Resolving conflicts between predators and livestock producers depends on obtaining reliable information about the predators that kill livestock. We used salivary DNA obtained from attack wounds on domestic sheep carcasses to identify the species of predator responsible for the kill, as well as the sex and individual identity of coyotes (Canis latrans) that killed sheep. Coyotes killed 36 of 37 depredated sheep. Breeding pairs whose territories overlapped sheep grazing areas were the primary predators on domestic sheep, and only breeding pairs killed multiple sheep. Breeding males, acting alone or with their mate, were involved in 21 of 25 kills. Breeding females participated in 13 kills, but only 1 breeding female killed sheep on her own. Transient females did not kill sheep, and both kills by transient males occurred in territories with a breeding vacancy. Our results suggest that predator control should be targeted at breeding male coyotes. Salivary DNA is a potentially powerful means of both investigating predation patterns and evaluating the effectiveness of control at targeting individuals that kill livestock.
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Vol. 70 • No. 4