Early yesterday morning October 25, 2011, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the remains of a buck that probably weighed close to 175 pounds. At 5:30 in the afternoon, I shot the buck with my bow at some 25 yards and was not exactly certain where the arrow had hid the deer; therefore, the outdoors shows' theme raced through my mind, "When in doubt, back out". I did what I thought was a correct response and backed out since it was dark when I climbed out of my tree; however, to my disappointment a pack of coyotes had found my deer and left only the head, horns, hoofs, part of the hide, and a little of the backbone. There was not enough meat left on that buck to make a single hamburger. Evidently, a pack of coyotes can put away a lot of meat in some 12 hours. My shot must have been excellent since the deer ran about 50 yards into a pine thicket before dying. My new theme is, "When in doubt, check it out". A blind man could have followed that blood trail which was two feet wide.
A pack of coyotes can put a hurt on a deer herd, especially young fawns. A recent outdoor magazine stated that some 80% of the fawn mortality on the nuclear facility on the Savannah River was due to coyotes. The study also predicted a decline in the population of the deer herd in the southeast due to the increase in the coyote population. There is no doubt that the population of coyotes is increasing in this area each year. Folks around here complain of the increased frequency of being awakened at night by the howling of a pack of coyotes.
While on the Northwest Road in Bankhead Forest, two veteran runners begin their strides along the incline between the Mountain Springs Road and Borden Creek. As the two runners raced along, a nearby agonizing bleat caught their attention. Immediately the pair of runners stopped to examine the source of the cries and some 50 yards from their position, an adult doe was frantically running around the hillside. Between the doe and the runners, a huge coyote was making the final killing bites on a small spotted fawn. The coyote picked up the dying fawn in its jaws and trotted off through the woods. The runners said you could plainly see the fawn's legs dangling on either side of the big coyote's body.
Some years back, a friend and I were scouting for deer sign when we ran across a recent deer kill. As we approached the animal, a bunch of coyotes took off through the woods. Fresh blood and muddy water indicated the deer had just been killed and only a small portion had been eaten by the predators. Another eye witness account comes from a Bankhead land owner who said a group of coyotes began making a large disturbance in his pasture not far from his house. The next morning he investigated to find the remains of an adult deer that had been about totally consume by the predators. Coyotes have become the primary predators of adult whitetails in north Alabama and across the Southeastern United States. They may be one of the primary reasons the Bankhead and other north Alabama deer herds have difficulty in maintaining larger deer populations.
According to the Alabama Fur Takers Association, "Alabama trappers first reported catches of coyotes in the early 1970's". Since that time, the range and population of coyotes have spread across the entire State of Alabama with their increasing numbers causing trouble for other prey species such as the rabbit, quail, and even foxes. The decline in the number of foxes could be due in part to the competition for habitat and the ability of coyotes to kill foxes. Some trappers report that coyotes literally destroy the foxes caught in their traps.
Some folks believe that the coyotes migrated from the west and may have interbred with the red wolves that used to be found in the Southeastern United States. The larger size of eastern coyotes may be due to genetics, cross-breeding, or may simply be due to the abundance of the food supply, climate, and habitat. Whatever the reason of the eastern coyote's larger size and widespread dominance in northern Alabama, everyone agrees that the killer coyotes of the Warrior Mountains has become a dominate predator of many species of wildlife as well as goats, sheep, calves, and pets.
I know from personal experience that a pack of coyotes can eat an entire deer in one setting; therefore, from this point on, I intend to try to kill every coyote that gives me the opportunity. However, I know on full moon nights that the howl and yelp of the killer coyotes can be heard from one end of the Warrior Mountains to the other. I know that the wily coyote is here to stay!