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Environment & Climate Change

Killing coyotes: The impractical, unethical, and not always successful way to keep livestock safe

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Killing coyotes is not the best way to keep livestock safe, says Draheim.

Does killing coyotes make things safer for livestock?

Last winter, Stateside did a story about a sporting goods store near the Irish Hills that held a bounty hunt on coyotes. The store said the hunt came in response to customers who expressed worry about their chicken coops and family dogs.

Megan Draheim, a lecturer in conservation biology and human dimensions of wildlife at Virginia Tech, joined Stateside today with a differing perspective. She said there’s no evidence that killing coyotes makes livestock safer. In fact, she said it can make the coyote-human problem even worse.

Beyond the ethical issues involved in killing coyotes, Draheim said there’s “also just a lot of practical implications to this.”

“Lethal control does not work in many cases, or even in most cases,” she said. “And there’s growing evidence, that researchers are accumulating, that this is true.”

One reason killing coyotes can backfire, she said, is that coyotes are pack animals.

“They live in social groups,” she said. “So when you kill one member of that group, the pack might dissolve, and that opens up the possibility that new animals are going to come into the area. Those animals might not be quite as savvy about the territory in that they might actually increase predation.”

Draheim compares people who use lethal control — people who kill coyotes — to doctors that overprescribe antibiotics to their patients. 

“A lot of times what we’re doing isn’t necessarily based on the best science,” she said. “It’s based on what people have always done and what feels right, what feels like it’s actually accomplishing something.”

Listen above to hear Draheim describe some non-lethal, effective ways to keep livestock safe. For more on this subject, read Draheim’s article for The Conversation titled, “Why killing coyotes doesn't make livestock safer.”

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