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Predator Profile: Coyote

I decided to start these profiles to help those new to dealing with these predators. The profiles will focus on predators found in California since this is where my work is focused on but I might expand into other predators in the future. Without further ado, lets talk about one of the most widespread predators in California.

Name: Coyote (Canis latrans)

Weight: 15-46 lbs

Height: 1.9-2.3 ft at the shoulder

Legal status: Non-game animal according to California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Habitat & Range:

Coyotes are found almost everywhere in California that have some water availability and some shelter. They are rarer in higher elevation or areas of high mountain lion presence. They have no habitat preference although will often thrive in plains or Oak forests since they feed on rodents and rabbits most of the time.


Coyotes will feed on just about any mammal they can. Although they can and will hunt deer, they prefer to either scavenge deer, go after fawn of any large ungulate, or prey on rodents and rabbits. They will occasionally fish and go after birds if possible too.

Non-lethal Management:

Coyotes respond well to any noise and light deterrent. Fox lights, critter gitters, and other devices that emit light and noise will keep them at bay for a while. However, given their remarkable behavioral adaptability, coyotes will be habituated to just about anything in a week or two, especially if overexposed to it. It is best to consider rotating deterrents to prevent that habituation. Also, ensure that deterrents are out of easy reach of coyotes to maintain the "unfamiliar" in a situation.

Livestock guardian dogs are a great tool to keep coyotes at bay since it's harder to habituate to an ever-changing stimulus.

Fladry can be utilized but it is recommended that the spacing between flags is shorter and that the fladry is electrified.

Overnight fencing, especially in sheep and goats, helps prevent depredation but it is crucial to check the fence for weaknesses or any digging spots that coyotes may have been working towards.

Rams and Billies (male sheep and goats) can provide an effective deterrent if particularly aggressive however may not be applicable to husbandry practices.

Llamas, Alpacas, and Donkeys can all fulfill the role of a guardian animal when it comes to coyotes however it is worth noting that they do not work against cougars so if you are planning a multiple species defense, these animals may not apply to your set up.

Lethal Management:

Coyotes are classified as a non-game species which means they can be lethally taken any time of the year under any circumstances. However, to do so one must have a valid hunting license and use legal hunting methods. Trapping and poisoning coyotes are illegal. The USDA Wildlife Service can help out if reached out.

Positive and Negatives of coyotes on site:

One of the most common questions I get is why keep a coyote alive on my property. Some positives can occur which a rancher can benefit from:

1)Coyotes are territorial and hence will likely keep other coyotes away from their territory. This is a good thing if you find the deterrents that work for the coyotes you have. For example, if you have a pair of coyotes that you know are sensitive to scent and light deterrents then keeping that pair alive means you know what works for them as opposed to the coyotes that will fill in that territory if you kill them. Also, there is a lot of research to show that coyotes adjust pups born based on the coyotes around them. So lethal management may offer a reprieve but invites more conflict and depredation in the long run.

2)Coyotes are good rodent hunters. If you can keep them away from your livestock coyotes will hunt squirrels, rodents, and rabbits for the most part and therefore minimize the damage done by ground squirrels, wood rats, etc. This can be extremely beneficial depending on where livestock graze. it can prevent animal injuries from squirrel holes and stop the spread of certain parasites and diseases.

3)Coyotes can be used as an indicator. The presence of coyotes(especially in high frequency) indicates the lack of another larger predator in the area. If you are in mountain lion or wolf country (which is becoming more of a reality in California) you can use the presence of coyotes as a good indicator that wolves or mountain lions don't frequent that area a lot. If the coyote numbers/frequency decline then it might mean a lion or wolf has moved into the area.

The negatives of course are fairly obvious. Lambs, kits, calves are especially vulnerable to depredation and so are outdoor pets. However, by establishing deterrents, existing with coyotes is possible so long as you are always one step ahead of them.

Feel free to reach out to me at if you need any more information or help./

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