For property owners, or anyone considering buying land, there are a variety of reasons for predator prevention on your land. Perhaps you’re raising a new herd of cattle and are worried about the possibility of losing valuable calves to the ravenous jaws of a coyote, or maybe you aren’t especially keen on letting your younger ones wander about the hiking trails alone for fear of a prowling bear or mountain lion.
Predator prevention, especially in terms of coyotes, has been on the rise in recent years, as declining wolf populations have led to the expansion of coyote territories and sightings. This boom in population, coupled with the increased clearing of forests and ever-expanding metropolitan sprawl, has led many property owners to the question, “What can I do to protect my land, animals, farm, and family from potential predators?”
Because the field of predator prevention is highly diverse, prospective predator wranglers have a multitude of ways to combat these often invasive neighbors. It is my hope that this article will serve to educate you, the property owner, on the methods available to you on your quest for a safer, quieter place to enjoy.
This article will be divided into two main sections:
- Predator Prevention for a Home or Residence
- Predator Prevention for Large Acreages
Predator Prevention for a Home or Residence
The first recommended means of mitigating the presence of predator populations on your land is fencing. Installing a fence is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to keep unwanted visitors, like coyotes, out of your space. Fencing should also be something to keep an eye out for while buying land, as a pre-installed fence means less work for the new owner.
Conversely, existing fencing may be something worth advertising when selling your land. Now, while installing a fence may seem like a relatively straightforward process, there are a few things to keep in mind when installing fencing for predator prevention.
Predator Prevention Fencing
Firstly, the size of the fence should be considered. Most experts recommend a height of at least 6 to 7 feet to keep wildlife such as coyotes or mountain lions out, with that height ceiling expanding in the case of bears given their excellent climbing ability. In addition to the height of 6 to 7 feet, it is important to note that fences should be buried at least one to two feet under the ground as well, as this will prevent predators from digging underneath.
These size recommendations are for a smaller, residential property, as the cost of installing a fence of this size across a massive farm or ranch would be astronomical. Large property fences are generally only four feet in height and made of barbed wire.
These fences are made for the purpose of keeping livestock and animals inside, rather than preventing predators from entering. The installation of multiple acres of barbed-wire fencing is both more cost-effective and reasonable when compared to the larger and sturdier fencing recommended for a residential space.
Now that the size of the fence has been established, it’s time to think about what kind of material you’ll be using. For most fences meant to keep predators out, it is not especially recommended to use chain-link, as this is a material that is easily scalable for most smaller predators such as coyotes or mountain lions.
The best material for a fence of this nature would be both smooth and flat, like a study hardwood such as cedar, as its structural strength surpasses that of chain-link, and its surface is much more difficult to scale over. Furthermore, fewer spaces in the hardwood allow for fewer possibilities of breakage, whereas the chain-link fence is relatively susceptible to such damage.
Much like the six to seven-foot height recommendation, hardwood is not a viable option for a large-scale fence. For these more massive fences, barbed wire is the most commonly used material in the agricultural sector. This is due to the low-cost nature of barbed wire, which makes it the most effective material for a large fence.
While the barbed-wire fence won’t do as much to keep predators out as the taller, hardwood fence, there are still many other means of predator prevention that can be used in tandem with fencing to further protect your property.
The final aspect of fencing to address would be the added use of slanted extensions or free-hanging cylinders to the top of the fence. These additions are meant for the taller, residential fence discussed above, as their application to a barbed-wire fence would likely not yield any tangible or meaningful results.
Both of these fence-toppers serve the same purpose, which is to prevent any animal that has managed to make its way to the top of the fence from finally climbing over and into your space. These additions, while sometimes unnecessary, will make the fence virtually impossible to scale over and can likely give you the peace of mind you’ve been searching for.
Predator Prevention Maintenance
The next thing that a property owner can do to keep coyotes out of their area is relatively simple; keep it clean. It may go without saying, but by leaving trash, food, or even livestock unattended and unsecured on your property, you may be unknowingly attracting predators like coyotes to you! By keeping your space clean, you can decrease the likelihood that a rogue coyote or mountain lion may wander onto your property in search of a meal.
Predator Proofing Your Trash
The most obvious place to start is with trash, as the smell of decomposing food is likely enough to turn some coyote heads. It is recommended to invest in a decent sealed garbage can, one that cannot be easily knocked open or chewed through.
Many options on the market today feature various kinds of locks or sealing mechanisms that will prevent even the most dexterous predators from getting inside. In addition to your garbage, be sure to fence off any composting piles you might have, as they will likely have the same allure to predators.
Predator Proofing Livestock Feed
This same sentiment can be extended to any kind of pet food or livestock feed that may be stored outside, as these attractants are often easily accessible for predators. A simple solution here is to move any kinds of animal feeds inside, or place them inside a predator-proof outdoor container for storage.
While on the topic of animal feed, it is important to note that overfilling any animal feeders on the property, be they for livestock, birds, or game, can contribute to attracting predators and unwanted pests. Therefore it is recommended to keep an eye on exactly how much food your feeders are putting out each feeding time.
Now that your trash and food stores are secured, it’s time to move on to livestock. Livestock is likely the number one thing that can and will attract predators to your property, in addition to likely being your primary reason for wanting to keep said predators out; the USDA estimates that predator populations cost American farmers roughly $71 million dollars annually in livestock losses.
For these reasons, livestock security is a large part of both farming and keeping your farm clean. It is recommended that livestock and pets are locked up or secured when not under your direct supervision. This goes doubly for any animal that is injured, ill, or pregnant, as coyotes and other predators will be more attracted to that animal’s unique scent.
This will decrease the likelihood of something happening to your livestock while you aren’t there to watch them. It is especially important to keep an eye on your animals while letting them out at night, as coyotes are primarily nocturnal hunters and are much more likely to strike under the cover of night.
Guard dogs are also often recommended as protection for livestock, as they have been used on farms throughout history to ward off would-be attackers. For large-scale livestock operations, it is unlikely that moving livestock inside at night is unrealistic; for this reason, a guard dog can serve as security even when you are unable to be on guard.
The most commonly used breeds are generally Mastiffs, Collies, or Great Pyrenees, due to their larger sizes and thick coats. To learn more about what a guard dog could do for you and your livestock, see this article by our own Carol Anne Bailey.
Regulating Smaller Animal Populations
The final component of keeping your area clean is to be mindful of other animal populations on your property and regulate them as necessary. For example, if you notice that your land has a high rabbit or rodent population, you may want to look into ridding some of them from your property.
This is because small rodent populations like rabbits and squirrels serve as food sources for larger predators like coyotes. In regulating these smaller and oftentimes more manageable populations on your land, you may encourage predator populations to go elsewhere of their own volition.
In addition to regulation, there are some things you can do around your property to decrease the likelihood that smaller populations could flourish. For example, mowing down areas with thick undergrowth or tall grasses can limit the rodents’ habitable area.
Similarly, sealing any holes or openings under porches and decks can prevent the nesting of rodent populations nearby any of your significant structures. Through the much easier mitigation of smaller populations on your property, you can drastically reduce the number of potential predators on your land.
Scaring Them Out
Now that you have set some boundaries and cleaned up your property, the last predator prevention practice for individuals is known as “hazing.” The term “hazing” refers to methods that are meant to scare away and deter predators such as coyotes from returning to your land. There are a variety of hazing methods that are employed today in the fight against predator populations, some of which include sound/alarm systems, light-based systems, and water-based systems.
All of these serve the same purpose, which is to provide the predator with a consistent, unpleasant experience that will make them think twice about coming back to your area. When actively hazing, or monitoring your hazing systems, it is prudent to have another person with you, as this can help to scare off the coyotes as well as provide added safety should your efforts fail.
Sound-based Deterrent Systems
We’ll begin with the sound-based deterrent systems, as coyotes are highly vocal creatures that tend to respond strongest to auditory stimuli. These kinds of systems generally use alarms, whistles, or air-horns, to create a loud and startling noise that will scare off any lurking intruders.
These systems generally work through the use of motion detectors that send a signal to your noise-maker upon detecting movement. For this reason, it is generally recommended to position these hazing devices along high-traffic trails and paths on your land, so as to maximize the potential of your system.
It should also be noted that adding variety to the kinds of sounds used will likely make them more effective. Repeated exposure to the same threatening sound without any actual threat or repercussion could cause the coyote to become acclimated to the sound, therefore lessening the efficacy of your alarm system.
Light-based Deterrent Systems
The next hazing systems we will discuss are light-based systems. These systems are fairly simple; they use a set of two LED lights to mimic the eyes of a larger and more threatening predator to scare away smaller predators like coyotes or mountain lions.
Similarly to the noise-based systems, these systems generally work via motion detector, activating the lights once the sensor detects motion. Utilizing these two systems in tandem can create a very effective deterrent system, as the coyote is confronted simultaneously by both the sound and sight of a “bigger predator,” thereby enhancing the effectiveness of both systems.
Another way to improve this fake-predator system would be to spread the urine of a larger predator, for example a bear, around the area in order to really convince any would-be intruders that they should stay away.
It should be noted that the efficacy of urine in hazing is somewhat regionally dependent, as the coyote generally must have encountered the scent of that predator before. If the coyote has never encountered or associated the smell of the urine with the physical threat of a bear or wolf, then the coyote will have nothing to be afraid of. That being said, if your area is native to some larger, scarier predators, chances are that most animals have had prior encounters with those scents.
Water-based Deterrent Systems
The final type of hazing system to touch on would be the water-based systems. These systems are often considered the most effective, as they provide the predator with a physically uncomfortable stimulus, unlike the psychologically frightening effects produced by the light and sound-based systems.
Water-based systems tend to be extremely effective against predators like coyotes, as the coyote is naturally water-averse and will often do all that it can to avoid getting wet. These systems usually come in the form of a motion-detecting sprinkler that will dowse any would-be intruders.
In similar fashion to the light and noise-based deterrent systems, consistency is key here. It is important that the coyote is sprayed every time it comes near/on your property, so that the coyote begins to associate your area with the unpleasant experience of being sprayed with water, and will therefore be less likely to return to your property.
Predator Prevention for Large Acreages
The final methods of predator control we will be discussing are less commonly used, as they are generally reserved for the control of larger predator populations on properties that are larger than a single acre. These methods are known as bait-balling, contract-shooting, and plane-shooting, and they all come with their own unique advantages and setbacks.
Now, although Richard Nixon outlawed the use of toxic chemicals for predator control on federal land when he signed Executive Order 11643 into law, they are still often used today by private landowners to rid their lands of unwanted visitors.
The practice of bait-balling is fairly straightforward, as it simply requires the property owner to wrap a ball of toxic chemicals in meat, and then leave that ball out in the open for your predators to find. Bait-balling tends to be extremely effective when it comes to eliminating predator populations from your land, however it is not without its risks and drawbacks.
The most obvious downside to bait-balling is that you as the landowner lack the ability to filter through which animals will be interacting with your poisoned bait. Bait-balling could bring about disastrous results if not performed properly, as you may inadvertently be killing off more wildlife populations than were your original targets. This is the largest drawback to bait-balling, in that it tends to disrupt a multitude of wildlife populations, rather than targeting a singular, undesirable population.
Contract Shooting or Hunting
One option for dealing with predator populations on a larger scale is the contract shooter. This would be an individual who would camp out on your property overnight in order to spot and shoot any would-be predators. Contract shooting tends to be a very effective means of combating predator populations, as the more coyotes that are shot on your property, the less likely coyote populations will be to return to your area.
The main draw of hiring a contract shooter would be the price point, as this will likely be the most cost-effective means of mitigating predator populations on a large scale. The rates of most contract shooters are extremely reasonable when compared to the cost of renting a plane and hiring a plane-shooter or bait-baller.
If you fancy yourself an outdoorsman, perhaps you could try your hand at hunting coyotes on your own property. Performing your own coyote hunts and patrols can be a good way to familiarize yourself with not only your property but the trends and tendencies of the wildlife you’re attempting to manage as well.
One way to provide meaningful assistance to your contract shooter would be to install and allow them access to trail cameras. These would be placed along high-traffic paths, perhaps near waterfronts, in order to better understand which animals are generally going where. This can help your contract shooter narrow down the area wherein they should be focusing their efforts, as well as provide you with more information regarding the flow and movement of wildlife on your land.
The other means of managing predator populations on a larger scale is known as “plane shooting.” Plane shooting generally requires 2 people, a pilot and a shooter, who then take a low-flying plane like a crop duster, and fly over the property looking for coyotes for the shooter to eliminate.
Plane shooting seems to be the most effective means of widespread population control, as it allows the hunter to selectively target specific areas of their property, as well as individual populations, without putting the greater ecosystem at risk.
The downside of plane shooting, unlike personally hunting predators on your property, is that the owner will likely have to contract the work out to a third party, as not every property owner has easy access to a plane and a shooter.
The negative here is that there are likely only a few if any, plane owners in the state that offer this service, and they are likely already booked up for the foreseeable future. This may be something to look into before buying a piece of land known to be in an area with high predator populations.
While plane shooting may be an extremely effective measure, it can be time-consuming to sit and wait at the behest of your pilot/shooter; most people are likely looking for a faster and more immediate way of keeping their land predator-free.