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Targeting alphas can make coyote control more effective and socially acceptable

  • Author(s): Jaeger, Michael M.
  • Blejwas, Karen M.
  • Sacks, Benjamin N.
  • Neale, Jennifer C. C.
  • Conner, Mary M.
  • McCullough, Dale R.
  • et al.
Abstract

Research at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) has improved our understanding of how to reduce sheep depredation while minimizing the impact on coyotes. Analysis of a 14-year data set of HREC coyote-control efforts found that sheep depredation losses were not correlated with the number of coyotes removed in any of three time scales analyzed (yearly, seasonally and monthly) during corresponding intervals for the next 2 years. Field research using radiotelemetry to track coyotes supported and explained this finding. For example, in 1995, dominant “alphas” from four territories were associated with 89% of 74 coyote-killed lambs; “betas” and transients were not associated with any of these kills. Relatively few coyotes were killing sheep, and these animals were difficult to capture by conventional methods at the time of year when depredation was highest. However, selective removal of only the problem alpha coyotes effectively reduced losses at HREC.

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