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Do Coyotes Kill Mature Deer?

By Jeff Johnston

Many of my friends in the online hunting community received an email forward recently that shows two scrawny coyotes attacking and killing a mature, healthy-looking whitetail buck. There was also another one of a cougar killing a big buck near a deer feeder. So this led many people to proclaim the opposite of what we usually hear from anti-hunters and armchair biologists: that predators prey on only the weak, old or sick animals. This email seems to lend credibility to disproving the following myth:

The Myth: Coyotes and other predators only prey on the sick and weak.

The Investigation: Before we believe an Internet email that was forwarded by dubious sources (the last time I believed one I nearly sent my life savings to help a "friend" in need who was trapped in Nigeria) we need to ask the experts rather than assume this email is legit. (The deer could be sick, or the photo could be a fake.)

The Expert Deferral: Larry "Mr. Whitetail" Weishuhn is a degree-holding wildlife biologist, and probably more importantly, has literally spent a lifetime in the outdoors studying whitetails and coyotes in their natural environment. So I asked him if average coyotes can kill deer, including mature bucks.

"Yes, coyotes do kill healthy adult deer!  No question about it," said Weishuhn.

For a second opinion, I asked lifelong hunter, trapper, Colorado game warden and outdoor writer photographer/writer Judd Cooney.

He said the same thing. "I have seen it [a coyote killing a mature deer] with my own eyes on many occasions," said Cooney. (He’s got the photos to prove it.)

The Conclusion: Myth busted. Despite what classroom biologists or anti-hunters with anti-predator-control agendas may tell you, coyotes and other predators such as mountain lions, do routinely kill large, healthy deer.

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5 Responses to Do Coyotes Kill Mature Deer?

Stewy wrote:
February 01, 2012

I think there's only one way to validate here: dress up a classroom biologist / anti-predator control princess in a deer suit and have them troll a few trails frequented by 'yotes and/or 'cougs. AH could document the project: an instant hit reality show, in my humble opinion...

Tom B. wrote:
January 05, 2012

From what I have seen in Idaho there is probably a select few coyotes that learn how to kill healthy adult deer, the others catch easier prey. Coyotes are like humans in that some are better than others at hunting large animals.

Craig Fisher wrote:
January 04, 2012

I shot a female coyote chasing two whitetail does on my farm this past November. Another coyote was with her but I didn't have the opportunity to get a shot at it. As both does had earlier had fawns with them, I assume the coyotes got to them first earlier on. I saw both does several days later and they didn't have their fawns with them anymore.

elizabeth wrote:
January 02, 2012

We are in michigan and coyotes chase our deer all the time.

R. Hill wrote:
December 28, 2011

Good Info. !