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The toxic sheep collar for control of sheep-killing coyotes: A progress report


The toxic sheep collar is the most selective method known for killing coyotes that prey on domestic sheep. The concept dates back to the early 1900's and has been studied at the Denver Wildlife Research Center (DWRC) since 1974. Field tests with sodium cyanide (NaCN) in 1975 were unsuccessful due to repellent properties of the toxicant and to the apparent reluctance of coyotes to attack tethered lambs wearing bulky collars. Coyotes attacked one or more tethered, collared lambs in 7 of the 19 test pastures. In all, 14 collared lambs were attacked. Eight of the collars were punctured but no dead coyotes were recovered. A smaller collar containing diphacinone was field tested in 1976. The diphacinone-filled collars were readily accepted by coyotes and lethal to them, but the slow action (5-16 days between dosing and death) of diphacinone made it difficult to assess the effectiveness of these collars under field conditions. Target flocks containing 1 to 12 collared lambs plus uncollared ewes were placed in 15 fenced pastures from which the larger ranch flocks had been removed after repeated coyote predation. One or more collared lambs were attacked in 11 of the 15 tests. An unknown number of coyotes were killed, and in most tests the subsequent incidence of predation was lower than that before the test. Captive coyotes continued to kill sheep for 4 or 5 days after they received a lethal dose of diphacinone; therefore a faster-acting toxicant is needed. This research has shown that problem coyotes can be killed with toxic collars, but further studies are needed to determine the feasibility of this approach compared with traditional means of control. In most tests to date the frequency of coyote predation has been too low and too irregular to permit effective use of the collar; target flocks were in the field for an average of 10 days before being attacked. The known disadvantages of the method include the need to sacrifice live lambs, the human hazards associated with the use of toxicants under field conditions, and the costs of managing target flocks and other sheep in the problem areas.

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