- Coyotes are Adaptable
- Coyotes are Omnivores – they eat Animals and Plants
- Coyote Screams are Scary
- How to Protect your Property from Coyotes
By Jill J. Easton
The banshee keening crescendo turned into high pitched screams. The cacophony made our visitors from New Orleans run to lock the doors and draw the blinds. The sounds were as dangerous as shrieking hurricane winds, but worse, had an otherworld edge.
We smiled at the city folk knowing that it was just the sound of a pair from our local coyote pack telling the rest of their extended family they found our carcass dump. Evidently the family took them up on it, because the next morning only a few bones and heads were left.
Are they vicious killers of domestic cattle, chickens and goats?
Are they the eaters of pets and valued game species like turkeys and quail?
Are they partners in controlling pests like rats and rabbits?
Or are they the ultimate survivor, a useful omnivore that fills an important niche in the natural landscape across the continent?
Correct answer: All the above.
The next important question: How many are too much? Cause the only way to totally wipe coyotes out of your land is to fence the perimeter one foot down and eight feet high.
For many of us, if it weren’t for coyotes, we would probably be up to our ears in rabbits, mice and rats. This is one of the reasons coyotes are often found on working farms and ranches. Coyotes can also be spotted along roads at night, cleaning up road-killed carcasses. They even eat carrion when nothing else is available.
Coyotes help keep nature’s fruit basket stocked. They do a wonderful job spreading the seeds of plums, persimmons, blackberries in their scat. They also help spread soft mast crops and nuts.
Another important part of the coyote’s summer diet is insects. They relish grasshoppers, for example. Coyotes doing strange jumping dances in brushy fields are chasing the big bugs around and 80% to 90% of their scat in high ‘hopper areas can consist of grasshopper bits.
The problem with coyotes is, they don’t just eat bugs and seeds. Although these canines are classified as predators, they eat almost anything plant or animal. Stone County Arkansas resident, Elmer Staggs, had five newborn calves killed by coyotes in one season on his mountainside pasture. Chickens, goats and young hogs that aren’t put up at night also suffer from coyote predation.
Coyotes feed on other highly valued wild animals. Eggs of ground nesting birds like turkey and quail are an important part of their spring diet. Young fawns are another favorite meal.
Anything a coyote can put in their mouth that is vaguely edible, will become part of his poop. Corn from food plots or row crops, peanuts and other crops like cantaloupe make meals for a hungry coyote pack.
Interesting Coyote Tidbits
- Coyotes are copraphagic, which means they eat poop, especially cat poop, which provides trace minerals and nutrients that they don’t get from their own food and makes them resistant to diseases. Wildlife biologists at Texas Tech did a blind taste test on scat for coyotes and other animals. They put 10 different kinds of droppings in squares and counted the number of footprints in each square. Cat droppings won paws down.
- Coyotes have selective digestion. In tough times, such as during a snowy winter, they digest much more of the animals they eat than when food is more plentiful.
- In bad times, coyotes limit the number of pups that are born in the spring. Instead of 6-8, they have only one or two offspring.
Next Week: Coyote migrations can help define coyote control methods.