 10 to 12 
Under fence 7 to 10 

Table 1. Diameters and heights of loops for trapping coyotes with a cable-restraint. 

Lethal cable restraints work best when they are set where entanglement with something nearby, such as brush or an additional pole or stake is likely. Non-lethal cable-restraints should be set to avoid entanglement. 

Animals usually follow the easiest route through heavy cover. The routes, which generally consist of trails, are excellent locations to place cable-restraints to capture coyotes. Effective locations for snaring coyotes are: (1) along trails in thickets or heavy vegetation leading to a carcass, (2) on trails under fences, (3) on livestock trails in vacant pastures, (4) in the bottoms of ravines, and (5) on narrow paths inside weeds or brush. Trails can be created by driving on weeds or stubble with a pickup, by walking in snow, or by mowing a trail through weeds or grass with a weed eater.  

Sites where cable-restraints are set should be selected carefully to avoid capturing non-target animals. Avoid setting cable-restraints in the following areas: (1) in pastures with livestock, (2) within 25 yards of carcasses (to prevent capturing birds of prey and other scavengers), (3) on any trails used by livestock, deer, elk, and other non-target animals (attract predators away from these trails with specific baits and lures), (4) under fences where livestock, antelope, deer, or non-target animals are using the “crawl under,” and (5) where people can readily view animals that have been captured.  

Use a short cable to reduce injuries where dogs that have accidentally been captured might jump over a fence or a branch. Avoid entanglement sets where dogs might be captured. Use the lightest cable-restraint breakaway lock possible. If livestock, deer, elk, or antelope are captured by a leg, they can usually break a light lock but may be held by heavy locks. Record the location and number of cable-restraints on a map so all can be found. Remove all cable-restraints when damage stops or when they cannot be checked frequently. In some cases a 1- to 2-inch diameter stick placed across the trail at cable height or a little lower will encourage a coyote to duck into the cable-restraint and big game animals to step over.  

Cable-restraints are not legal in all states. Where cable-restraints are legal, most states require that cable-restraints be visually inspected every 24 hours. Cable-restraints should be checked early in the morning to increase the probability of releasing non-target animals before they are harmed.  

Figure 21. Collarum® trap.  
Photo by Wildlife Control Supplies, LLC. 

Species-specific Traps 

The Collarum® trap is a cable-restraint type device that captures canids by throwing a relaxing noose around their neck (Figure 21). 

It is highly selective for canids because the trigger mechanism requires a bite-and-pull response. Animals are relatively uninjured, so the trap is a superb choice for use in areas with several non-target animals. Check regulations on the use of a Collarum® in your area. The trap has been used successfully by animal control agencies to capture stray dogs. Consult its literature on use. More information is available at WildlifeControlSupplies.com. 

Cage Traps 

When cage-trapping coyotes, the size of the trap matters. Coyotes can be caught in traps that are 36 to 42 x 15 x 15 to 18 inches, but 60 to 72 x 20 x 26 inches are preferred. All traps must be heavy duty. Heavy-gauge wire screen, frame rods, connectors, and triggers are essential. Solid pans are best for purposes of blending into the surroundings. Doors can be straight-drop (e.g., guillotine-style) or protruding, slightly above horizontal. Lock mechanisms must be rugged. A rear bait door is convenient. 

Cage traps are an alternative in situations where footholds, cable-restraints, and shooting are restricted or prohibited. The efficacy and efficiency of cage traps is much lower than other methods. The general consensus among wildlife control professionals is that cage traps are not very effective for capturing coyotes. It is not unusual for 30 or more days to pass before the first coyote is caught, and juvenile coyotes are most susceptible. Whenever possible, place traps with doors wired open several weeks in advance of the trapping date to allow coyotes to gain familiarity with them. 

Opposition to Trapping 

Many people oppose trapping (particularly the use of footholds and cable-restraints), especially in urban situations. A top priority of some animal rights groups is to ban the trapping of coyotes. The most common objections to trapping include: 1) traps are perceived as “cruel and inhumane,” and 2) concern over catching and harming non-target animals, especially endangered species and pets. Some of the arguments are inaccurate and unfounded. Footholds and cable-restraints are some of the most effective and safe tools available to wildlife managers. For example, heavy-duty, long spring traps are a primary tool for the recapture of wolves to re-collar them. Number 3 padded-jaw traps were the primary tool used to capture lynx for reintroduction into Colorado, and cable-restraints with stops were the primary tool used to live-capture wolves for re-introduction to Yellowstone National Park. The design and technology of traps is improving, and new devices often surpass the stringent humane-trap standards of the USA-EU International Standards Organization. When used properly, traps are effective, selective, and safe. 

Handling 

Relocation 

Relocation of coyotes is suitable only for rescues.   

Translocation 

Translocation of coyotes is not practical in most situations, nor legal in some states.  

Euthanasia 

A .22 rim fire short or CB cap to the head is a good method for euthanasia of coyotes if allowed in your municipality. Do not shoot a coyote in the head if it must be tested for rabies. If you are authorized to use immobilization or tranquilizer drugs, the animal can be sedated and moved to another location to be euthanized. Immobilization and transportation is useful where shooting is prohibited or indiscreet. Carbon-dioxide also is an appropriate method. Use a snare-pole to control the coyote. Transfer the coyote from the trap into a suitable cage. 

Disposal 

In public areas, transport the carcass in a large trash bag to avoid questions from the public. Check your local and state regulations regarding disposal of carcasses. 

Other Control Methods 

Denning 

Predation frequently can be resolved by locating dens of coyotes and removing the pups. “Denning” may be warranted as a preventive strategy if predation has historically and consistently occurred in a particular area during lambing season.  

Coyotes that are breeding are extremely territorial, and vigorously defend their territories against other canids. Coyotes often den in the same area every year. If a particular denning pair of coyotes has a history of existing with and not preying on livestock, it may be to the advantage of the producer to leave them alone. Their removal will open the territory that may become occupied with coyotes that are more likely to prey on livestock. Although tracking a coyote from the site of a kill back to its den requires skill and persistence, it may be the best method to locate the den of the offending animals.  

Coyotes often howl in response to a howl from another coyote near their den. One or both adult coyotes often will be near the den between 7:30 and 9:00 in the morning. A response can be elicited by voice-howling, blowing a coyote howler call, or broadcasting recorded calls from an electronic player. It usually is best to wait 30 minutes to an hour between howls because the same coyotes may not respond again within that period. 

When the approximate location of a den is determined, careful planning is required to ensure the best chance of immediately removing the adult coyotes. Approach the den unseen and downwind to within calling distance. Bring a high-powered rifle or repeating shotgun loaded with heavy shot. A call that imitates the whines or yelps of a pup can be very effective in luring out a coyote under these circumstances, especially when used in conjunction with a dog trained to act as a decoy. A small- to medium-sized dog in the vicinity of the den focuses the coyotes and reduces the likelihood that the hunter will be detected. The sounds of a pup in distress, along with the sight of a dog near the den, will cause most coyotes to display highly aggressive behavior, frequently chasing the dog back to the hunter. After the adults are removed, the pups can be killed by fumigating the den with a gas cartridge registered for this purpose, or the pups can be dug out by hand.  

If attempts to shoot one or both adults are unsuccessful, the chances of capturing them are improved if the pups are left alive and confined in the den. Drive stakes 2 inches apart down through the den entrance. Carefully place blind sets in the den trails or at the den mound. Capture often will result when the adults return to investigate the area. If the adults are not captured within a reasonable period, the pups should be destroyed. Removal of the pups often is effective in stopping predation, even if the adult coyotes are not removed.  

Aircraft can be used to locate dens of coyotes when depredations occur in spring or early summer in open prairies or sagebrush terrain. Early morning provides the best lighting for locating adult animals near the den, or as they return from hunting. The low-angle light reflects on the coyote and provides good contrast with the surrounding vegetation and soil. Actual den signs, however, show up better during the middle of the day when light is coming from directly overhead. Dens are most easily located after the pups have begun venturing outside. The pups soon trample down the vegetation around the den, making the site more visible from the air. If aerial shooting is legal, it often is possible to remove the adults and pups in a single operation. In open terrain, landings often can be made within walking distance of the den.  

Removal of coyotes from dens requires special skills, training, and considerable time, but the advantages can be significant. A cost-benefit analysis conducted during one study determined that the cost to remove a den of depredating coyotes could be recovered if 3.6 lambs were saved. In the same study, the average number of lambs killed by each pair of coyotes was 5 per week. While these findings indicate that denning could be cost-effective after only a few days, the benefits actually continue in most instances for the duration of the season. The technique of denning can be very selective for the offending animals and can resolve some depredation problems at relatively low cost.