By Ryn Gargulinksi
They’re cunning. They’re clever. And they’re everywhere. The critters in question are the coyote — and area hunters revere them as some of the smartest varmints they have ever met.
Roy Tivis of Portales recalls sitting out on a hunt with his usual partners, sons Rodney and Richard, and calling a coyote with the distress signal — a plastic whistle that imitates the sound of an injured rabbit.
“The next thing I knew, a coyote jumped right over the top of me,” he said.
They are also known to circle the hunter — like a shark, said Tivis, who has hunted coyotes for three decades. “When they can’t see you but they sense you’re there, they try to pick up your wind.”
Coyote are can also be cunning in the way they capture their prey, he said.
“They know when an animal is at its weakest point,” Tivis said, pointing out coyotes will attack young cattle on the back of their leg, ripping out their hamstrings. No longer able to stand, the crippled calves collapse in a heap. Tivis also said he has seen coyotes snatch the calf from a cow giving birth.
“One coyote will distract the mother,” he said, “while another one snatches the calf.”
A carnivorous animal not much bigger than most family dogs, the coyote is one of the most adaptable yet hated animals in the Southwest.
The coyote is always in season and no special license is needed to hunt it, said Roy Rocha, store manager of Big 5 Sporting Goods, where hunting licenses are sold. Rocha said that when there’s nothing else going on in the hunting world, he gets six to 12 people per week coming in to buy coyote calls. The popularity, say hunters, is in the attitude of these creative creatures.
“Even if they’re not the smartest, they’re the most entertaining,” said veteran Clovis hunter Steve Hodges.
Hodges said he lets the coyotes get close enough “to come untie my boot laces if they will.” Then he aims and fires.
“People don’t like the coyote hunter,” Hodges said, even when they go through proper channels to obtain permission from landowners.
Alan May, assistant state director from the USDA Animal Plant Health and Inspection Services/Wildlife Service, said the demand is so great to eradicate coyotes that USDA employees are sent out daily to follow up on complaints from farmers and ranchers who say their livestock is being slaughtered by the obsequious beasts.
One of the roles of the USDA office is to help resolve problems such as coyotes preying on livestock. Their hunters use traps, guns or cyanide.
Ron Jones, who works for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and New Mexico State University, has been trapping wild animals since he was a child.
Pete Walden, the extension agricultural agent at the Quay County Extension Office, said he directs ranchers to Jones when they are having problems.
Walden said losing cattle to coyotes is a major concern that can cost ranchers hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year.
Jones said he can tell by looking at a calf’s hide whether a bobcat, coyote or mountain lion killed the calf.
“About 95 percent of the time I find a dead calf, coyotes have probably killed it,” he said.
Jones uses cyanide gun traps to kill coyotes on area ranches.
The guns shoot a small dose of cyanide into the coyote’s mouth after he takes a bite of the bait. The cyanide turns to gas in his mouth and kills the coyote within 30 seconds, he said.
Some hunters and ranchers hang the corpses from a fence or nail them to a post to deter additional coyotes from lurking around the livestock.
Coyotes are known to dine on cattle, sheep, pigs, cats, chili and watermelon according to May. Included in their buffet are occasional poodles and Chihuahuas, according to published reports.
Freedom Newspapers writer Tova Fruchtman contributed to this report.