While hunters can be quick to blame overharvest for declining deer numbers, man isn’t the only predator that’s taking a toll on deer in Mississippi and across the Southeast. Two other animals that either compete for or directly prey upon deer are coyotes and wild hogs.
Controlling them has become a crucial part of quality deer management.
QDMA Pine Belt Chapter President Mike Mitchell said he has witnessed the devastation from both.
“We have killed a lot of coyotes in the areas that I hunt and it never seems to make a dent in the coyote population,” he said.
A study conducted by U.S. Forest Service Research Wildlife Biologist John Kilgo at the Savannah River Site near Barnwell, S.C. has shown just how devastating coyotes are on deer populations. Kilgo used the vast 310 square mile site to research interactions among wildlife with little or no human involvement. The results were astounding.
“Until five years ago, nobody was worried about the coyote’s impact on deer,” Kilgo said. “Now we have evidence they are significantly impacting some populations. There’s no evidence coyotes prey on adult deer, the concern is with fawns, particularly in their first week of life when they are most vulnerable.”
Mitchell said parts of Mississippi are also having significant problems with wild hogs.
“Hogs are so destructive; a pack of hogs can ruin and entire food plot overnight,” he said.
Mitchell said parts of the state, especially areas around river drainages, have developed substantial hog problems that have put a heavy burden on local deer populations because of the competition for food.
“Hunting both coyotes and hogs is a lot of fun, but it’s not going to do much to reduce overall populations,” Mitchell said. “If you want to make a difference, and protect your deer in the process, you need to be instituting a trapping program during the seasons allowed.”