Trying to put a dent in the coyote population
This winter, I am spending a few months in Nevada where there are always plenty of environmental and wildlife issues on the front page.
There are differences, but some similarities, between problems in the West and those in Ohio. One that caught my eye over the New Year's holiday was a controversial coyote "calling contest" organized statewide by a group of Nevada hunters.
It was actually a hunt that aimed to put a dent in the state's rapidly growing coyote population. Like Ohio, there's no closed season on coyote in Nevada.
Licensed hunters paid $25 to $30 each to participate in the contest. It was held on federal lands with the top cash prize determined by total weight of kill.
As in Ohio, coyotes pose a threat to domestic pets, as well as some farm animals in Nevada. As a result, farmers, ranchers and many rural and suburban residents supported the hunting contest.
But the event raised the hackles of animal rights groups who called it killing for entertainment, not wildlife management.
Nevada Votes For Animals and Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife Management plan to ask the state wildlife commission – equivalent to the Ohio Wildlife Council – to ban such hunting contests. California recently became the first state enact a ban on similar hunts.
Growing up in rural Ohio with a dad who trapped, we rarely (if ever) saw a coyote and certainly never heard one. Today, coyotes can be heard howling at night all around Madison County. And yes, they do munch on feral cats, unsupervised canines and penned chickens, ducks and geese.
State wildlife biologists are uncertain what caused the resurgence. They know coyotes returned to Ohio from the South and West.
All wildlife tends to follow its food source, so rebounding numbers of deer might have attracted coyotes to the Buckeye State. Once established, the omnivore canines thrived on suburban garbage cans, rodents and anything else they could lay their teeth on. Motor vehicles and man proved their only predators.
At meetings of the Ohio Wildlife Council, member Horace Karr routinely asserts his theory that coyotes are adversely impacting the state's whitetails. I suspect Karr might support an organized coyote hunt.
Biologists say there's no science behind Karr's theory and that coyotes only kill fawns that are unprotected or too young to outrun them.
While wolves hunt in packs, coyotes are solitary creatures. It's unlikely one could bring down a healthy adult deer alone, they say.
Regardless, coyotes appear to be in Ohio to stay – with or without attempts to curb their population.
A biologist once told me coyotes are now "a feature of Ohio's natural landscape" and we must learn to live with them in peace.
I am not sure all Nevadans are ready to accept that.