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Furbearer Guide

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Information on Nebraska Furbearer Species

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Trapping Coyote

Coyote vary greatly in intelligence levels and behavior. Consequently, susceptibility to trapping and reaction to being caught in a trap also varies greatly among individual coyotes. Some simply lie down and accept their predicament after a relatively short period of struggle. Others continue to fight the trap and attempt to escape.

A short chain should not be used, because it allows "trap fighters" to work the stake out of the ground. To ease stress on the stake, trap chains may be lengthened to three feet and equipped with a swivel. To prevent pulling the stake out of the ground, many trappers use metal stakes, 24 inches long and a half-inch in diameter. Other trappers prefer to use a short chain (10 to 15 inches) but a longer stake on dirt sets, especially when soils are soft or sandy. A No. 3 long-spring or coil-spring is considered by many coyote trappers an ideal size trap. Body-gripping traps such as the Conibear are ineffective for coyotes.

Because of the coyote's intelligence and suspicious nature, trapping requires meticulous care in set design and special efforts to avoid leaving human scent or other foreign odors at the set. Trapping this species also is more demanding and requires more skills and knowledge, than the trapping of many of the other furbearers. Experience is the best teacher and beginners will learn to avoid errors and how to select better sites. Wind-swept areas near water or lower saddles in a ridge of hills are good locations for coyote sets. It is generally a waste of time to place a set in tall grass or weeds because of the odor you leave on the weeds and because rabbits, skunks, pheasants all use these same trails.

Baits and lures are important elements of coyote trapping. Scents (coyote urine or prepared lure) are good attractants and also serve to cover human odor. Coyotes are more apt to investigate a set if they can see clearly in all directions. Traps must be carefully concealed, and the finished set must look as natural as possible ... as if nothing has been disturbed. Traps must be firmly bedded, so they do not rock or move. The pan or trigger should be set so very light pressure will release the jaws. If there's too much movement, the coyote will retrieve its paw before the jaws close.

Coyote Sets

The dirt-hole and the scent-post sets are the two most popular coyote and fox trapping techniques. There are many variations of the dirt-hole set.

Basically, though, the site should be located in the open, upwind from the prevailing wind direction, and in an area of low ground cover. Usually a rock, log, or low bush used as a backstop will prevent the coyote from approaching the set from the rear. The dirt hole should be 6 to 10 inches deep and 3 to 4 inches in diameter, just in front of the backstop. Dig down and back at about a 45' angle. Place a small piece of fresh or rotten meat in the bottom of the hole, with a few drops of lure in and on the edge of the hole. Loose dirt or dry grass may be thrown over the bait to hide it.

The trap bed is made by digging out the dirt and sod in an inverted V pattern, about 2 to 3 inches deep. A straight-clawed hammer makes a good tool for this. Excess dirt should be re- moved. Use a piece of canvas that has been protected from human odors. Approach the site carefully. Do not wander around the trap site. When finished, back away from the set and brush out your tracks. Some trappers use a one-yard- square kneeling canvas to avoid leaving any odor. Others feel there is less chance of leaving human scent if they wear rubber boots, work from a crouch, and plant their feet so they won't have to shift them until they are finished. The more successful trappers wear gloves.

Bed your trap firmly so it will not move if the jaw should be stepped on. The only hollow place will be under the pan. Place the trap about 6 to 12 inches from the edge of the hole, with a piece of waxed paper or light canvas over the pan and under the jaws to prevent dirt from getting under the pan. Tear the paper over the dog, which holds up the pan, so it is free to move up through the loose dirt concealment. Drive the stake, with chain attached, into the ground directly beneath the trap. The top of the stake should be slightly below the bottom of the dugout bed.

Concealing the trap is the next step. It can spell the difference between success and failure. Use a sifter box (a 6-by-8- by-3-inch wooden frame with 1/4-inch hardware cloth nailed on the bottom) to cover the trap with about Y2-inch of loose, dry dirt. If the dirt removed from the set is too wet to sift, you will have to bring in a bucket of dry dirt to sift over the trap. When finished, the entire set should be level with the surrounding area. Excess dirt should be carried some distance away and dumped. A few scratch marks, resembling those made by a coyote, and a little grassy duff over the bared soil will make a more natural looking set. The set should not have a swept or artificial appearance.

Coyotes like dogs and other canines advertise their presence and mark their territories by urinating at certain sites. This characteristic can be put to good use by a knowledgeable trapper. With one exception, the scent post set is constructed like the dirt hole set. The only difference is that no bait or lures other than coyote urine are used.

Just as a dog is interested in places where another dog has urinated, so is the coyote. A prominent object, such as a small bush, tall tuft of grass, or a rock or snag will serve as a natural scent post. A cow chip also makes a good scent object. Some urine is sprinkled on the tuft of grass used for the scent post. Both males and females will be attracted to the site. A few coyote droppings can be scattered about the area. Droppings and tracks indicating coyote activity in an area will help in choosing the site for this set. When finished, the set must look natural and undisturbed and be free of foreign odors. A few scratch marks will make it appear as if another coyote was there before.

Coyotes will visit the carcass of a large animal, such as cow or horse, regularly for long periods of time. Even when all that remains are some bones and dried chunks of hide, coyotes still check out the site. While such a location makes a tempting trap site, remember Nebraska law prohibits traps set within 30 feet of exposed bait. There are several options available on how to best set for coyotes there. The thing to remember here is the coyote's habit of stopping some distance away from the carcass to survey the area, also that the closer it gets the more cautious it becomes. Take advantage of this behavioral knowledge. A good spot for a set would be on an elevated point or mound within 100 yards, where it is likely to stop to survey the area. Some urine on a clump of grass will guide the animal to your trap. These are all versions of dirt sets, and the same preparation and care should be taken as when making the basic dirt- hole and scent-post sets.

A conscientious trapper checks his traps daily and dispatches any coyote as quickly and humanely as possible. Keep the catch free from mud and other foreign material.

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