Thinking about using a coyote trap to remove the coyote(s) hanging around your yard or neighborhood? There are a few things that you should know first before setting a trap or hiring a professional trapper.
The wily coyote
Coyotes are notoriously smart, elusive animals with a very sensitive sniffer. Even a trace of human scent on a coyote trap or near a trapping site will keep coyotes away. A trap set with the intention of catching a coyote will instead usually end up catching a raccoon, opossum, skunk, or even a pet cat or dog.
It’s all in the family (dynamic)
Many people are surprised to learn that reducing the coyote population through trapping, shooting, or otherwise killing coyotes can result in an increase in the population size, instead of the intended decrease! This is because killing coyotes splits up coyote family groups and causes them to disperse. Normally, coyotes live in family groups with just one breeding (alpha) female. When the alpha female is killed, the remaining females will disperse and form their own new family groups and then start breeding. Overall, this leads to more females breeding in the population than before lethal control was used. The sudden increased availability of resources that results from a population temporarily reduced through trapping or shooting of coyotes also allows for larger litter sizes, earlier breeding ages for females, and better survival odds for the pups. This “puppy” boom quickly replenishes the local coyote population and many times leads to a larger population than there was before.
What are you leaving behind?
Speaking of pups, many people don’t think to consider what happens to a coyote’s young when he or she is trapped. Most coyotes in the spring and summer are tending to dependent pups, who will be orphaned if their mother and father are killed. Without parents to teach them not only how to hunt mice, rats, and other small mammals (such as rabbits and woodchucks), but also how to navigate urban landscapes while avoiding people, these orphaned pups are more likely to become nuisance coyotes that scavenge in garbage cans and eat pet food off people’s porches.
Can’t I just remove or relocate the problem coyote?
A commonly held belief is that removing a problem coyote will solve conflicts between coyotes, people, and pets. However, even if you are able to successfully identify, catch, and lethally remove a problem coyote (an extremely difficult undertaking, given their intelligence and elusive nature), your success will be short-lived at best. The dead coyote(s) won’t have learned anything, and the remaining coyotes will not understand that the removed coyotes were killed due to their problematic behavior of visiting neighborhoods during the day, taking pets, or exhibiting boldness around people. Killing coyotes merely opens up habitat and creates empty home ranges, creating an opportunity for new coyotes to come in and take advantage of the same conditions that produced the problems in the first place.
Although the idea of relocating a coyote may seem better than a lethal approach, relocation is even less effective. Relocation is usually not allowed as wildlife laws typically prohibit the relocation of coyotes for a number of reasons. Coyotes are also very territorial and occupy very large home ranges (in some cases up to 40 square miles!) and upon being relocated, will just come right back.
Getting to the root of the problem
Instead of setting a coyote trap, your time would be better spent doing some reconnaissance work around your yard and neighborhood to find out what is attracting the coyote(s) in the first place. Usually, coyotes are attracted into yards and neighborhoods by food. Eliminating food attractants like unsecured garbage, pet food outside, BBQ scraps, and fallen fruit (not just from your yard, but from your neighbors’ yards too!) will remove the incentive for coyotes to visit your property. Unattended pets (especially cats and small dogs) or livestock (such as chickens or lambs) can also attract coyotes. After removing these attractants (or securing pets and livestock with a coyote-proof fence), haze away any coyotes that you see by being “big and loud” (yelling and waving your arms, blowing a whistle, squirting them with a water bottle), etc. This will send the message to coyotes rather quickly that your yard or neighborhood is not a welcome place for them to be, and they will leave.