Dec 02

To trap and catch coyotes, which is more important, the Alpha male or Alpha female?

To trap and catch coyotes, which is more important, the Alpha male or Alpha female?

by Clint Locklear, Predator Control Group


There is a buzz that has been running ramped in the trapping publications, Alfa male coyote madness. In the last year the buzz in the public has been, if a trapper wants to catch more coyotes out of a family group, he has to catch the Alpha male first or the rest of the coyotes will avoid the sets that the boss dog refuses to work. This thought process does have a nice ring to it; it has almost a sexy ring to it. More than sexy, is it true? Does the male dog run the family group or is he just the most dominate? If a trapper misses an Alfa male, will his other efforts be hurt? We’ll let’s look at it for a moment. I will be the first to admit that I am not the know it all guy for coyotes. I can say that a lot of my income comes from taking coyotes for the purpose of control. Now, I did not trap coyotes all 12 months last year, just seven. So to some I might be considered a hobby coyote control trapper. I have learned from and have had in-depth conversations with some of the best and deadliest coyote takers alive today on just this subject. You would know some of them, and some you probably have never heard of. One gentleman is a USDA coyote man that has worked east and west, and he knows coyotes inside and out. I would give you his name but Uncle Sam is scared to death that one of their guys may be put in a situation to be known or may make money from a private situation. So we will just call him Trapper X. The point is that there are men that have years and years taking, calling and killing coyotes for a living. Their experience does not come from studies or paper work. These are the guys that KNOW coyotes from years of experience. With the experience comes an understanding about what REALLY happens in the field. You have two sides of experience, real word and theory.

Now the theory of the Alfa male being the most important coyote to catch, sounds manly. Who doesn’t want to be staring into the eyes of a dominate male coyote in a trap you have set. He will test your equipment and sometimes your will if you have to put him in a catch cage while working the live market. It is just human nature to want to catch the biggest, badest, boss dog in the area, but is he the one that needs to be taken? If he is killing, he has to go. On the other hand the Alfa buzz is not about a stock killing dominate male, it’s referring to just catching more coyotes.

I’ll start with what my own two eyes and my trap lines have shown me. First off, I have personally twice seen the female coyote move young pups out of an area when howling and calling has gone bad. The female was literally chasing and snapping at her pups to keep them high-tailing it to parts unknown. One of these times there was no way that the coyote was a male. He was still warm from a 220 swift rifle. The other time the male took off running for the hills and left momma and pups to tend for themselves. Now if the male was moving the pups out of danger, then I might think a little different on this subject. Secondly, I have on several occasions had a female coyote in a trap and when she saw me she would look off into the brush and make a long series of warning barks. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that she was giving orders, because the whole area would go dead as a doornail for a long time. Third, by not taking the female in the first few nights in an area of trapping, the coyotes would just up and leave. Experience has taught me that if I don’t take the female and take some pups, I could have problems. On the same side, take the male and maybe a pup or two, and you might find your traps set with the coyotes having moved several miles away. Forth, when the dominate female is caught, the rest of the family is fairly easy and quick to take. And contrary to the Alfa male buzz, this included the dominate male. To be frank, a pup coyote is not hard to trap, next in the order from easiest to hardest to catch is the male, then comes the female. She does not seem to like or trust anything out of the ordinary.

I do agree that the Alfa male is the dominate coyote of the pack. He eats first and gets everyone’s respect. He is the fighter of the family and this is the reason why he is NOT hard to catch. He is brave and will challenge any other coyote or dog during certain times of the year. Being aggressive is the reason that he will fall to certain sets and lures without much hesitation. It is not much different in many forms of wildlife; momma is the eyes and ears of the operation. She is the nervous one and the one that controls the little ones. If she gets pressured or see’s one of her young messed with she will bolt or bounce to a new area.

That’s my two cents for what they are worth. As far as the other men that have been coyote men fulltime for years and decades for that matter, all want the female bagged first thing. I have not talked to one of these men that put much emphases on the dominate male. I even had a true wolfer tell me in a letter “I wish the male controlled the pack”. I don’t have his permission to use a personal letter so I won’t, but he is one of the, if not the top dog coyote men alive today. Our USDA trapper X goes out of his way to take the female. His goal is to nail the female first, because it makes the rest of his job easier.

Now keep in mind that the real coyote men base their ideas off of dead coyotes and the process it takes to make them that way. This Alfa male idea comes from studies that are for the most part made up and run by biologist and research guys, not dyed in the wool coyote takers. This should, by itself, be reason to take these theories with a grain of salt. The problem is that most studies are purely based off of academia, not real world, just book learning. In my control business I have gotten to know and work with biologists. Some are good and use common sense. Some refuse to believe anything that is not in a text book. Now who wrote the text book, a biologist that learned it from another book, see the problem? The world of academia is a world that rotates off of getting something published and funded. Unfortunately, most wildlife biologist work behind a computer, not out in the field understanding what is going on away from the computer screen. I have read a lot of these wildlife studies that pertain to control work and predators. If you read the whole thing, you will find that the trapper was a college student or the biologist that had little if any trapping experience. So their findings are based off of purely rank beginner trapping knowledge and skill, most of the time. I’m sure this really doesn’t matter, everyone knows that all one has to do is read about trapping and presto, the traps are full.

Who kills me are the guys that come up with a theory or a method and sing them to the heavens. I’m sure their lure, video and book sales would never enter into the equation. Let’s just look at some ideas about who one should listen to. If the method that is being sold does not produce the numbers that the big boys catch, keep digging. If someone is claiming to have the secret, he would have the dead coyotes to back up his claim. If he is not taking close to the numbers of the numbers men, then why not? Could he be in an area that does not have a high number of a particular animal? This could be the case, and would explain the lack of numbers. Now if the man lives in an area with high target animal numbers, and does not have the numbers, step back and ask why. The fact that he doesn’t have the numbers has greater weight if the “new method” man is also a full time trapper that claims to be a real pro. If may just get a little heavier if the man claims only a couple of hundred animals. Let’s just step back and combine all the above factors. He is in a high animal population area, guys that use his method take more animals in his area, and for a full time trapper, he would starve to death off of the numbers he claims.

It is up to an individual trapper to make up his mind and believe what he believes. I just wish that guys would not preach and advertise non-sense. All it does is confuse a man that is looking for the truth and wants to take more animals. It is simple to me, book knowledge vs. real world experience. Which method has the most pelts behind it?


  1. Jessica Murphy

    That looks way more like a wolf than a coyote… much larger with smaller, rounded ears and longer, darker fur with wolf-like markings. Maybe coydog?

  2. DogLogic

    I attribute much of my success in trapping to my studies in terrestrial vertebrates, specifically canines. I had no formal upbringing in trapping.. daddy and pappy didnt do it.. But i went away to school and studied Wildlife Biology and behavior.. I believe thats why i produce a bit more than the guys in my area, and across a wider range of season and weather fluctuations. We learn something every day on the trapline.. but a little bit of straight up understanding of the way animal lives and thinks throughout the year goes a Long way. Im not saying you need a degree, but it pays to have a better sense of how your target sees the world ….even if you just watch some National Geographic or Animal planet.. Pay Close attention.

  3. k. a.


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