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Wildlife specialist discusses coyote management during spring calving

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Every producer knows calving season attracts predators, especially coyotes. Managing coyote populations can be extremely effective when trying to keep calf losses at a minimum.

“Predator population can largely depend on how ranchers care for their cattle,” says Dr. Drew Ricketts, Kansas State University (KSU) wildlife Extension specialist during a weekly educational program hosted by KSU Beef System Specialist Dr. Jaymelynn Farney who is also featured in the KSU Agriculture Today podcast on Jan. 25. 

            Ricketts shares a 2015 National Agriculture Statistics Service estimates 11.1 percent of losses for cow/calf operations are predator losses. Almost half of the 11.1 percent is due to coyotes, he notes. 

            During the podcast, Ricketts said his PhD research focused on coyotes. The research studied coyotes’ social hierarchy as well as territory range. 

            “We were studying some GPS collared coyotes near a big cattle operation and some dead bison,” Ricketts explains. “During the study, it was discovered coyotes would travel over a mile outside the original territory to get to easy meals.”

            Ricketts states disposing of deceased cattle can help manage predation, noting producers don’t want to leave animals who have the possibility of attracting predators.

Social hierarchy

            During the podcast, Ricketts shares a detailed explanation of coyote social hierarchy, noting mated pairs or territorial coyotes often claim a territory and stay there. Coyote territories are approximately one mile, he adds. 

            “Territorial animals are staying in one place because they know where to look for food,” Ricketts explains. “When coyotes become familiar with the area they are in, they don’t need easy meals such as calves.”

            Coyotes who aren’t territorial are called transients. These coyotes will move between and even overlap different territories, covering terrain up to 10,000 acres. 

“These coyotes are just trying to make a living wherever they can. They are scavenging at this point,” he states.

            Ricketts continues, “Transient coyotes are more likely to cause problems when it comes to producers losing calves because the territorial coyotes in the area have eaten all the mice and rabbits. The transient coyotes are going to be the first to cause producers problems. This is when producers are going to have to step in and start managing the predator population.”

Population control

 “From a predator management standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to reduce a coyote population if producers aren’t having a predation problem,” Ricketts says. “Producers would have to remove over 70 percent of the coyote population for over 50 years to actually make a dent in the population.”

            Ricketts suggests the best time to work on predator management is after there is a predatory issue. If producers aren’t losing calves and start trying to control the predator population, they can influence the social hierarchy and potentially lead to more calf losses.

Ranchers should also be aware of how weather conditions and seasons increase or decrease predator activity, shares Ricketts. Calving season always attracts predators. Calving in barns or corrals close to producers’ home base can help keep predators at bay.

            When a coyote is killed, there is another waiting to take its place, he adds. It can become a full-time job for producers trying to eliminate the predator population.

            Ricketts recommends checking state laws or contacting wildlife services before proceeding with predator management. 

            Madi Slaymaker is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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