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  1. #1
    Member awndray's Avatar
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    Why killing coyotes doesn’t make livestock safer

    Few Americans probably know that their tax dollars paid to kill 76,859 coyotes in 2016. The responsible agency was Wildlife Services (WS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its mission is to “resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” This broad mandate includes everything from reducing bird strikes at airports to curbing the spread of rabies.

    Controlling predators that attack livestock is one of the agency’s more controversial tasks. WS uses nonlethal techniques, such as livestock guard dogs and fladry – hanging strips of cloth from fences, where they flutter and deter predators. But every year it also kills tens of thousands of predators, including bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, cougars and wolves.

    However, there is no clear evidence that lethal control works to reduce human-predator conflict. In fact, it can even make the problem worse. At the same time, research shows that predators play key roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. As a conservation biologist specializing in human-wildlife conflicts, I see growing evidence that it is time to reconsider lethal control.

    Warfare on the range

    Coyotes have been a target ever since European explorers first arrived in their territory centuries ago. Nonetheless, their range has expanded from the western plains across most of the continent.

    The most common reason for killing coyotes is to reduce predation of livestock, such as sheep and calves. In a 2015 USDA report on sheep losses, ranchers reported how many of their animals died in 2014 and how they died. Twenty-eight percent of adult sheep losses and 36 percent of lamb losses were attributed to predators. Of those animals, ranchers stated that 33,510 adult sheep (more than half of total predation losses) and 84,519 lambs (nearly two-thirds of all predation losses) were killed by coyotes.

    According to the American Sheep Industry Association, about UD$20.5 million of ranchers’ losses in 2014 (roughly one-fifth of their total losses) were attributed to coyotes. Importantly, however, these numbers were based on self-reported data and were not verified by wildlife professionals. External review would be useful because even experienced ranchers may have trouble determining in some cases whether a sheep was killed by a coyote or a dog (dogs are second only to coyotes in reported predation on livestock), or died from other causes and later was scavenged by coyotes.

    To keep coyotes in check, WS employees set neck snares and other traps, shoot coyotes on the ground and from planes and helicopters, arm sheep with collars containing liquid poison and distribute M-44 “bombs” that inject sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals that chew on them.

    As in warfare, there is collateral damage. M-44s killed more than 1,100 domestic dogs between 2000 and 2012. Scientists have also criticized WS for unintentionally killing numerous animals and birds, including federally protected golden and bald eagles, while failing to do any studies of how its actions affected nontarget species. Early this year the American Society of Mammalogists called for more scientific scrutiny of the policy of killing large predators.

    How effective is lethal control?

    It is understandable for struggling ranchers to blame coyotes for economic losses, since kills leave tangible signs and killing predators seems like a logical solution. However, a widely cited 2006 study called coyotes scapegoats for factors that were more directly related to the decline of sheep ranching in the United States.

    The author, Dr. Kim Murray Berger, who was then a research biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, built and tested a series of statistical models to explain the declining number of sheep being bred in the United States. She found that variables including the price of hay, wage rates and the price of lamb explained most of the decline, and that the amount of money spent on predator control had little effect.

    Other research indicates that even if predation is one factor in ranchers’ economic losses, lethal control is not the best way to reduce it.

    One 2016 analysis reviewed studies that compared lethal and nonlethal strategies for controlling livestock predation. Lethal methods ranged from civilian hunts to government culls. Nonlethal methods included fladry, guard animals, chemical repellents and livestock protection collars. The review found that nonlethal methods generally reduced livestock predation more effectively, and that predation actually temporarily increased after use of some lethal methods.


    Why would predation increase after predators are killed? When pack animals such as coyotes, dingoes and wolves are killed, the social structure of their packs breaks down. Female coyotes become more likely to breed and their pups are more likely to survive, so their numbers may actually increase. Packs generally protect territories, so breaking up a pack allows new animals to come in, raising the population. In addition, some new arrivals may opportunistically prey on livestock, which can increase predation rates.


    These findings extend beyond the United States. A three-year study in South Africa found that using nonlethal methods to protect livestock from jackals, caracals and leopards cost ranchers less than lethal methods, both because less predation occurred and because the nonlethal methods cost less.

    In Australia dingoes occupy a similar ecological niche to coyotes and are similarly targeted. In a recent case study at a cattle station, researchers found that ceasing all lethal and nonlethal predator control reduced predation of cattle by dingoes as the social structure of the resident dingoes stabilized.

    Even research by USDA supports this pattern. In a recent study, researchers from several universities, USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center and the nonprofit advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife analyzed wolf predation rates for sheep producers on public grazing lands in Idaho. Predation was 3.5 times higher in zones where lethal control was used than in adjacent areas where nonlethal methods were used.

    A high-stakes placebo

    Overuse of subsidized predator control is comparable to primary care doctors overprescribing antibiotics to human patients. Patients often demand antibiotics for common colds, although doctors understand that these infections are caused mainly by viruses, so antibiotics will be ineffective. But receiving a prescription makes patients feel that their concerns are being addressed. Lethal control is a high-stakes placebo for the problems that ail ranchers, and misusing it can increase problems for ranchers and the ecosystems around them.

    Human-wildlife conflict is a complex issue. Often, as some colleagues and I showed in our recent book, “Human-Wildlife Conflict,” the real problem is confrontations between humans about how to deal with wildlife.

    This means that we need to choose prevention and mitigation methods carefully. If cultural values and prevailing community attitudes are not taken into account, attempts to change ranching practices could increase hostility toward predators and make it harder for conservation groups to work with ranchers.

    Federal employees at Wildlife Services are under tremendous pressure from the agricultural industry. And farmers and ranchers often act based on deeply rooted traditions and cultural attitudes. It rests with wildlife professionals to use current and well-grounded science to address human concerns without harming the environment.
    https://theconversation.com/why-kill...ck-safer-75684

    Interesting article. As stated in the last paragraph, it's a complex issue.

    If you can, keep an eye out for the coyote seminars offered by the OFAH. I attended a couple of years ago. Wildlife biologist Brent Patterson gave a really good presentation on the history and future of wolves and coyotes in Ontario. His study on the subject is fascinating. You might find some clips on Youtube if you search his name.

    http://www.sbaa.ca/researchers.asp?cn=290
    http://people.trentu.ca/~brentpatter...es/Page922.htm

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    Narcoleptic (11-29-2017)

  3. #2
    Senior Member RangeBob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OriginalPost View Post
    civilian hunts to government culls
    Why isn't it civilian culls and government hunts.

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    Waterloomike (09-26-2017)

  5. #3
    Senior Member RangeBob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OriginalPost View Post
    Predation was 3.5 times higher in zones where lethal control was used than in adjacent areas where nonlethal methods were used.
    That isn't evidence by itself.
    There's obvious causation the other way -- if you kill the coyotes in the area then there are no more coyote attacks that week. Coyotes even learn not to go into that area (similar to the chimpanzee banana learned behaviour).

    It's just as likely that areas with 3.5 times the predation have driven farmers to be willing to spend their days hunting, where in zones with 28% of that farmers would be willing to try less lethal. i.e. the causation is the predation, not the side effect of the method of cull.

    There needs to be more "all other things held equal".

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  7. #4
    Senior Member Waterloomike's Avatar
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    Coyotes killed a pony and some sheep one place that i hunt. So i don't buy that article. They have dragged off pets, etc. right here in the city.

    On most of the land i hunt, killing yotes is not a request, it's an order.
    Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

    Thomas Jefferson

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  9. #5
    Senior Member labradort's Avatar
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    That is really dumb logic that doesn't add up. The headline says killing coyotes doesn't make livestock safer.

    The evidence:

    1) Methods have killed other things like dogs and birds of prey, and we don't know if some stats on livestock may be exaggerated because of death by natural causes followed by scavenger activity by coyotes and others.

    2) Sheep farming is in decline.

    3) USDA study says so.

    The USDA study is about the only thing related to the headline, and it doesn't explain anything other than offering a one liner on a statistic.

    That the population control methods have collateral damage does not back the headline.

    Sheep farming is in decline everywhere in the world including places having no predators, because the demand for wool has fallen globally. Has absolutely nothing to do with coyotes. Try to find who sells a 100% wool sweater and you'll see what I'm talking about.

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    Waterloomike (09-26-2017)

  11. #6
    Senior Member Ceska's Avatar
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    Thanks for your "article" from an ivory tower Megan. I know my family will still shoot yotes to protect our livestock. This egghead has obviously never lost calves to coyotes before.
    Something witty this way comes.

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  13. #7
    Senior Member Grimlock's Avatar
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    If you kill the coyotes, they win.

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  15. #8
    Senior Member Camo tung's Avatar
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    I've never seen a dead coyote chew out the lower jaw of a new born calf. Coincidence? As for the remark that dogs are second only to coyotes in livestock kills...if the dog goes after the livestock then he gets shot too. Lastly, any increase in population is dealt with by increased predator control. Its not as complex as the university educated would have you believe.
    Last edited by Camo tung; 09-26-2017 at 07:36 PM.
    "It is an absolute truism that law-abiding, armed citizens pose no threat to other law-abiding citizens."

    Ammo, camo and things that go "blammo".

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  17. #9
    Senior Member RangeBob's Avatar
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    If I remember correctly, France hunted coyotes to extinction more than 7 decades ago. They reintroduced a limited number a couple years back, somewhat over the objections of shepherds. I don't remember what the argument was, although it might have been an excess of rabbits.

    Chicago was trying to get them into the city to eat rats a few years ago (2010?). They put GPS tracking collars on them. There was something about the police being confused about what to do when they saw one. If too many people feed the coyotes, Animal Care puts the coyote down.


    EDIT
    by 1927 the last of the wolves in France were eradicated
    http://www.lost-in-france.com/wildli...lves-in-france

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  19. #10
    Senior Member labradort's Avatar
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    I think the urban/rural divide explains the "University educated" problem. Without experience and first hand knowledge of what is going on, the question of perception and having enough knowledge to ask the right questions can mess up the thinking.

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