Predators on the Prowl
New Kentucky law allows
spotlighting coyotes to help
reduce threat to livestock
LA GRANGE, Ky. (December 2013) – For the last several years, Ballardsville, Ky., farmer and resident Kevin Jefferies has been plagued by coyotes. Even though they may disappear for a while, they always return to attack cattle and cause trouble.
“You may take one or two out, and disrupt the pack, maybe slow it down. But eventually, they will always come back,” said Jefferies, who owns 250 acres in Ballardsville on Hwy. 22.
He leases a lot of farm land as well, a total of 1,200 acres in Oldham County. Jefferies raises livestock and grain and said he has been battling coyotes for the last several years. “They have attacked the calves and some cows, too. Coyotes can get pretty aggressive. They run in packs and can affect the breeding of the cows.”
Photo by Helen McKinney
Oldham County farmer Kevin Jefferies is among regional farmers who must keep an eye out for coyotes so they won’t harm their cattle herds.
His nephew, David McCall, farms with him. McCall’s advice is to “stay one step ahead of them,” said Jefferies. “In some of the more urban areas of the county, coyotes have attacked family pets and come up on back porches.”
Coyotes have become such a problem that the Kentucky General Assembly on March 19 passed House Bill 60 that permits people to use spotlights and night-vision gear to hunt coyotes at night, with the exception of hunting them during deer hunting season. Hunters are required to use shotguns that are 10 gauge or smaller and not high-powered rifles. They are able to use bait and calls to attract coyotes in an effort to thin out the population.
The bill was aimed at reducing the coyote population and was a welcome move by Jeffries and other Kentucky landowners.
“We appreciate the fact that the legislature did see a problem,” said Jefferies, “and try to address it. The Fish & Wildlife Department has seen it, too.”
Coyotes are distinctive in appearance, having pointed noses, pointed ears that always stand erect and fluffy tails that are typically held low. Males can weigh up to 50 pounds, but most coyotes are smaller than this. In the eastern United States, coyotes are typically darker in color, with tan, brown and black fur. Coyotes can often be difficult to hunt because of their keen sense of sight, smell and hearing.
Barbara Rosenman, director of Oldham County Animal Control, is nationally certified in animal control management and cruelty investigation. Oldham County Animal Control is a nationally certified animal shelter that provides quality care to stray animals in Oldham County.
“Animal Control does receive phone calls regarding coyotes,” she said. “Sometimes people are upset by seeing a coyote in a residential area or county park.”
Farmers, on the other hand, “tend to take care of coyote problems on their own if they are bothering livestock.”
Rosenman does not think coyotes are a big countywide problem; rather, there are certain areas in which coyotes are a problem. She said the animal, since it is native to the state, is “under purview of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife resources.
There is much that people can do to discourage coyotes from visiting an area.”
Because coyotes are attracted to an area because it represents a food source, she suggests simple things like cleaning a grill after a cookout will discourage coyotes and raccoons from exploring the area. These animals are attracted by the smell of the grease and food remnants.
“Feeding pets outside can attract coyotes.” If a homeowner has outdoor dogs and cats, Rosenman encourages owners to “feed them once a day in the morning and then remove the uneaten food. Coyotes are carnivores, but have eating habits of omnivores. They will eat fruits, grains and vegetables, so pick up ripe fruit from under trees and take in bird feeders at night.”
Jefferies said coyotes are nocturnal animals and are hard to hunt during the day. “You can hear them at night from a long way off.”
One reason the coyotes may be getting braver is due to the fact that Oldham County contains what he labeled, “a more urban environment now.”
What were once fields and woods where the coyotes lived has been turned into subdivisions, forcing the animals out. Having no place to go, they are returning to the areas they once knew as home.
Oldham County is not the only place battling the nocturnal animal. The coyote problem has become a statewide problem, with coyotes killing small wild game and often over-eating an area. The bulk of their diet consists of small wild mammals, carrion, fruits and vegetable matter, but some coyotes will kill livestock. This occurs more in the spring when coyotes need extra food for their young.
Coyotes can breed with dogs and produce a hybrid offspring called a coydog, said Rosenman. Usually, large coyotes are often hybrids, and coyotes will kill cats and small dogs. Typically, the breeding is a large male dog and a female coyote.
“Coydogs are not sterile and can breed back to coyotes, wolves and dogs,” she said.
Steven Dobey, Wildlife Program Coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife, said, “Coyote numbers have increased considerably in Kentucky over the last 25 years.”
Coyotes live in all 120 Kentucky counties, whereas they once lived primarily in western North America. They began migrating east in the 1950s and came to Kentucky in the 1970s after crossing the frozen Mississippi River.
“They really began increasing following the freezing of the Ohio River in 1977, which promoted their natural range expansion into the eastern U.S.,” said Dobey.
Presently, their range extends from Alaska to Mexico and California to Maine. “Likewise, they can thrive equally well in remote habitats and suburban areas.”
Dobey said that the Fish & Wildlife Department received only one public comment during the month-long public comment period that is required of the regulatory approval process.
“Coyotes are very adaptable,” said Jefferies. “That’s the problem. They’re pretty wily.”
Tom Deible, a farmer in the Centerfield area of Oldham County, says, “You can’t eliminate them. They’re not just something you can go out and get rid of.”
Deible has a farm at the corner of Camden Lane and Hwy. 22 but also rents land elsewhere in the county. He said he doesn’t have as much trouble now with coyotes as when he had a dairy. He has since switched to raising beef cows.
Problems arose when “the cows were calving,” Deible said. “Coyotes would get the mothers off guard” and cause trouble for the cows. He said that when it comes to coyotes being a nuisance, “you have to watch young calves and small pets.”
Dobey said, “Collectively, this new provision will not ‘control coyote numbers.’ Rather, our decision to allow the night hunting of coyotes creates an additional tool for landowners who are suffering depredation from coyotes.”
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