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Kansas hunters are trying to thin coyote populations, but it's backfiring

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Since the 1950s, coyotes have stretched their territory across North America by 40 percent.

Ranchers and sportsmen turn to mass coyote hunts to reduce livestock predation. But in Kansas, the hunts may actually be spurring coyotes to even higher reproduction rates.

In western Kansas, ranchers do not take kindly to losing livestock to predators. In that part of the country, that means coyotes.

High Plains Public Radio reporter David Condos says those attacks account for about 5% of calf deaths and total millions of dollars.

Coyote hunts go back more than 100 years in Kansas, but the number of coyotes in the state has tripled since the 1980s.

"You'll often hear the phrase 'Kill one coyote and two show up to her funeral,'" says Michelle Lute of Project Coyote.

Lute, a carnivore conservation manager, explains that with less competition for food, female coyotes will have larger litters and can reach sexual maturity sooner — compensating for the loss from such hunts with higher reproduction rates.

Non-lethal methods to reduce predation are available and more effective. Lute lists guardian dogs, turbo fladry (electrified fences with flags) and a modern version of shepherds known as range riders as alternatives to hunting.

When it comes to coyote encounters with livestock, Lute points out "non-lethal methods are the most effective methods at preventing risk before it ever happens."

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