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The coyote (Canis latrans) is a native of the plains and mountainous areas
of the western United States but has become established throughout most of
the eastern United States in the last 20 years. Problems associated with
this population expansion are increasing. Some coyotes kill and eat poultry,
calves, goats, sheep, other livestock, rodents, rabbits, white-tailed deer
fawns, and other wildlife. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat melons,
corn, other agricultural crops, and unattended domestic animals and pets.
Coyotes usually weigh from 23 to 40 pounds, midsized between foxes and
wolves. Coyotes breed in late winter, and usually four to six pups are born
in the spring. Dens are normally in the ground, rock outcroppings, hollow
trees, or brush piles. The male helps care for the young, and family groups
remain closely associated through the fall.
The coyote's coat is a salt and pepper gray, with variations from lighter
colors in some individuals to almost black in others. The ears are always
erect and the tail, which may be black-tipped, is usually straight and is
carried below a level position rather than upturned. Coyote tracks are
longer from front to rear than from side to side. By comparison, most dog
tracks tend to be more rounded. Also, nail imprints of the middle toes of
the coyote tend to converge rather than radiate in the fan-shaped pattern
found in most dog tracks.
Coyotes frequently reveal their presence at evening and occasionally at
dawn, their two periods of greatest activity, by a chorus of yipping and
howling. The home range varies from 3 to 30 square miles, with the male's
ranges usually larger than the female's.
Coyotes are usually intelligent, and the species has survived extensive
control measures in some western states. Individually, each coyote is
different. Most cause no significant damage and are not too difficult to
catch, but some individuals may challenge your trapping ability and require
extra precautions when handling and setting traps.
Philosophies for dealing with coyote damage vary; some people favor
eradication, while others oppose any form of control. Experience in western
states indicates that eradication is both impossible and impractical. Many
control techniques used in the West, such as aerial gunning, poisons, M-44
ejector devices, and coyote getters cannot be recommended for widespread use
in the East.
The purpose of this publication is to assist individuals in minimizing or
preventing coyote damage through techniques that are compatible with social
considerations, wildlife management practices, and habitat conditions of the
eastern United States.
If you desire to begin coyote control, contact your State Fish and Wildlife
Agency or Conservation Department for information on appropriate
restrictions, laws, and regulations.
Try to anticipate conditions and times when damage is likely and use good
husbandry or other preventive practices.
Unprotected poultry, sheep, goats, and newborn calves are particularly
vulnerable to coyote predation. Confine sheep and goats, particularly during
lambing and kidding seasons and at night, to help prevent losses.
Move springer cows to barns or pens near lighted areas or human habitation
to discourage coyote depredation on newborn calves and cows in labor. Remove
dead livestock carcasses from production areas to prevent conditions that
attract coyotes. However, once a serious damage problem has developed,
livestock carcasses may be used to attract or concentrate coyote travel and
aid in control.
Some breeds of guard dogs have been used successfully to minimize coyote
In some states, the incidental harvest of coyotes by hunters has accounted
for 90 percent of the annual harvest. Greater human population densities in
eastern compared to western states may account for more hunter-coyote
encounters. In some states, traditionally longer hunting seasons and the use
of dogs may also increase hunter-coyote encounters. Where appropriate,
landowners and state conservation agencies could encourage coyote harvest to
reduce populations temporarily locally and statewide. Landowners visiting
pastures or working fields may also have opportunities to shoot coyotes.
Predator calling combined with shooting is another technique for harvesting
coyotes. This practice involves the use of electronic devices or hand-held
calls that use a wind vibrated reed to produce sounds that simulate the
distress cry of prey to attract coyotes within range. The technique can be
effective both during the day and at night with the aid of a spotlight.
However, you should check state laws and regulations to insure that these
activities are legal.
Killing adult coyotes and their pups in or near their dens can help reduce
local populations and may solve specific local predation problems. In
eastern states, coyotes often use brush piles left from clearing operations
as dens. You should be watchful for potential coyote dens year-round so that
you can find litters in the spring and destroy them quickly before they are
Trapping is one of the most effective methods for controlling troublesome
coyotes. No. 3 or 4 long or coil spring leghold traps are good choices for
the eastern states. Advantages of the coil spring trap are that trigger
mechanisms (pan) can be adjusted to avoid catching nontarget animals, and
these traps are more easily concealed than longspring traps.
In areas of deep and prolonged snow, longspring traps may be preferred. One
advantage of leghold traps is that you can usually release nontarget animals
Traps with padded jaws may be best for some special situations. If the use
of a trap size or type is restricted, special permits from state
conservation agencies are usually granted to landowners who request them for
Equipment Neededto keep human scent off the
ground, to reduce site disturbance, and to hold excess soil for disposal
when traps are being set.
A 4-by 4-foot plastic or other ground cover
Clean rubber, leather, canvas, or plastic glovesfor handling and setting
No. 3 coil spring traps with chains shortened to about 10 inches and
modified with an end swivel.Some people prefer longspring traps with 6 feet
of chain with a hook or other drag.
Trap stakes of 5/8-inch steel reinforcing bar about 24 inches long for heavy
clay soil and about 36 inches long for sandy soils.Round or flatten stake
tops so they will hold a large washer. Insert stakes through the trap chain
swivel so the washer retains the swivel, chain, and trap once you drive the
stake in the ground.
Dirt sifter with a 1/4-inch hardware cloth bottom.
Odorless plastic or canvas trap pan covers stored in a small plastic bag
Coyote urine and other lures.
A large hammer or hatchetfor driving stakes.
A box, bucket, or packbasketto carry the supplies. Container should have an
outside pouch to keep lures separated from other equipment.
Trap Preparation and Care
You can catch some coyotes with traps fresh out of the box, still covered
with manufacturer's oil. Coyotes have a highly developed sense of smell, and
older ones may smell the oil or other odors and avoid being caught.
Therefore, use of clean, odorless traps gives greater assurance of success.
Pretrapping preparations involve boiling traps for about an hour in water
with red oak bark, walnut or pecan hulls, sumac berries, speckled alder
bark, or logwood crystals to blacken and remove rust, odors, grease, and
oil. Hang traps up to cool where they can be kept clean and dry.
A thin layer of commercial trap wax or a mixture of 10 percent white beeswax
and 90 percent canning paraffin helps preserve the traps and serves as a
lubricant to speed trap action when sprung. You can apply a thin coating to
traps by dipping them in a hot mixture of the wax. Heat the wax slowly to
prevent a fire or explosion. Adjust triggers at this time to function at
about 5 or more pounds of weight. Traps prepared in this way should function
flawlessly until an animal is caught.
Take care not to touch traps or let them come in contact with lure, bait,
animal fat, or anything that would soil them with human or animal odors.
Wash and air-dry the ground cloth frequently to avoid leaving odors on the
ground near the trap.
Three types of trap sets are commonly used with the coil spring trap to
catch coyotes: dirt hole sets, scent post sets, and sets near travel routes.
In all three sets, the techniques to stake, set, and conceal the trap are
The dirt hole set is simply a hole about 1-5 inches in diameter, which
simulates a site where another animal has buried food.
The scent post set simulates a place where a coyote has marked a territory
with urine. Suitable scent post objects to hold lures may be a bleached
bone, tuft of grass, cow chip, chunk of wood, or other small natural objects
that will attract coyotes' attention but not frighten them.
A set near a travel route is used to catch coyotes near frequently traveled
paths, trails, field edges or corners, crossings, or trails leading to
carcasses where coyotes have fed earlier.
Avoid daytime trapping right next to old carcasses, as you may catch
nontarget species. Place traps 50 or more feet upwind of older carcasses.
Make the sets late in the afternoon, and keep them covered during the day
with a box, disk harrow blade, old tub, or similar shield. Coyotes often
return to feed on fresh kills and can be caught by placing one trap about 8
inches away from the portion being fed upon and another about 3 feet away.
After one or two days, move the traps upwind about 50 feet.
Select an area to set a trap by the presence of coyote signs such as actual
sightings, tracks, scats, carcasses or remains, digs under net wire fences,
or other indications of recent coyote activity. Once you choose a general
location, the prevailing wind direction and the type set (dirt hole, scent
post, off trail or other) are important in selecting a specific spot to
place the trap. The spot should be related to other features so that the
odors from lures and scents will be swept downwind across an area that
coyotes use frequently. This arrangement will attract the coyote to the set.
Bare ground areas seem to work well, perhaps because they blend better with
disturbed soil used to cover the trap.
Place traps for dirt hole sets, scent post sets, and sets near fresh
carcasses so that the edge of the trap is about 8 inches away from the edge
of the hole, the object on which urine is placed, or the carcass being fed
on. Do not use urine or lure on a set at a carcass. Both are recommended for
sets upwind of a carcass.
How To Make Sets
The first step in setting the trap is to put down the piece of canvas or
plastic ground cover to work on. Then, wearing gloves and using a digging
tool, dig a hole large and deep enough to conceal the trap with open jaws so
that the trap is about 1/4 inch below the adjoining soil surface. If you use
the longspring trap with chain and drag, make the hole large enough to
accommodate this equipment. Loosen additional dirt in the bottom of the hole
to provide a soft base in which to bed the trap. Keep stones, clods, and
other spoil on the plastic sheet and discard them when the set is completed.
Still wearing the rubber gloves, insert the stake through the trap chain
swivel, and drive it flush to the ground at the edge of the hole where it
does not interfere with the trap. Then, set the trap and bed it by pressing
it firmly into the hole. Press dirt around the outside edges of the trap
Place a cover over the trigger pan and under the trap jaws and add loose
dirt to hold it in place. The cover keeps the space under the trigger pan
from filling with dirt or sand that may prevent normal function. Cut a notch
in the pan cover so that the dog of the trigger is not restrained when the
Sift fine soil, humus, sand, old sawdust, leaf mulch, or a mixture of these
or similar materials over the trap to cover it about 1/4 inch. Using the
digging tool, carefully smooth high places and remove grass, stones, and
other small objects. The finished set should blend as well as possible with
You would usually place a small amount of coyote bait (decayed meat chunks,
fish oil, or prepared paste) in the bottom of the hole of dirt hole sets.
Fish oil or prepared paste on a small stick is used beside trail sets. Check
with the State Conservation or Fish and Wildlife Agency about any
restrictions on the use of baits or lures.
You can scatter about 10 drops of coyote urine to the right or left edge of
the sifted soil on a dirt hole set and apply about a tablespoon of urine to
objects used in scent post sets.
Once you replace the trapping equipment in its container, pick up the
plastic ground cover by its corners and dump the debris from the set well
away from the set. Many trappers make combination sets about 20 feet apart
and occasionally catch a coyote in each.
Check traps daily to service them and remove the catches. A restraining
device made by attaching one end of a steel cable to the end of a 5-foot
length of pipe and threading the other end through the pipe may help release
nontarget catches. Coyotes can be killed by a shot in the head or lower
chest from a .22 long rifle.
The value of coyote pelts taken in winter can vary from $2 to $125 depending
on demand and how carefully they are prepared for market. If you wish to
prepare pelts for market, skin by making a cut up the back of each hind leg
around the vent and along the bottom of the tail out to the tip. Remove the
pelt, including the tail fur, carefully to avoid cutting holes in it. Remove
excess flesh and fat from the skin using a fleshing tool and fleshing beam.
Place the skin, skin-side-out, on a stretcher to dry overnight. Then, remove
and turn it so that the fur side is out, and replace on the stretcher until
completely dry, which may take 5 to 10 days. You can sell pelts separately
or with other furs at auctions or to local fur buyers.
You can buy traps, swivels, sifters, digging tools, gloves, lures, urines,
logwood crystals, fur stretchers, and other trapping supplies from local
suppliers or order them from national trapping supply houses.
For Further Reading
Bekoff, M., ed. 1978. Coyotes: Biology, Behavior, and Management. Academic
Press, Inc. New York, 384 pp.
McGrew, J. C. and W. F. Andelt. 1985. Livestock Guardian Dogs: A New Method
of Reducing Livestock Losses. MF713. Cooperative Extension Service,
Manhattan, Kansas. 8 pp.
Wade, D. A. 1983. Coyotes, pp. C-31 - C-41 in R. M. Timm, ed. Prevention and
Control of Wildlife Damage. Great Plains Agricultural Council. Wildlife
Resource Committee. Nebraska Cooperative Extension Service, Lincoln,
Young, S. P. and H. H. T. Jackson. 1951. The Clever Coyote. The Stackpole
Co., Harrisburg, PA. 411 pp.
Produced in cooperation with Office of Extension and Publications, U. S.
Fish and Wildlife Service under Contract No. 14-16-009-85-971.
By Edward P. Hill, Assistant Leader, Mississippi Cooperative Fish and
Wildlife Research Unit (Mississippi Department of Wildlife Conservation,
Wildlife Management Institute, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and
Mississippi State University, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
cooperating) and Edwin J. Jones, former Extension Wildlife Specialist,
Mississippi State University Extension Service, Mississippi State
Mississippi State University does not discriminate on the basis of race,
color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, or veteran status.
Extension Service of Mississippi State University, cooperating with U.S.
Department of Agriculture. Published in furtherance of Acts of Congress, May
8 and June 30, 1914. Ronald A. Brown, Director
Copyright by Mississippi State University. All rights reserved.
This document may be copied and distributed for nonprofit educational
purposes provided that credit is given to the Mississippi State University