Coyotes impact more than deer
I’ve done little predator hunting through the years, finding modest interest in something I thought to be without much excitement.
But just last year that changed when I went with a young friend on an outing that he simply termed “predator hunting.”
Realistically it was a quest for foxes, and that could be abridged to red foxes, because gray foxes are rarely seen in our corner of Pennsylvania. It would also include coyote, because one rare event that transpired for my friend ended in his shooting a big female.
On this occasion, as the sun set on a cold February afternoon, I met Dave at his home. In his pickup, we headed to one of his favorite spots. When there, he parked the truck and we walked over a few inches of snow for a couple hundred yards along a fencerow that bordered a huge corn stubble field. At a corner of the field he placed on the ground a tape player and a large light with a red cover over its glass front portion.
He also set up a small tripod on which he placed a .17 caliber rifle that he held with his right hand. As he sat behind the gun he turned on another light that hugged his head by means of a heavy elastic band and also cast a reddish beam.
As a final action he used a remote control he held in his free hand to start the squeals of an injured rabbit that echoed across the field from the tape player.
After 10 minutes we packed up and left the spot. Dave assured me that if nothing showed in that short time, staying longer most likely meant nothing would change.
At the third stop we made, a section of woods lay beside a barren corn field. Within two minutes of playing the tape a red fox appeared from the woods, maybe 80 yards from where we sat. His eyes glowed red from the effect of the light that shown on him, and even in the darkness his breath vapors could be seen.
He stood for a few seconds, then whirled and left the way he came, and Dave never got off a shot. For that brief instant, though, he was a wonder to see, and I can still visualize his thick fur and heavy tail wrapping a wary frame. A beautiful wild creature.
Occasionally, I see red foxes in the daylight as I’m driving somewhere. They are crossing fields or sneaking along edges. Mostly it is in winter, when snow is covering the ground and their hunger must be great.
No matter how one views the red fox you cannot dismiss its beauty. If you are a hunter, you must also appreciate their impressive abilities to secure food.
But there is now an additional threat the red fox is beginning to face beyond the everyday job of getting enough to eat, and that manifests in the form of the coyote.
Coyotes kill red foxes – they kill grays too, but grays can climb trees, and stand a much better chance of escaping coyotes. People are misled into believing coyotes kill red foxes for food, and while this is occasionally true, it basically comes down to the coyote removing a form of competition for their food sources.
Where wolves thrive, they kill coyotes for the same reason. It is simply how the natural world works.
The boom in coyote populations in the eastern part of the Untied States will become a certain threat to the red fox. State wildlife management agencies may have to act to help the foxes. Lessening trapping seasons for foxes is a real possibility, and increasing trapping for coyotes – the only form of population reduction that really works –becoming another possible remedy.
Some may say that if foxes are gone “who cares?” But do not include me in that group. They’re just too beautiful an animal to lose.