Coyotes Have Minimal Effect on State Deer Herd

By Frye, Bob | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 29, 2010 | Go to article overview

Coyotes Have Minimal Effect on State Deer Herd


Frye, Bob, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


There's been a lot of talk about how much coyotes are impacting the state's deer herd.

One researcher believes it's much ado about nothing.

Duane Diefenbach, adjunct professor of wildlife ecology and leader of the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State's school of forest resources, said coyotes do prey on fawns, here as well as elsewhere.

But there's no evidence they're depressing the state's deer population, he said. That's true even though coyote numbers have grown over the years, he said.

"But our data tell us that coyote predation is not an issue in Pennsylvania," he said.

For the past decade, he and his students have been monitoring thousands of deer -- 3,000 overall -- that they captured and fitted with radio collars.

"Significantly, very, very few adult deer in our studies have succumbed to predation from coyotes, bears or anything else," he said. "We now know that in this state, once a deer reaches about 12 months of age, the only significant mortal dangers it faces are getting hit by a car or being harvested by a hunter.

Fawns fare pretty well in a world with coyotes, too, he added. A fawn study done in the state a decade ago found predation rates similar to what exists elsewhere, like in Maine, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and New Brunswick, Canada.

"Our research has shown that overall mortality here is not extraordinary," he said.

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