There was a mystery in the MSU Tollgate CSA vegetable field recently. The fabric row covers were torn and some of the irrigation piping had been damaged, almost as if someone (or something!) had been playing with it. A walk around the field revealed a gap under the back gate that looked like the probable entry point for the culprit. Fortunately, Tollgate owns a trail camera. The camera was mounted on a fence post in the hope of revealing the perpetrator(s) of the malicious activities in the CSA vegetable fields.
The picture above were taken with a trail cam looking into the main field from gate at the southwestern corner of the field. Looking at multiple photos we have can identify at least three coyotes living on site. We have known for a while that we had a family of coyotes living at Tollgate (howling when sirens were going off, brief sightings in the hay fields, slaughtered chickens and ducks, etc.), but recently they have become regulars in our main Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) field. In general the CSA crew don’t have a problem with this coexistence as they are great at keeping the rodent population down. Since the coyotes moved in, our vole/mouse population in the field has decreased and consequently we are seeing much less damage from those critters.
On the other hand, the CSA crew has seen an increase in damage to other supplies such as row cover, drip tape, plastic mulch, irrigation pond liner, etc. In their search of critters for dinner, the coyotes have caused significant damage by chewing through lines and scratching holes.
The CSA team is currently weighing their options for future seasons as we all navigate coexistence with the coyotes. Some of those options include reinforcing the fence line so they can’t squeeze under it and/or restringing an electric fence along the bottom of the fence to deter them. For the time being we will appreciate these wild beings having a sanctuary in the middle of suburbia and for providing organic pest control!