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Mastering the Art of Trapping Coyotes: a Detailed How-To Guide

Coyotes, known for their adaptability and opportunistic nature, have increasingly become a concern for many homeowners, livestock owners, and outdoorsmen and -women. Trapping is a useful tool for managing coyote populations and mitigating the damage they can cause to property and wildlife.

This detailed guide aims to provide valuable insights into the intricacies of trapping coyotes, from the gear and methods used to the art of setting and maintaining traps. Read on for all you need to know about Coyote trapping.

Trapping Coyotes

Understanding Coyote Behavior

Habitat and Migration Patterns

Coyotes are highly adaptable animals found in various habitats across North America, from deserts and plains to forests and urban areas. They are highly territorial and will defend their home range against other coyotes.

However, their migration patterns depend on various factors, such as availability of food, water, and breeding opportunities. Coyote population density in a specific area is often an indication of the abundance of resources.

Prey and Feeding Habits

Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores, feeding on a diverse range of food sources. Their primary prey animals include small mammals like mice, rabbits, and squirrels. However, they are also known to target larger ungulates such as deer and sheep, especially when hunting in packs.

Coyotes may also prey on unattended pets and scavenge for human food waste. Their feeding habits are a crucial factor in wildlife management plans, as they play a significant role in controlling the populations of their prey animals.

Coyote Senses

A coyote’s keen sense of smell is one of its most important assets for detecting food sources and potential dangers. Their highly developed olfactory system allows them to track down prey from a considerable distance.

Coyote Sniffing

In addition to their olfactory prowess, coyotes possess sharp hearing and good eyesight, particularly at twilight and night, which aids in their nocturnal hunting activities.

Signs of Coyote Presence

Identifying signs of coyote presence is essential for trapping and managing their populations. Some of the common indicators include:

  • Coyote tracks: Distinct paw prints with two front toes slightly ahead of the other two, and visible claw marks.
  • Scat: Coyote droppings are often tubular in shape with a tapered end, containing fur, bones, and other indigestible materials from their prey.
  • Vocalizations: Howls, yips, barks, and whines can signal the presence of coyotes in the area.
  • Kill sites: Remains of prey animals, particularly those with signs of coyote predation, such as bites on the throat or neck.

Recognizing and understanding coyote behavior is crucial not only for successful trapping but also for effective wildlife management and ensuring the safety of pets and livestock.

Legal Considerations of Coyote Trapping

State and Federal Laws

Before embarking on a coyote trapping endeavor, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the state and federal laws governing trapping activities.

Laws and regulations can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, with some states having strict rules while others may have more lenient regulations. Key areas that are often regulated include:

  • Licensing and permits: Obtain the necessary trapping licenses or permits within the state you plan to trap.
  • Trap types: Some states specify the types of traps allowed for use, particularly in relation to humane and effective trapping methods.
  • Trapping seasons: There may be specific times of the year designated for coyote trapping. Be sure to adhere to these designated trapping periods.
  • Reporting requirements: Some states require trappers to report their trapping activities, including the number of animals captured and the locations of traps.

Always consult your local wildlife agency or relevant authority for accurate and up-to-date information on coyote trapping laws and regulations in your area.

Property Boundaries

When setting traps for coyotes, it is essential to respect property boundaries and obtain permission from landowners before accessing private properties.

In some cases, property owners may be glad to have your help in controlling coyote populations as long as you follow their guidelines and assess the potential impact on their land.

When trapping on public lands, ensure that you comply with any applicable restrictions, such as designated wildlife management areas or distance requirements from roads and inhabited structures. Failure to observe these rules may result in legal consequences, fines, or penalties.

Trapping Equipment

Types of Traps

When it comes to trapping coyotes, there are several types of traps that are effective. These include:

  • Leghold traps: Also known as foothold traps, these are the most common traps used for coyotes. They are designed to hold the animal by the foot without causing significant injury.
  • Snare traps: These traps are made of a wire loop that tightens around the coyote’s neck or body when it gets caught. They require careful placement and monitoring to ensure that the animal doesn’t get injured or escape.

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  • Conibear traps: These are powerful, quick-kill traps that are designed to dispatch the animal immediately upon capture. While effective, they are less commonly used for coyotes due to their size and potential danger to non-target species.

Trap Selection and Maintenance

The choice of trap will depend on personal preference, as well as factors such as local regulations and the specific environment in which you are trapping. Some popular brands include Duke traps and coil spring traps.

When selecting traps, consider the following factors:

  • Pan tension: Adjust the pan tension to ensure that the trap triggers at the right time, with the right amount of pressure from the animal.
  • Size: Choose the appropriate size trap for coyotes to ensure effective capture and humane treatment of the animal.
  • Quality: Invest in high-quality, durable traps that will withstand the elements and repeated use.

Proper maintenance of your trapping equipment is essential to ensure that it remains effective and safe for both you and the animals. Follow these tips for optimal trap care:

  • Cleaning: Regularly clean your traps to remove dirt, debris, and any scent that may deter coyotes.
  • Rust prevention: Treat your traps with a dye or coating to prevent rust and corrosion, which can hinder their function and make them more visible to animals.
  • Camouflage: Apply natural materials or paint to your traps to help them blend into the environment, making them less noticeable to coyotes.

Scent and Bait Selection

Coyotes have a keen sense of smell, so selecting the appropriate scent and bait is crucial for successful trapping. Tips for effective scent and bait selection include:

  • Coyote-specific scents: Use commercially available scents designed to attract coyotes, or create your own using ingredients such as coyote urine or gland lure.

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  • Food baits: Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, so a wide range of food baits can be effective. Options include meat, fish, and even commercially available pelleted baits.
  • Visibility: Consider using baits that are visually appealing to coyotes, such as fur or feathers, to increase the chances of attracting their attention.

In addition to selecting the right scents and baits, it’s important to keep them separate from your traps and other equipment to minimize human scent transfer. Consider using a dedicated sifter and separate storage containers for your bait and traps.

Setting up a Coyote Trap

Location Selection

When setting up a coyote trap, the first step is to select an ideal location. Look for high-traffic areas in the coyote’s natural habitat. These may include areas near water sources, along trails, or near points where different types of terrain meet.

Coyote Trap

In addition, observe the wind direction for better chance of trapping the coyote, as they tend to approach prey with the wind. Finally, consider the age and signs of coyote presence in the area.

Trap Preparation and Camouflage

There are various trap setups suitable for catching coyotes. Three common setups include the dirt hole set, scent post set, and trench set:

  • Dirt hole set: Dig a hole in the ground 6-8 inches deep and wide enough to fit the trap, placing bait or lure inside the hole. This method capitalizes on the coyote’s natural curiosity as they are likely to investigate the hole for the promise of a meal.
  • Scent post set: Choose a location near trees or tall grass to mimic a scent marker. Stake the trap directly into the ground using a strong anchor, like a T-bar stake or stake driver. Apply a lure or scent to the surrounding area to attract the coyote.
  • Trench set: Dig a shallow trench in the ground and place the trap at the bottom, covering the trap with a thin layer of dirt or wax dirt to camouflage it. Wax dirt is beneficial in freezing conditions, as it prevents the trap from freezing in place.

Once the trap is set, camouflage it using materials from the surrounding area like grass, leaves, or branches. This helps to blend the trap into the natural environment, making it less suspicious to coyotes.

When positioning the trap, always use gloves to avoid leaving human scent on the trap, as coyotes have a keen sense of smell and are likely to avoid anything that smells like humans.

Handling Trapped Coyotes

Safety Precautions

When handling trapped coyotes, it is crucial to prioritize safety for both the trapper and the animal. Coyotes are wild animals, and they will act defensively when they feel threatened. To minimize the risk of injury, follow these safety guidelines:

  • Always approach the coyote from behind to avoid eye contact and any aggressive reaction.
  • Use a catchpole to secure the coyote’s head and maintain a safe distance.
  • Wear thick gloves to protect your hands from bites and scratches.
  • Be aware that some coyotes may carry diseases, which can be transmitted through saliva or blood.

Keep in mind that domestic dogs can be accidentally trapped while targeting coyotes. If you encounter a trapped dog, follow the same safety precautions as you would with a coyote.

Translocation and Release

In some cases, you may want to release the trapped coyote in a different location, away from people, pets, or livestock. To perform a successful and humane translocation, follow these steps:

  1. Secure the animal with a catchpole to maintain control while unsetting the trap.
  2. Place a blanket or tarp over the animal to reduce stress and keep it calm.
  3. Transport the animal in a suitable wildlife carrier to avoid any harm during transportation.
  4. Choose a release site that is at least several miles away from human dwellings or livestock areas.

It is essential to check local regulations and laws before relocating a coyote, as there may be restrictions on translocation and release.

Coyote Euthanization

In some instances, euthanization might be the most humane and effective option when dealing with a trapped coyote. Depending on your location, there may be specific regulations and methods approved for euthanizing coyotes. A common and acceptable method is using a .22 Long Rifle to dispatch the animal quickly and humanely.

Before performing any euthanasia, it is crucial to:

  • Check your local laws and regulations for approved euthanasia methods.
  • Use the appropriate equipment and ensure it is in proper working order.
  • Aim for the head or heart to avoid prolonging the animal’s suffering.

By following these guidelines, you can handle trapped coyotes safely and humanely, while minimizing stress for both you and the animal.

Preventing Coyote Intrusion

Fencing Techniques

Fencing is an effective method to keep coyotes away from specific areas, protecting pets, children, and livestock. Several types of fencing can be employed to deter coyote intrusion.

One option is installing an electrified fence, which delivers a brief, non-lethal shock to coyotes, discouraging them from attempting to cross the barrier.

Coyote by a Fence

Another suitable option is the use of high-tensile fixed-knot fencing, with a minimum height of five feet to prevent coyotes from jumping over it. Employing a combination of these fencing techniques ensures greater protection and helps prevent coyotes from gaining access to vulnerable locations on your property.

Environmental Manipulation

Adjusting the environment around your home, farm, or other areas vulnerable to coyote intrusion can make these spaces less attractive to coyotes. This may involve:

  • Clearing away brush, tall grass, and other hiding spots for coyotes near your property, making it difficult for them to approach without being detected.
  • Properly securing trash and disposing of any food waste in a timely manner to avoid attracting coyotes.
  • Feeding pets and livestock indoors, or using securely-covered feeding stations to prevent coyotes from accessing food.
  • Keeping small pets like cats and dogs indoors, especially during dawn and dusk hours when coyotes are most active.

Using Predators for Coyote Control

In some cases, introducing predators as part of a broader predator management strategy can help keep coyote populations in check and deter them from encroaching on your property.

Canine breeds like the Anatolian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, and Akbash are used on farms and ranches to guard livestock from coyote attacks. These breeds are known for their size, strength, and protective instincts, making them effective at keeping coyotes at bay.

In addition to using guard dogs, some regions have seen success in controlling coyote populations through responsible sport hunting and trapping, which can help reduce incidents of coyote intrusion on private property.

By employing a combination of fencing techniques, environmental manipulation, and predator management strategies, property owners can significantly reduce the risk of coyote intrusion and keep children, pets, and livestock safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal bait for attracting coyotes to traps?

The ideal bait for attracting coyotes to traps varies depending on the area and individual preferences of coyotes. Generally, meat-based baits such as beaver meat, muskrat meat, or rabbit are effective options.

Commercially made coyote baits designed specifically for trapping are also available and can increase the chances of success. In addition, using a combination of bait and lure, such as gland-based or food-based lures, can help entice coyotes and trigger their curiosity, leading them to the trap.

How long should I leave my coyote traps set?

The duration for leaving coyote traps set depends on several factors, including the amount of coyote activity in the area, weather conditions, and individual trapping preferences. In areas with high coyote activity, checking traps every 24 hours is a good practice.

This allows for timely removal of captured coyotes and reduces the chance of an animal escaping or getting injured while in the trap. In cases where the coyote population is lower or for less experienced trappers, checking traps every 48 hours might be more suitable.

It’s essential to comply with local regulations, as some areas may have specific requirements regarding trap-checking frequency.

What are some helpful tips for trapping coyotes in wooded areas?

Trapping coyotes in wooded areas can be challenging due to their elusive nature and abundant hiding spots. Here are some helpful tips for trapping coyotes in wooded areas:

  1. Location is crucial: Set traps in areas with visible coyote signs such as tracks, droppings, or digging surfaces. Trails, edges of clearings, and ridgelines are also good spots to place traps.
  2. Use proper scent control: Coyotes have an excellent sense of smell, so masking human scent is essential. Wear gloves when handling traps, and use a scent eliminator spray to reduce odor.
  3. Camouflage the trap: Blend the trap into the environment using leaves, sticks, or grass to hide it from coyotes. This will make it less conspicuous and increase the likelihood of catching a coyote.
  4. Secure your trap and use swivels: Coyotes are strong and can escape from poorly secured traps. Make sure to stake your trap securely, and use swivels to prevent it from being twisted and damaged.
  5. Select the right trap set: In wooded areas, dirt-hole sets and flat sets work well for catching coyotes. Experiment with different trap sets to find the most effective one for your location.

Wrapping up Coyote Trapping

Evaluating and adapting your trapping techniques on an ongoing basis is key. This ensures constant learning and improvement in your coyote trapping endeavors. It is also crucial to follow local regulations, secure necessary licenses, and practice ethical trapping methods to ensure the wellbeing of both the animals and the local ecosystem.

By remaining confident, knowledgeable, and clear in your understanding and approach to coyote trapping, the chances of success will increase, enabling you to contribute effectively to wildlife management and enjoy the challenges and rewards that come with this outdoor pursuit.

Not sure that it’s only a coyote problem? Check out our Guide to Wolf Trapping.