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The Latest Research on Deer

How Coyotes Impact Deer Herds

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Today outdoorsmen have begun to learn more about the white-tailed deer. In the past, we haven’t known the right questions to ask. But now scientists and researchers have started studying deer more intensely. Brian Murphy, QDMA executive director, has kept his finger on the pulse of new deer research to inform the members of QDMA and outdoors enthusiasts how to better manage whitetails. This week, we’ll bring you the latest research concerning deer.

When we asked Brian Murphy about the impact of coyotes on deer-management programs, he explains, “Coyotes are a relatively newcomer to the East. In the last 10 years, they’ve really expanded their ranges into the eastern U.S. Hunters are beginning to become more concerned about the effect of coyotes on the deer they hunt.” In past years, biologists haven’t concerned themselves too much about coyotes because they’ve believed that the coyotes may take a few fawns but not enough to dramatically iClick to enlargempact the herds. However, in the last couple of years, several research projects have shed new light on the subject of coyotes and how they impact deer.

“Mississippi State University has been studying coyotes for 10 years, and just recently concluded a very-extensive study,” Murphy says. “The biologists’ research indicates that:
* “coyotes are taking some fawn deer during the spring.
* “hunters randomly taking coyotes in a particular area has no impact on reducing the number of coyotes feeding on deer fawns because of the social structure of coyotes. Once a coyote population becomes established, there’s a very-strong social order and ranking of the animals in that population, including alpha males and alpha females. Once these dominant males and females establish their home ranges in a certain area, they keep the subordinate coyotes from occupying or sharing those same ranges. If a high-ranking coyote is incidentally harvested by a hunter, the coyote’s home range may then be filled by several other juvenile coyotes. So, in some instances, coyote hunters may actually increase the coyClick to enlargeote population by shooting coyotes from a deer stand.
* “the best two defenses in the South to reduce coyote numbers are: adopt very-intensive and on-going trapping and predator-hunting programs that will last for several years; or, beat the coyotes at their own game by ensuring that there is adequate fawning cover on the property, which is the more-desirable and most-effective defense for hunters. Fawning cover is characterized by low-growing, fairly-dense and impenetrable habitat that makes locating fawns very difficult for coyotes.
* “a coyote has to get within 100 to 200 feet, or 30 to 60 yards of a fawn to detect it during the first two weeks after the fawn’s birth because the fawn doesn’t have much scent then. Therefore, in a region homing high-quality fawning cover that’s very thick and dense, the coyotes are less likely to find fawns.Click to enlarge
* “does will be able to select the best fawning habitat, if the herd is in good shape with an appropriate number of deer that the habitat can support. Predation on fawns by coyotes is much greater on young does because young does usually get less-quality sites to drop their fawns than the older does do, and young does aren’t as effective at defending their fawns against predators.
* “another effective way to help get rid of predators is called predator swamping, which means trying to have all the fawns on the ground born at the same time. When there’s a balanced age structure and enough bucks available to breed all the does, hunters will get very-concise breeding. When there’s concise breeding in the fall, there will be concise spawning in the spring, since most of the fawns born in a particular herd will all be born at the same time. When almost all the fawns are born at one time, the coyotes can’t take many of them because they can only eat so many fawns at a time. However, when there’s a poorly-managed deer herd with skewed sex ratios and poor buck age structure, fawns will be born over a much longer time. Then coyotes can make a living eating fawns for 3 or 4 months.”

To learn more about QDMA, go to or call 1-800-209-DEER.

Tomorrow: More on How Coyotes Impact Deer Herds

Check back each day this week for more about "The Latest Research on Deer"

Day 1: How Coyotes Impact Deer Herds
Day 2: More on How Coyotes Impact Deer Herds
Day 3: The Truth about the Effects of Breeder White-Tailed Bucks
Day 4: Whether to Cull White-Tailed Bucks, and What about the Possible Inferiority of Spike Bucks
Day 5: The Importance of Photographing Deer and Developing a Hit List to Learn the Most about Your Land’s Deer Herd



Entry 393, Day 1