Ranchers aren’t the only folks who should be wary of coyotes.
Grape growers make the list as well.
This was among the observations from Fred Rinder, a wildlife management specialist with the Fresno County (Calif.) Department of Agriculture.
Rinder showed a picture of a coyote den between rows of vines, posing a worker safety hazard for those operating machinery and not particularly welcome to growers who find their nearby drip lines gnawed.
“They’re the top dog in California, totaling between 1.5 and 3 million,” Rinder said at the San Joaquin Valley Grape Symposium in Easton, Calif.
Omnivorous, they eat darned near thing. Rinder listed rabbits, carrion, rodents, young deer, insects, raisins, blueberries, watermelons, table grapes, pets, and human refuse. They also kill sheep, lambs, calves, and poultry.
Coyote dens can be found in rock crevices, sinkholes, dry basins, steep banks, open areas, alfalfa fields, orchards, and vineyards. They can create hazards for machinery operators.
Rinder said damage caused by coyotes in Fresno County averaged more than $400,000 between 2001 and 2010. Damage in drip irrigation alone amounted to nearly $135,000 in 2003.
Rinder suggested multiple ways to manage the critter, which is becoming more challenging as the state’s no-shooting zones expand and regulators limit styles of traps.
His tips included: do not leave pet food outside overnight; keep open areas clear of junk piles; and keep garbage and trash can lids secure.
Electric fending can be effective. Six foot fencing can be jumped. One way to foil the coyote is to put a roller guard along the top of the fence. It keeps the coyote from getting a grip with its front legs so that it can bring its hind legs up to help it leap over.
Guard animals including dogs, burros, and llamas keep coyotes at bay.
Practicing good sanitation helps. This includes removing afterbirth and carcasses that draw coyotes.
There are no registered toxicants.
Radios, strobe lights, and propane cannons on a timer can help. But it’s best to vary patterns, which coyotes can soon recognize.
Coyotes cannot be moved without approval of the California Department of Fish and Game.
Rinder said the presence of coyote droppings or tracks near a mauled carcass are not proof that the coyote killed the animal. Wildlife specialists examine the carcass to find if the animal was stillborn, if it ever walked, and if it was malnourished.
Not all California counties perform wildlife management. The Fresno County unit that handles this can be reached at (559) 600-7510.