Capturing and radio collaring Eastern Coyotes(Canis latrans)
Selinda Schlierman and Clinton Waddell
SUNY Coleskill, Cobleskill, NY
Abstract: Coyotes have been considered a nusiance for many years . Our project focused on capturing a coyote, radio collaring it, and determining its home range. We used seven number 2-Victor coil spring traps in our attempt to capture the coyote. We used a number of different methods in trapping the coyote including using different trap sets and lures. We were unsuccessful in capturing the coyote. Some of the reasons we believe our project was unsuccessful was the prior trapping and hunting of coyotes in the area we attempted to trap in and the easy winter and availability of food.
Eastern coyotes (Canis latrans) have resided in New York State for approximately 70 years (Chambers 2004). They have been the center of controversy ever since their arrival in the early1930's. Many people believe they are a threat to their pets, or livestock. Some people also believe that they are reducing the white-tailed deer populations in New York (NYS DEC 2001). In the past, there has been many ways is which the coyote populations have been managed including bounties, trapping, and hunting (Chambers 2004). Currently, there is a season for trapping and hunting coyote in New York State. You may hunt coyote 1 October to March 28, at any hour of the day or night and there are no bag limits. You may trap coyote 25 October to February 15 and there are no bag limits (NYS DEC 2003). In the project that we conducted, a coyote was to be trapped and a radio collar placed on it. One of the best ways of trapping coyotes would be to use a No. 3 coil-spring trap with smooth jaws (Jamison 1983). According to Jamison, the effectiveness of traps is increased by the use of bait and lure. After the capture, the radio collar would be placed on the animal and the animals home range determined.
Our project was conducted in Richmondville, NY on the farm of Terry Johns (Fig. 1), with a latitude and longitude of 42¡37' and 074¡30'. Out traps were placed in the hedgerows and edges of the hay fields. There had been many sightings of coyotes in these fields prior to the beginning of this project. These hedgerows contained sugar maple trees (Acer sachrum), hop-hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana), red oak (Quercus rubra), red-twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), and white ash (Fraxinus americana). All of the trap sites were south-facing slopes. The habitat around these traps also provided good cover for the coyotes during the day, and there are many food sources for the coyotes during the night including Eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus nuttalli), white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), raccoon (Procyon lotor), and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus).
The traps we used for our project were number 2-Victor coil spring. We set seven of these traps around Terry JohnsÕ property. These traps are completely steel with approximately 10 inches of chain attached to it by a swivel. The swivel is attached to the trap so that when the animal moves and spins the trap will not break its leg. It also allows the coyote to pull directly on the chain, decreasing the amount of damage to the foot (Missouri Dept. of Conservation 2004). The shorter the chain attached to the trap the better, this way the coyote will not be able to get a running start and possibly brake the trap or its leg. The trap is anchored to the ground with an 18-inch long re-rod stake. If the soil were soft or sandy we would have double staked the traps so the coyote would have had a harder time trying to pull the stakes out. Other materials used in trapping the coyote, were used to make the set and helped draw the animal into the set. According to Nellis (1968), the use of steel traps were found to cause foot damage to the target animal. Through the use of traps with padded jaws the amount of foot damage could be reduced (Phillips et al 1996). By using a smaller trap (i.e. 11/2 coil spring) you could also decrease the amount of injury to the captured animal but the chances the animal will escape increases (Hubert et al 1997). To decrease the chances of capturing non target animals (i.e. grey fox(Urocyon cinereoargenteus)) in our traps we could increase the pan tensions and use lures (Kamler et al 2002). Many lures (urine, scat) and trap sets (buried foot-holding devices) have been found to be selective of coyotes (Shiuik & Gruper 2002).
A narrow, long handled shovel was used to dig the trap beds and the dirt holes in the ground. Under the trap we placed wax paper so the trap would not freeze to the soil. We then placed a plastic sandwich bag over the trap pan to keep dirt from getting under it. This would allow the trap to be set off when it was stepped on. Over all of this we sifted fresh dry dirt over the set. About in of dirt was placed over all of the traps so they could not be seen or smelt. We then sprayed fresh red fox (Vulpes vulpes) urine on the backside of the sets to cover any human scent. In a tree branch or an object about 6 ft. off of the ground we dripped some lure to help attract the coyotes to our trap set. We used lures made by Russ Carmen or by Pete Rickards, both companies make several types of coyote lures. We used a total of six different scents, the only different type of lure we used was a homemade lure using the scent of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis). The holes dug into the ground had leaves and a few chunks of venison in them, with leaves spread on top. The leaves cause the coyote to spend a little more time at the trap set, hopefully placing a foot on the trap. There are many different types of traps that can be used to catch a coyote. We used four of these types. One type of trap we used was the small dirt hole. The hole is about 2 in wide and more than 10 in deep. The trap is then placed out in front of the trap usually no more than 13 in from the hole. We also used a big hole shot. This set is the same as the set described above, except the hole is about 8 in wide. The wider hole is to entice the coyote to come over to the set and investigate it. Another set we used was the step down set, this is where the dirt hole and the trap are placed about 5-9 in under the normal ground surface. All of the other aspects of the set are the same. The hardest set we made was the blind set. This set was placed near an old stump that hopefully the coyote would want to come and urinate on because of the red fox urine placed on it. The trap was staked and buried 7-10 in from the base of the stump and guide sticks were used to help make the coyote step where the trap pan was.
Our project was unsuccessful in trapping a coyote. We documented many sets of tracks around the sets and around the property. The tracks were of both coyotes, raccoons and grey foxes. We had one coyote come right up to the trap and scratch at it but it did not set it off. We did not document any other tracks that came as close to our sets. We did capture one non-target animal a raccoon. The damage to the foot was minimal so we were able to release it. One of the other traps was set off but no fur, hide, or tracks were left behind so we were not able to identify the animal that set the trap off.
We were unsuccessful in capturing a coyote because of many different factors affecting our results. We believe that one of the reasons why we were unsuccessful in capturing the coyote were that the coyotes we were targeting had been previously hunted and trapped. They may have been trap shy and they might have been overly wary of any human scent. They could have developed a negative reinforcement associated with lures and trap sets (Windberg & Knowlton 1990). Another reason might have been that the area where we were trapping was near the center of their territory. According to Windberg and Knowlton (1990), coyotes are more vulnerable to capture on the edges of their territory and to areas that are less familiar to them. Another reason we thought might have been a factor, was the fairly easy winter we had and the abundant food supply. If their had been less food, and the availability of the food was more difficult we might have been more successful in capturing the coyote. According to this information, through many changes to out traps, trap sites, and lure used we would have more successful.
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