Pennsylvania hunters still thinking about coyotes in the summer

It seems that even over the summer months, when many hunters are fishing, boating, hiking or otherwise vacationing, coyotes still lurk in the back of our minds.

In the recent issue of Pennsylvania Outdoor News, a commentary by Penn State wildlife professor and researcher Duane Diefenbach mentioned culling as a means to promote an effective “coyote-control” program to improve recruitment of whitetail deer fawns across the state.

And then, added to that, I turned on the computer yesterday morning and read an email from an outdoor-related website that discusses how coyotes are “decimating” deer populations, and accordingly, how the Quality Deer Management Association will offer courses to land owners instructing on the proper methods to trap coyotes to ensure a better survival rate of fawns and increase herd size in their respective areas.

Well, since coyotes are back in the news, I’ll offer some thoughts coupled with the promise that I won’t touch the subject again, at least not until I’m close to the time I climb a tree, pull up my bow and knock an arrow.

I believe Diefenbach makes a couple of valid points while noting that controlling coyote populations may be extremely costly. He pointed out that, in the end, there is no assurance that the efforts of trappers will even work. But still, people within organizations such as QDMA offer to help.

I’ve said this before – coyotes are here to stay. Numerous studies have shown that while heavy trapping may improve fawn recruitment the following spring, coyote numbers soon rebound because in their travels they cover large areas, which enables them to migrate to places where coyote numbers are lower, and call that new territory home. It has also been shown through research, that this animal has a devious ability to increase litter size when its numbers decline.

Add to that, when trapping is used as a control tool, the trapping is undertaken in the spring in just about all cases, when coyotes have young and are more susceptible to being trapped. Here in Pennsylvania, trapping is not even allowed in springtime. So much for that.

I know the state is conducting studies now to determine how coyotes stress deer populations within Pennsylvania. Of course, I cannot know at the moment what results that research will yield. But whatever the outcome, I’ll still stick with the following suggestions compiled by other states that have completed studies. Three basic forms of response to deal with coyote influence on deer populations have shown to work best:

  • One … balance the herd to a good “buck-to-doe” ratio to make certain that all does are bred within a short timeframe. The result of this is that fawn drop occurs within a compressed time period so coyotes can only kill so many fawns before the fawns mature to the stage where escape is more likely. More fawns born at the same time equates with more survivors;
  • Two … improving the habitat where fawns can be born and hidden until they can move securely is paramount. Warm season grasses, thick and lush vegetation and conifer forests that grow limbs close to the ground are ideal places for a mother to hide her young, and better its chance of survival;
  • Three … if areas still show heavy fawn predation by coyotes after the above methods have been introduced, reduce anterless tags to allow more doe survival to increase fawn numbers, allowing a local deer population to rebound.

These are things we can do to help whitetails – spending money to improve habitat, sex ratios and overall numbers – rather than spending it on expensive studies that will end up offering the same conclusions as other studies, or costly and ineffective trapping.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Hunting News, Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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