Ask The Biologist

Meep! Meep!

Meep! Meep!

By Bob Humphrey

Just like in the cartoons, coyotes keep coming back for more.

QUESTION: We try to remove coyotes whenever possible on our hunt club, but someone suggested we might be doing more harm than good. How can this possibly be?

ANSWER:It seems intuitive that removing predators like coyotes would be beneficial to deer, but things are seldom as simple as we would like. Taking out one coyote has the immediate effect of removing one predatory mouth, potentially reducing deer mortality by whatever amount that single coyote might have consumed in the immediate future.

But predator populations are typically density dependent. Lower predator numbers means more available prey for those that remain. That means remaining individuals are healthier and may produce more offspring, resulting in higher predator densities and greater mortality in subsequent years.

Which coyotes you remove can also influence social structure. Taking out transient males that are just passing through or even younger residents would have less impact than removing one of the dominant pair, assuming the coyotes in your area even have an integral family group. But removing an alpha male could result in several new males coming into the area.

As an objective biologist I can’t advocate single species management like predator control unless a particular prey species or population is so imperiled that controlling predators is the only way to prevent their demise. However, as a deer hunter I tend to take a more short-term and direct approach. One less mouth to feed means more food for me.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd