Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coyotes and Horses

Living in Southern Ohio, we have not been use to dealing with coyotes. That time has ended. Coyotes have now made their presence known in our Appalachian forests. 

Monday evening, around 5pm, I saw my first coyote, up close, running along our wood line, about 50 feet from my back door. It was being trailed by our two dogs, Maggie, a Blue Heeler, and Lucy, a Beagle/Hound mix. 

The coyote was actually beautiful as it ran, easily out-distancing the girls. They were far behind, but Lucy, being the hound she is, continued after the rogue canine, Maggie following along in support. Hubby and I were able to call the dogs back before they also disappeared over the hillside into our valley. 

My first thought was that my horses would be in danger if we have coyotes inhabiting our forest. We have 62 acres of timber, which has not been logged. Many of our neighbors have opted to have their properties logged, usually clear cut. We have one of the few properties with full timber growth. Ideal for the local wildlife. My next thought was to keep a firearm handy. Then, I decided, research before jumping to conclusions.

So, I took some time to read up on coyotes. I wanted to know what we might be up against. What I learned eased my mind, for the moment.

Coyotes are opportunists. They usually prey on smaller animals like rodents and rabbits, and smaller livestock like goats and sheep. Unfortunately, cats and smaller dogs fall into the category of smaller animals. 

The coyote I saw was definitely bigger than Maggie and Lucy. They are medium sized dogs, both weighing 50 pounds each. The coyote looked to be taller, longer and probably more like 75-90 lbs. 

Coyotes do not usually attack large, healthy, horses and cattle, from what I read. They usually avoid larger animals, even larger dogs. The other part of this, coyotes are smart and learn quickly. Working together, or in a pack, is often where the trouble comes in for livestock and animal/pet owners. Coyotes are known to bait their prey while the other one(s) come up behind and attack.

If anyone has personal experiences with coyotes, I'd be more than happy to hear about it. This is a new situation for me. I don't want to overreact to their presence yet when you see one coyote, and it is breeding season, there are bound to be more.


wilsonc said...

I've seen coyotes corner a lone dog in a neighborhood before. I'd be watchful of my dogs, cats, small animals. Don't feed outside or leave anything laying around that might attract them.

Laura Crum said...

There are many, many coyotes where I live and I have had literally hundreds of encounters with them. Coyotes are no threat to horses and cattle unless you are talking about newborn foals and calves. Coyotes will take small dogs and cats, however, they don't all do this. The coyotes who have drifted through my place for twenty years never bothered my cats (they did kill my chickens) or dogs. Except one. This coyote was a cat killer and killed one of my cats and some neighbor cats. Then he disappeared (I don't doubt somene shot him) and no subsequent coyotes have bothered my dogs and cats. I have seen two coyotes team up on a Queensland sized dog and try to take it. One coyote will almost never try to take a dog this size. Coyotes have followed me for miles on the trail, whether hoping to take my dog or hoping I'd drop food, I couldn't say. I kept the dog heeling to my horse, and there was never a problem. It was kind of creepy, though. Two coyotes raised their pups here one year--I saw parents and pups often--and never did me any harm at all. This group didn't even bother the chickens (perhaps they knew not to disturb their home turf). Like all creatures, coyotes are individuals, and its been my experience that most of them are pretty benign. Once they take up cat and small dog killing, though, its another story for those of us with pets. I'd be watchful, but not too concerned, with the sort of dogs you have. I'd be real careful about my cats. No worries with the horses.

Leslie said...

Thanks for your comments, Wilsonic and Laura.

When it comes to wild animals, I usually believe live and let live when at all possible. I'm not out to destroy something just because it crosses my property line, unless it is messing with my animals routinely. Then, I would feel I needed to take action.

I become somewhat alarmed about the coyote, but the fear was based on misinformation, for the most part. We're always told coyotes are evil and out to take what they can get. In a way, that's true, but like any wild animal trying to survive in this ever more populated world, they are only adapting as best they can.

Wilsonic, that is one of the scenarios that concerns me about my two dogs, but they are scrappers. I'm now thinking Maggie's recent split lip may have been the result of an encounter, maybe not, because it was a bite. The vet said it looked like she may have gotten into a fight with another dog. Now I'm thinking, maybe it could have been a coyote. There have been deer carcass left from hunters. They could have been fighting over the leftovers.I'm glad I have their vaccines up-to-date.

Laura, appreciated your comments on your experience with coyotes. Does ease my mind about the horses. On one hand, I thought the coyote was beautiful as it loped up the hill and I was in awe of it. On the other, I did become concerned that maybe it meant trouble.

My cat is more indoor than outdoor these days. He's usually inside at night and the dogs are loose during the day. He should be pretty safe.

Hopefully, we'll all be able to inhabit the same areas with quiet avoidance.

Cheryl Ann said...

Well, in Palm Springs, CA, at least two dogs have been snatched by coyotes while their owners were taking them for a walk, on a leash! If coyotes are hungry, yes, they will snatch dogs! And, these attacks were in the middle of the day! I guess it depends on how hungry and desperate they are! Hubby and I have found several dog and cat collars up in the hills...evidence of coyotes attacking dogs and cats here in the desert. Just be careful and wary. They are.