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Coyotes dangerous to horse?

From: Robbyn

Hi Jessica,

My horse gets free turnout along with the pony and goat. They each have their own shed to get out of the weather if they wanted. The entire paddock is pretty big and enclosed by electric fence (except where the gate is-and this is boarded). We live in the woods with 150 acres of state park and wildlife refuge behind us. I just met someone who said they don't leave their horse out at night because of the coyotes. Occasionally, in the summer you can hear them howl in the distance at night. I don't hear them regularly and never seen them during the day-an occasional fox yes but not the coyote. Is this something I should worry about? I figured one coyote wouldnt be a big deal, but what if there is pack of them. Is my electric fence enough to deter them? We are presently building a barn but making it so they would still be able to have free turnout. I would hate to have to start bringing them in every night. But I will if I have to-safety first. Tell me what you think about this.

Thanks


Hi Robbyn!

This is a question that doesn't have a single definitive answer. I could say "yes and no", or "no and yes", and I'd be right, but it wouldn't be very helpful. ;-)

A lot depends on what's in your pasture, what's outside it, and what's between the two. Electric fence is usually more useful at keeping prey animals IN than at keeping predators OUT.

You don't say where you live, but that can make a big difference too. Lowland and desert coyotes tend to be smallish - twenty pounds or so, as opposed to the larger, stronger, forty- or fifty-pound mountain coyotes. Larger isn't necessarily more dangerous - smaller animals may find it easier to enter a pasture by walking under a strand of wire. ;-)

Coyotes usually don't bother livestock much - not large livestock, anyway. For one thing, they rarely travel in large groups. You're much more likely to see one or a few coyotes than a mass of them. They eat all sorts of things, including animals, but "animals" means rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, voles - occasionally a chicken or possibly a sheep or goat. Actually I should think that of all the animals in your field, the goat would be the most at risk, just because of its size.

Horses don't fall into the category of coyote food - "something to attack and eat" unless the horse is already injured or sick or very old, obviously easy prey... or unless the horse is actually a young foal. If you have a small foal in a pasture, or many foals in a field - as you might, at weaning time - be sure to keep an eye on the pasture or field at all times when the youngsters are out. Hungry coyotes WILL attack foals if the chance presents itself. A foal in a field with no protection is an easy victim. A foal in a field with many adult horses, or with a guard donkey or a guard llama, is far less likely to be attacked. A field full of just-weaned foals is a predator's dream - an "all-you-can-eat" buffet - so if you're turning all of your four-month-old foals out together, add a guard donkey or guard llama to the mix, or be sure that someone is always patrolling the field, or both. If you're in an area with a large amount of coyote activity, don't let your mares foal outside in the field.

If you're in a suburban area, or a just-barely-rural area, you may have something worse than coyotes to deal with. Coyotes are a timid lot, and tend to avoid humans and human habitation unless they are very hungry and very tempted by something delicious such as chickens, sheep, or foals. Far more worrisome are dog-coyote crosses. These are often not at all timid, do not fear man or avoid human habitations, and are often larger and heavier than their coyote parent. Coydogs, as they are called, tend to travel in larger packs, and a group of them can, without much trouble, bring down a large foal or a pony. If you have coydogs in your area, you need to take more elaborate precautions to protect your livestock.

Be aware of what's going on in your area, be aware of coyote and coydog habits, and know your farm and your animals - then use your own good judgement. A single coyote isn't a threat to adult horses. A group of coyotes MIGHT be a threat to an adult horse IF it is weak from illness, injury, or great age. A group of coyotes or coydogs IS a threat to foals.

How has your winter been? If it was long and hard, with a lot of snow and ice and a huge winter kill, the coyotes and coydogs may be very hungry, and they may find it easier to come after a foal or pony than to exhaust themselves trying to chase down occasional rabbits and voles. If the winter has been easy, and there are rabbits and mice and voles everywhere, you have less to worry about.

The type of your fence doesn't seem to matter as much as the determination of the predators. An electric fence provides an easy entry, but even the best fence won't necessarily keep all predators out. I've seen what happened when a pack of coydogs entered a pasture and killed two foals. The field was full of foals, no adult horses, no donkeys, no llamas, which was foolish of the farm owner, but you can understand why she thought the foals would be safe: The pasture gate was 50' from the bunkhouse, and the pasture itself was fenced with five-foot V-mesh fence with a top board. The only point of entry was the gate itself - again, 50' from the bunkhouse - and that's where the coydogs squeezed through.

So, be aware of the possible risks, and use your good judgement. The coyotes you hear at night are just talking about their territory. Don't assume that they aren't around, just because you don't see them - they're timid around people and homesites, and very good at lying low. We have coyotes near us, too, and although I rarely see one, I know that they are there. As things are, they don't worry me and I don't bother them, but if we ever have a hard winter and I have foals on the place, those foals probably WILL spend their nights indoors. ;-)

Sorry I can't give you a definite answer, but I hope this helps.

Jessica

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