By Eric Butler: PNT Correspondent
Pat Jaureguiberry sometimes likes to relate stories about how few people actually know what a coyote looks like.
Although common in the area, the medium-dog sized animal is seldom seen as it hops from spot to spot seeking food.
But Jaureguiberry has seen them plenty of times. And so have local farmers and ranchers — or, at least, the result of the coyotes’ presence.
Five days a week, Jaureguiberry makes his home in a Portales trailer as he goes out to those in Curry and Roosevelt counties who are seeking assistance in controlling a wildlife problem.
A resident of Las Vegas, N.M., where he returns to his wife on the weekends, the USDA wildlife specialist answers the call when the call of wild sends people to the telephone.
“I’m in a management situation, managing wildlife. I’m not here to eradicate — you just can’t do it, number one,” Jaureguiberry says. “If you’ve got a problem, I’ll come in there if you give me permission to come on your property. Then I’ll try to take care of it as best as I can.”
Jaureguiberry said that his position, partially funded through New Mexico counties, enables him to go to the aid of either city or rural residents.
It is, however, coyotes — and the threat they pose to livestock — that takes most of his time.
Weighing in at about 35 pounds, coyotes are nowhere near the size of wolves.
But this kind of wild dog can do plenty of damage nevertheless.
“They can eat a young calf plum up to where you don’t even find a bone, because the bones are still so soft,” Jaureguiberry said. “They’re not as big as people think they are. But they’re hunters and, if you get four or five of them together in a pack, they can take down a 200-pound calf pretty easy.”
But coyotes don’t always rely on their hunting ability to attack live animals. Sometimes, Jaureguiberry said coyotes will feed on livestock that have already died, much like a buzzard or other scavenger of the wild.
When he’s summoned to help control coyotes, Jaureguiberry may end up setting cyanide traps to kill the animals. After setting up the traps, he’s required to check on them once a week.
Jaureguiberry says that, although he takes part in controlling everything from gophers to pigeons to foxes, coyotes are what keep him busy.
“There’s an abundant population of coyotes here. It’s almost abnormal and I say that because people see them in bunches, five, six, seven, eight in a bunch,” Jaureguiberry said. “That’s really unusual for a solitary animal. I mean, these aren’t social pack animals like wolves.”
Newborn calves are also a prime target for coyotes in the Texas Panhandle. But those close to the situation also say that other farm animals are a frequent target.
“The coyote is going to go for the easiest kill, like newborn sheep and goats. Once everything gets some size on it, then they’re going to go to the weakest animals (of the group),” said Monti Vandiver, integrated pest management extension agent for Bailey and Parmer counties in Texas.
“We have had some instances where they’ve gotten pretty bad,” Vandiver said.
“They haven’t been able to find anything and they’ve come up to homesteads and getting chickens and even things like cats,” Vandiver said.
Vandiver said Texas has wildlife specialists similar to Jaureguiberry. The Texas Wildlife Damage Control office, part of Texas Cooperative Extension Service, sends representatives out of its Amarillo location to help farmers.
“They will help producers develop a plan, put out traps, things like that,” Vandiver said. “And, if necessary, come out and help hunt them down.”