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Managing Coyotes for Coexistence

In March, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) released the final coyote management plan. While the plan presented a good review of the science that shows lethal coyote management doesn’t work, it also emphasized lethal trapping and hunting as a means to deal with the ever-growing coyote population in North Carolina. The final plan was passed with seemingly little debate, and a hunting and trapping-heavy plan became the official modus operandi of the state of North Carolina.

The Coyote’s Continued Expansion

Coyotes entered North Carolina in the late 1980s and have since spread through a combination of natural range expansion and accidental releases connected with foxhunting. Coyotes are often perceived as a potential threat to humans, pets, livestock, game species, and vulnerable wildlife. Lethal control is a common first-defense, as a result of a lack of non-lethal tools and an underestimation of the coyote’s biological perseverance.

A coyote turns to look toward photographer, with lake in distance.
Coyote. Photo: William C. Gladish

Efforts to remove coyotes across the country have largely been ineffective. Attempts to control them over the past 100 years have failed to prevent the expansion of their range, and local control efforts have not reduced their population. Lethal control clearly does not work, and it’s clear that coyotes are here to stay. But what are the positive effects of the presence of coyotes?

Although more research is necessary, coyotes may be filling an ecological role that the native predator, the red wolf, would have filled, even possibly providing extensive benefits for certain native species, such as ground-nesting birds and herbaceous vegetation, by reducing mesopredator mammal populations and controlling deer. Native wildlife in North Carolina evolved in the presence of red wolves and foxes, and there is little reason to suspect that the coyote is so different from them as to cause distinct, major negative impacts.

Promoting Coexistence to Protect Life in All Its Diversity

Given the evidence that coyote populations will persist despite efforts to remove them, the focus of coyote management should be on coexistence, tolerance, and nonlethal conflict management. Some possible strategies to consider include predator-proof fencing, fladry (a perimeter of hanging red flags), livestock guarding animals (such as llamas, donkeys, and dogs), and light or sound devices, which can discourage coyotes from coming too close to a property.

A four-legged wolf-like animal looks back over its shoulder toward the camera in a middle of a field of tall, yellow grasses.
A coyote in a field. Photo: Melissa McGaw, NCWRC

In addition, changing human behavior is a vital component of coexistence—adapting livestock husbandry practices, removing attractants, and hazing are three such practices that can reduce coyote conflict. Ultimately, such methods can reduce the mortality rates of both livestock and coyotes.

Peaceful coexistence between humans and carnivores is essential to our vision of a reconnected and rewilded North America.

Educational material and public workshops should emphasize these strategies, and future funding should be allocated toward identifying and deploying the most effective non-lethal tools. Promoting coexistence with coyotes would also be beneficial for the survival of the native red wolf, as wolves have a better chance of outcompeting coyotes when overall candid mortality rates are low (as seen with eastern wolves in Algonquin Provincial Park).

While the NCWRC’s plan does acknowledge non-lethal methods, it still largely promotes trapping and hunting to manage North Carolina’s burgeoning coyotes. Why promote something that isn’t going to work when coexistence is clearly the way forward?

Wildlands Network’s mission is to reconnect, restore, and rewild North America so that life in all its diversity can thrive. Peaceful coexistence between humans and carnivores, like coyotes, and overall tolerance for canids nationwide is essential to our vision of a reconnected and rewilded North America. Learn more about our efforts to promote nonlethal methods and coexistence with carnivores, especially red wolves.

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