Officially they are Canis Latrans but most of us simply call them coyote or perhaps “Wiley Coyote”. Coyote are something of a legend with the various folklore that surrounds the species. They were often given iconic appearances howling in the moonlight in Western movies. The expatriation of the wolf left a void and made it possible for the coyote to expand into Ohio. They have migrated to Ohio via a couple of routes from the plains. Many have seen them and heard their distinctive vocalizations.
Brett Beatty, Division of Wildlife District 5 Wildlife Management Supervisor, explains, “Coyote were not native to Ohio but were first spotted in the early 1920s. The population has expanded over time and they are now present in all eighty-eight counties. The coyote is infinitely adaptable to almost any environment. They thrive in the city, urban and rural areas equally well. Historically they were a plains animal but today are present across the United States.”
The coyote is generally a slender animal and very similar in appearance to a medium-sized dog. They have a bushy tail which is usually tipped in black and is carried down. Most are gray, though some show a rusty, brown or off-white and may even appear somewhat blond in coloration. Males of this species are larger than the females and weigh anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds, although some weighing much more have been taken.
Both parents hunt for food and feed the young. However, the male takes the lead role hunting when the pups are newborns, obtaining enough food for both his mate and offspring. By three months of age, the pups are taught hunting skills. The coyotes stay together in a family unit throughout the summer into the fall when the young will leave to develop territories of their own.
They are largely nocturnal although in rural areas, where they are not disturbed by human activity, they may be seen during the day. The ability to adapt into any environment is key to their survival and expansion. They are very opportunistic feeder opting for whatever easy meal is available. In urban areas that may be pet food left outside or even small pets left unattended. Unchecked, they will eat livestock, particularly sheep and chickens. Many deer hunters are expressing concern that the coyote is impacting the deer herd especially through predation on the fawns. The nearly unchecked growth in the coyote population is reason for concern.
Beatty adds, ” Coyote are part of our environment and here to stay. They offer a year-round hunting opportunity. Many landowners want to protect livestock, especially sheep. Other farmers like them because they have reduced the groundhog population. Predation on the deer fawn does occur. How much impact coyote have on the population varies depending on the area of the state. The habitat varies as does the deer and coyote densities. There are so many variables it makes it nearly impossible to determine the exact impact coyotes may have on the deer population.”
The only effective methods to control the population is through hunting or trapping. A hunting license is required for both trapping and hunting. While the coyote pelt does have some market value, they are not classified as a furbearer so no additional trapping permit is required.
However any trap must contain an identification number of the owner for each set. The tag has a number which the Division of Wildlife Officer can trace back to the owner through the license computer system. Written landowner permission is always required when hunting or trapping on private land. There are very few restrictions on hunting, which is gaining some popularity. Hunting is normally done by various calling methods to lure the coyote into range. Rifles, electronic calls and night vision scopes are all legal. There are some restrictions on coyote hunting during any deer gun season.
Trapping is the most effective method to target the coyote. Coyote will use established game trails through prime hunting areas. I look for fence crossings along the edge of a woods or at the corner. Ideally if the fence corner posts are slightly apart the coyote may prefer to slip between those. Coyote will use the path of least resistance. Understanding the terrain and game trails will provide the information of where to set the snares or traps.
One of the issues for the new trapper is having a mentor to have the proper equipment and knowledge to set the snares. There are a number of “tricks of the trade” that allow a trapper to target the coyote and minimize the chances that non-targeted game will be caught. Trapping efforts this winter have been hampered by the weather. Rain has often made it difficult to get to across fields especially where there has been fall plowing. I don’t believe the coyote is any more happy about getting mud all over their feet than I am getting it all over my boots!
I am getting a late start this year as several trapping seasons closed at the end of January while others remain open through February. The condition of the pelt will be in decline as winter takes a toll on the animals and the breeding season is starting. However, learning this year gives me time to gather the necessary supplies and equipment for the fall 2017 season. Anyone wanting more information about trapping can contact the Ohio State Trappers Association at www.ohiostatetrapper.org/.