Coyotes Can Protect Your Livestock from Predators

Coyotes Can Protect Your Livestock From Predators

Why killing coyotes can increase coyote predation.


NOTE: this article was originally published to on August 26, 2019. It was written by Kathy Voth.


Thanks to Randy Comeleo, Program Advisor, Agriculture and Wildlife Protection Program, Benton County, Oregon, and Oregon Small Farm News for this excellent article!


Coyote hunts rodents not cows. Photo provided by Randy Comeleo


Livestock losses are an unfortunate reality of ranching and the use of traps and snares is a common way to attempt to reduce predator-livestock conflict. However, one USDA study (Shivik et al. 2003) noted that for many types of predators, there is a paradoxical relationship between the number of predators removed and the number of livestock killed. Surprisingly, these researchers found that as more predators were removed, more livestock were killed.

Similarly, in a 14-year USDA study at the University of California Hopland Research and Extension Center (Conner et al. 1998), researchers found that trapping of coyotes did not reduce sheep losses. In fact, scientists found that as trappers worked more hours, more lambs were killed by predators. The unexpected results in these studies can be explained by the reproductive strategy and territorial behavior of highly social predators like the coyote.

In populations exploited by humans, coyotes compensate for reductions in population with increasing immigration, reproduction, and pup survival rates. In one study, nearby coyotes replaced removed coyotes within a few weeks (Blejwas et al. 2002)! In the words of one researcher, “Killing coyotes is kind of like mowing the lawn, it stimulates vigorous new growth.” In order to sustain larger litters of pups, breeding adults are compelled to seek larger prey. Nearby sheep – usually ignored by adult coyotes in an unexploited, stable population – become a ready source of food. Thus, a system of snares can become the machinery of a self-perpetuating cycle of death for both coyotes and sheep.

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