coyote affecting deer populations

Do Coyotes Affect the Deer Population?

How much of a large-scale impact do these pesky predators really have on an area?

A new study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management and Wildlife Monographs indicated that while coyotes do eat deer, they don't actually have much of an effect, if any, on populations in larger regions.

The following clip features one of the study's co-authors, Roland Kays, who is a wildlife biologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University. He explains how coyotes don't have near the impact on prey species that people think they do.

"With wolves and cougars extinct in most of the eastern U.S., white-tailed deer have become abundant, sometimes overabundant," he said in the study. "Coyotes moved in as the new top predator of the east, but they aren't nearly as effective deer hunters as wolves, so there's been a lot of controversy about whether these medium-sized predators can really limit deer populations at large scales."

Because previous studies all yielded inconsistent results, Kays and a team of NCSU researchers led by Eugenia Bragina decided to team up. They monitored various deer herds from 1981 to 2014 in six different eastern states: Ohio, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

"Our study is unique because it's the first to link coyote presence to changes in deer population at a large scale," Bragina said. "Getting the big picture of the interactions between these species helps inform the management practices of these species by hunting agencies."

Watch the video below:

As you can see, the study concluded that the number of harvested deer largely increased over time in each state, despite the arrival of coyotes in the eastern United States.

"We see direct evidence of coyote predation on deer when looking at coyote scat or even spotting them with camera traps carrying off deer fawns," said Chris Deperno, another co-author from NCSU. "Though coyotes are known to kill adult deer, predation is focused primarily on vulnerable individuals that are sick, injured or in late-stage pregnancy. Predation of healthy adults is uncommon."

What are your thoughts on this study? Could coyote populations not cause as much damage to deer populations as we think they do? Do your trail cameras tell a different story? Let us know!