Coyotes beware

Sitting in a back corner of the garage workshop where Mike Dyer keeps his trapping supplies are the bottles of lure. Some are store-bought, some are homemade and some are a combination. The exact contents are unknown, but we’re talking fish innards, fox urine, groundhog musk, opossum scat, etc. The bottled slop is caught between molding and rotting. Even with the caps screwed on, this is the worst-smelling garbage you can imagine.

“I know it smells bad to us, but just about anything that stinks to high heaven is really good stuff to a coyote,” says Dyer. “Their nose is unreal. Of course many amateurs make a mistake of putting too much lure on the trap.”

Key Points

• Mike Dyer helps livestock producers by trapping coyotes.

• Dyer rebuilds his traps so they are strong enough to capture and hold a coyote.

• Population growth is so fast that a new coyote moves in after one is trapped.

Knowing how coyotes think and how much lure is just enough is a talent that keeps Dyer in demand, especially in southeastern Ohio.

“I never expected to have a trapper make this much difference in our sheep business,” says Harrison County’s Rick Moore. “He knows his stuff. He thinks like a coyote.”

It wasn’t always easy for Dyer. He recalls starting out at age 9, trapping muskrats at his grandfather’s pond. The trap springs were so strong he had to take each one home for his grandfather to set before he could position it in the water. Although his first larger animal was a raccoon, he recalls years of trying to trap a fox. Finally as a senior in high school, he got one. The hide brought $60, and Dyer quickly shifted his trapping attention to foxes. The second and third catches came quickly afterward.

It wasn’t until 1981 that Dyer saw his first coyote. It wasn’t long before he also started finding trapped foxes that were partially eaten by coyotes. He discovered that trapping the larger coyote took a much stronger trap than a fox.

Dyer completely rebuilds the Bridger No. 3 traps he uses. He needs about 100 of them a year. After they catch a coyote, they are boiled clean and often need to be reshaped.

“Coyotes are tough on traps,” Dyer says. “It takes good strong equipment to catch them and hold them firmly.”

It’s also a matter of knowing the right place to set the trap. Coyotes don’t try very hard to cover their trails. They like to walk along roadways, and it’s easy to see where they crawl under fences. There are also subtle swales and paths across a field that can show you where a coyote travels, Dyer says.

“Mike knows the ideal areas to catch them,” says Moore. “I recall one set where he caught nine coyotes.”

Coyote caller

Like many coyote hunters, Dyer can call a coyote to him with barks and howls. “Sometimes you can tell when an old male is laughing at you — kind of mocking the way you are calling,” he says. “They are very communicative.”

Dyer prefers to use traps, but also sets snares when he finds a spot like a fence crawl-under that is used routinely by the coyotes. Spring is a good time to catch the predators, he says.

“When they are making their dens, they tend to move around more,” he says. “Besides, a female typically has six or seven pups and may have as many as 11. Taking her out of the pack before she gives birth takes that many more coyotes away, as well.”

Nonetheless, coyote numbers are growing so fast that as soon as one coyote is removed from its territory, another one moves in, Dyer says.

According to USDA, coyotes cause more sheep deaths than any other predator, killing 225,000 sheep per year valued at $18 million. Moore and Dyer share a respect for the animal.

“They are survivors. They just find a way to keep adapting,” Dyer says.

“I hate them with a passion, but I have to admire how tough they are,” Moore says. “They are survivors, like farmers.”

REINFORCEMENTS: Mike Dyer uses No. 3 Bridger traps. Welding 5/8-inch bars to both jaws on each trap makes them legal for use in Ohio and adds the strength needed to hold a coyote.

SNOW TRAIL: If you want to learn where to set a coyote trap, there is no better time than winter, says Mike Dyer, a professional trapper. Here he positions branches to steer the coyote along the trail and into the wire snare hanging at head level.

CAUGHT: Note the characteristic yellow eyes of the coyote. This is a typical male weighing about 40 pounds. Dyer has caught 605 coyotes in the past five years.

HANDMADE: If you think you see the tooth of a backhoe welded to a mallet or a car leaf spring welded to a sledgehammer head, you are right. Dyer has fabricated tools for the job: (from top) a sifter to lightly cover the trap with dirt; four different digging tools to prepare the ground for where the trap will be set; and closed and open traps.

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of OHIO FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.