Challenged By The Cunning Coyote

It’s been said that when the world comes to an end the last two living creatures will be cockroaches and coyotes.    While I have little experience with the bug, I certainly have a great deal of respect for the wily canine predator.   In fact, in just a few short decades the coyote has greatly expanded its range from mostly the southwestern reaches of Minnesota to now nearly the entire state.IMG5__00524

Yesterday, I attended a coyote trapping seminar held in Owatonna at Northwest Trapper’s Supply and given by renowned predator trapper, Mark June, from Nebraska.   June, who holds a master’s degree in wildlife biology, has spent a lifetime studying and teaching the ways of the coyote.   He was on hand to share his thoughts on how Minnesota’s trappers can better meet the challenge of catching coyotes.

Here’s a few key points gleaned from Mark June’s seminar:

  • Trapping coyotes and fox are two totally different challenges.
  • Coyotes are a family unit most often traveling in pairs.   Fox tend to be a solitary hunter.
  • Fox tend to have a small home range (within a section or two of land).   Coyotes, on the other hand, can range over several miles.   In fact, one in five coyotes are considered transient with no “home” range.
  • Juvenile coyotes from this year’s litter will be kicked out of the family unit sometime during the next month or so — creating more coyotes on the move.
  • Studies have shown you cannot adversely affect the coyote population by trapping.   Even if all the coyotes were removed from a section, within a matter of weeks new family units would move back into the available territory.
  • When coyotes disperse (or become on the move) the number one route of travel is along railroad beds.
  • Trappers should especially look for coyotes just outside of most city limits.   It may be more difficult to obtain permission, but these tend to be hot coyote population areas.
  • Also, look for major funnel points in the land’s topography.   Long fence-lines can also make for good zones of coyote travel.
  • When seeking landowner permission, use a business card and act professional.   #1. Tell the landowner who you are and where you are from.  #2. Explain to the landowner what you intend to do. (this approach minimizes landowner fears because people who are up to no good generally won’t tell you who they are)
  • In terms of trap placement, get in location and observe closely for coyote sign.   When you find it…place the trap there.   Coyotes are extremely neophobic meaning they have a fear of anything new.   It takes a coyote at least 3–5 days to acclimate to new objects.   Understand you can’t make a coyote do something they don’t want to do.
  • Set more traps in one location.   Because coyotes typically travel in groups they are susceptible to multiple catches.
  • Use a typical dirt hole set with a small backing.   The smaller the backing the more direct coyotes will come in.   Coyotes typically investigate things at a 45 degree angle.
  • When placing the trap…look for a spot in the landscape that isn’t too green.   Brown is better.
  • The typical coyote’s gait is about 12 inches, so when placing trap make sure the pan is 9 inches from dirt hole/backing and then 3 inches off center.   Studies have shown this distance will yield the best results for trap placement.
  • Be sure to use a small piece of wool to cover bait as it adds to the curiosity of the set.

Keep in mind that for many of us coyote trapping represents a unique challenge pitting our skills as outdoorsmen against one of nature’s most difficult animals to trap.   Even with fur prices expected to be substantially depressed this season, thousands of trappers throughout Minnesota will still be answering the challenge afforded them by pursuing this wily canine predator.

© 2009 Jim Braaten.   All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.