Ask Dr. Dave Samuel About Whitetails
Andy M. from North Carolina writes to ask about culling coyotes. “We’ve got a major coyote problem in my state and other Eastern and Southeastern states. Why do many biologists resist the idea to cull coyotes? Seems to me, getting rid of coyotes would help the deer.”
That’s a great question and one I hear from deer hunters all the time. The question is does culling coyotes change the coyote population over the long haul? Based on several studies I can say it does not. For example, a Deer Blog I receive in my e-mails, summarizes work done in South Carolina where coyotes are having a major impact on fawn recruitment. In that work, researchers removed an average of 4.2 coyotes per square mile per year from January thru April for three years. They removed 474 coyotes during that time on 37 square miles. In other words, they really hammered the coyotes. While doing that they followed 216 radio collared newborn fawns. Before coyote removal fawn survival was 23 percent. After two years of coyote removal, fawn survival was 20 percent. It did jump up to 43 percent after year three, but even so the cost to remove the coyotes was $123 per coyote and landowners or hunters just can’t afford to do that.
The Deer Blog also cited a culling study done on red foxes. That study was done on five areas in France and each area was 100 square miles in size. Hunters and trappers were recruited to help and they killed 3.8 foxes per square mile each year. That is a ton of dead critters! Carrying capacity for the foxes was estimated at 4 foxes per square mile. Even after killing 3.8 foxes per sq. mile, they could not lower late winter densities more than 25- to 32 percent and the reason was immigration. There was some impact if removal was done in the winter, but just as in the S.C. coyote removal study, it was hard to justify the expense for such a small gain.
Andy, one thing is for sure. We’ve got more coyotes than we’ve ever had, and there is a lot we do not know. But right now doing massive coyote removals just doesn’t seem economically feasible, and even if it was economically feasible, the gain in deer numbers isn’t much.
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If you have a question for Dr. Dave Samuel, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, manager of Guide Outdoors. Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for more than 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years