Rethinking the Coyote’s Visit in Light of Natural Pest Control

By , February 4, 2010

A recent daylight visit to our homestead by a local coyote had us somewhat concerned. We don’t foresee any danger, but it’s unwise to become complacent about any wild animal, particularly a highly adaptable predator. Plus, we’ve tracked coyotes following our resident vole eaters, weasels (ermines) and minks.

Recently, Michelle learned from an Eliot Coleman book that coyotes are voracious vole eaters. According to Coleman, coyote urine will discourage voles from exploring an area. This put an entirely different perspective on the recent encounter, during which we had not been pleased to watch our visitor squat in the garden. Apparently, we should be welcoming that sort of behavior after all!

We’ve labored hard against the local voles ever since we first came to the homestead. They’d moved into the cabin when it was unoccupied, which led to some interesting moments, notably the day Michelle made a perfect kill shot with my blowgun on a vole she could hear but not see in the pilot bread bag on the top shelf, and the morning a litter of volelettes somehow got dispersed throughout the cabin before they even had their eyes open. Our cats, Lissa and Spice, hardly knew what to think of that.

Each summer we trap voles in the garden, or take pot shots with blowguns. We throw chunks of wood, rocks or any other missile close at hand, and roust them out of the compost bins regularly. The minks, weasels, and birds of prey—owls, hawks, and harriers—do their part. We have periods when there are no voles at all. And yet, each year we lose a good deal of our strawberries, broccoli, and cauliflower to them. They’ve recently breached the root cellar. If a coyote will visit now and then to hunt them, or even just pee in the garden, it will henceforth be most welcome. This particular coyote, with a lame forepaw, seems particularly suited to our needs: active enough to catch voles, but not fit enough to get into other coyote mischief.

This relationship will change drastically if and when we get around to raising chickens. When that day comes, the coyote will no longer be welcome to hunt our compound, and will be actively discouraged from going so, I’m sure. In the meantime, she’s welcome to scrape together a meal now and then and relieve herself as needed . . . preferably near the compost bins.

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