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Coyotes: Helpful Predators or Deer Killers

How Coyotes Have Affected Deer Herds in Different States

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Just like the same pair of boots won't fit every soldier, the same answer to the question, "What should we do about the coyotes?" doesn't fit every hunting area, each county or every state. But here's a cross sampling of what various state biologists have to say when we've asked them about how coyotes affect the deer herds in their states.

According to Chris Cook, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, "I don't think coyotes have had a measurable impact on Alabama's deer herd. There may be an isolated situation, either geographically or timewise, where coyotes take a significant number of fawns, but on a statewide basis, this does not appear to be a problem. Even though coyotes probably have a minimal effect on Alabama's deer herd, it's most likely a positive effect rather than a negative, especially in areas of Alabama with too many deer." Cook also mentions that coyotes feed on deer in Alabama primarily during the summer when fawns are born. "Also, there's some predation by coyotes of wounded deer during hunting season. Too, coyotes will scavenge deer whenever the opportunity presents itself. Although Alabama has an overpopulation of deer, I doubt that most sections of your state can support a higher coyote population."

John Crye, wildlife biologist, explains that, "Coyotes aren't present in the areas of Alaska where deer live. So, coyotes have no effect on our state's deer population."

Cory Gray, the Deer Program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, says, "I'm sure coyotes are having some effect on Arkansas' deer herd, but I assume it's not critical. It is thought that coyotes prey on the smaller and weaker deer and don't affect the majority of the deer herd. Of course, we do consider the impact of coyotes as having a negative effect on the deer herd, since we yearly get reports of coyotes killing deer, primarily fawns in the summertime. Coyote hunting isn't that popular in our state, although we do have some hunters who enjoy the hunt. Overall Arkansas coyotes receive very little human pressure.”Click to enlarge

According to Michael Gregonis, wildlife biologist with the State of Connecticut, "Coyotes probably aren't having much impact on the overall statewide deer population. In our state, coyotes primarily feed on deer during the winter."

Deer Management Section Leader of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission John Morgan reports that, "In Florida, coyotes have had very-little positive or negative effect on deer. There may be some local situations where coyotes may take some deer, and we do have locals occasionally complain about coyotes, but there's seldom anything to it." Morgan says whether or not coyotes feed on deer in Florida is unknown, and, "Florida's coyote numbers are fine."

"In Indiana, coyotes suppress the deer-population growth," Jim Mitchell of Indiana's Department of Natural Resources states. "These coyotes scavenge entrails during the hunting season and kill fawns in late spring and early summer."

Iowa's research indicates that the state has a fairly-low deer mortality due to coyotes. Willy Suchy of Iowa's Department of Natural Resources explains that, "The only time coyotes prey on deer in Iowa is when the deer are less than 6-weeks old, generally from mid-May to July. However, there are many other alternative prey available to coyotes during this time, so they really don't key in on deer fawns."Click to enlarge

"Although we don't have data on the effects of coyotes on the state's deer herd, coyotes certainly kill deer in Kansas," Lloyd Fox, a wildlife biologist with the State of Kansas, says. "There are areas of the state where property owners favor fewer deer, and some of those people would consider the coyotes as a positive influence on deer numbers. There are other people who see losses of deer to coyotes as a reduction in their potential to take deer in the future.”

Fox also mentions that coyotes feed on deer whenever they can, but coyotes primarily influence deer numbers during the summer when they focus on fawns. "One time I observed a coyote chasing a fawn and a doe chasing the coyote," Fox recalls. "I've also observed coyotes trailing and chasing deer in the fall. Kansas has a robust population of coyotes. Because they're the top predators in our wildlife community, they influence many species. Coyotes are pursued by hunters and trappers and provide thousands of user days of outdoor recreation as well as numerous ecological and social benefits. But coyotes also generate their share of conflicts between wildlife and people.
Personally, I'd like to see fewer of them in the Pronghorn range during the fawning season. But, overall, we've lived with the current number of coyotes for decades and can continue to live with them as long as the numbers remain steady."

Kentucky's Big Game Coordinator Jonathan Day feels that the coyote population has had little impact on the state's deer population, but he considers that little impact positive. "Any additional deer mortality that helps keep the population in check is good," Day explains. "Most states don't even have enough hunters to harvest enough deer. Natural mortality helps us." When the coyotes do feed on deer, they primarily feed during the fawn drop. "As long as our coyote population remains about the same, our deer populations will stay under control," Day says. "Any more or any less coyotes, and Kentucky's deer population will experience an increase or a decrease in the amount of deer available for harvesting."Click to enlarge

Bill Woytek, Deer/Moose Project leader for Massachusetts Wildlife, says, "Massachusetts doesn't have any scientific data to provide answers concerning the interaction of coyotes and white-tailed deer. Through our deer-management program, our overall deer population is stable or increasing, depending on the area of the state, which is the desired management goal."

"Some of Mississippi's fawns have been taken by coyotes, but deer are a small percentage of the coyote diet, so there hasn't been much of an effect on our deer herd," William McKinley of Mississippi's Department of Conservation explains. "The coyotes usually feed during and shortly after deer season on unrecovered deer shot by hunters, not on deer they've killed themselves. However, coyotes are very destructive to vegetable farmers when their populations are high. Mississippi needs fewer coyotes to control the havoc they've visited on farmers and their fields."

Kit Hams of Nebraska’s Game and Parks Commission thinks, "The coyotes have had a minimal effect on Nebraska's deer herd. The coyote population has been reduced, primarily by disease. Typically, coyotes have a positive effect on Nebraska's deer population. They prey on fawns that would otherwise survive and have to be controlled by hunters." Hams has no data on the coyote's food habits, but he estimates they usually feed on deer in mid-June during the fawning period and November, due to the availability of human-killed deer. "Fewer coyotes would benefit small game, deer and upland birds, but I'm not sure to what extent," Hams explains. "Bobcat numbers have expanded in Nebraska, while coyote numbers have declined. In the eastern section of the state, coyotes are beneficial because of our abundance of deer. Western Nebraska has fewer deer and some disease problems; so more coyotes would drastically decrease the deer population there."

Tomorrow: More on How Coyotes Have Affected Deer Herds in Different States

Check back each day this week for more about "Coyotes: Helpful Predators or Deer Killers"

Day 1: A Deer Hunt Ruined
Day 2: Why Coyotes Spread Across the U.S.
Day 3: To Shoot or Not to Shoot Coyotes
Day 4: How Coyotes Have Affected Deer Herds in Different States
Day 5:More on How Coyotes Have Affected Deer Herds in Different States


Entry 457, Day 4