Historically found in the Great Plains or prairies of the mid-western United States, the eastern coyote (Canis latrans) is becoming more and more common across West Virginia. Over the past 100 years, the coyote has expanded its range across the United States and most of North America.
Records for the coyote in the mid-Atlantic states date back only 50 years, with the first record of a coyote in West Virginia appearing in the 1970s. This remarkably rapid expansion has been due in part to the near extinction of larger predators, such as the mountain lion and timber wolf, and also to the population growth of white-tailed deer. Humans have also aided in the coyotes’ expansion by moving and releasing coyotes for sport hunting. Coyotes are very adaptable in what they eat and where they live; therefore, they have been able to easily expand into forested, agricultural, suburban and urban environments.
The coyote is a habitat generalist and omnivore, eating a variety of food items, such as small rodents, rabbits, insects, plant material, fruits, berries and carrion. Coyotes will feed on white-tailed deer and livestock. While the coyote is a predator and predation is an important component of a healthy ecosystem, conflicts arise when coyotes feed on livestock, such as sheep, goats and cattle.
Since coyotes have thrived among West Virginia wildlife, livestock producers must
maintain coyote management practices throughout the year. Much of the coyote’s
livestock depredation occurs from late spring through September when coyotes are
raising pups. By changing the season of lambing or calving, many producers have
been able to reduce loss to coyotes. Changing the location of lambing or calving
by bringing animals out of remote pastures and into barns or paddocks may also
be effective. Lights above corrals or pens have also been used to reduce loss.
Coyotes can cross through, over or under conventional livestock fencing. Constructing electric fences or modifying existing fencing with charged wires will exclude coyotes from pastures or barn lots. Producers may also consider livestock guard animals to repel coyotes. It may also help to implement a lethal control program to reduce livestock loss.
West Virginia has an annual regulated trapping season where coyotes can be harvested,
along with a continuous open hunting season on coyotes. Coyotes can even be hunted
at night with artificial light or night vision technology during certain times
of year. Check the current West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Hunting and Trapping Regulations for up-to-date information.
Since no single method is effective in every situation, successful coyote management must involve an integrated approach that includes a variety of methods combining good husbandry practices with effective management techniques. U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service leads the livestock protection program in West Virginia and can provide technical or operational assistance to landowners.