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Sheep-predation behaviors of wild-caught, confined coyotes: some historical data


As part of efforts to develop The Livestock Protection Collar (U .S. EPA Reg. No. 56228-22), we videotaped sheep-predation events by 23 (15 male and 8 female) wild-caught, confined coyotes (Canis latrans) in a 31 × 41-m enclosure. Coyotes were paired individually with a sheep (Ovis aries) during 1-h daily trials. Nineteen (13male and 6 female) of the coyotes made 75 fatal attacks of 1 to 7 sheep each; 4 coyotes (2 male and 2 female) made no fatal attacks despite 19 to 39 daily pairings. Of coyotes that made fatal attacks, 13 (9 male and 4 female) always attacked at the neck of sheep; 5 (4 male and 1 female) always attacked by nipping at the legs/head/back of sheep; and 1 attacked at the legs/head/back of sheep during two initial events, but subsequently attacked at the neck of sheep. Greater time in captivity was not correlated with trials preceding a fatal attack (rho= +0.23). Among coyotes making ≥2 fatal attacks, subsequent predation events occurred after fewer intervening pairings with sheep. Initial feeding sites occurred most frequently at the flanks/ribs of sheep. Although collected between 1976 to 1980, these observations represent a never-to-be-acquired-again data set that remains timely. Data showed that not all coyotes display sheep-predation behaviors or kill sheep efficiently. Instrumental learning and stimulus-habituation models of coyote predation behavior are discussed.

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