Bill would limit coyote hunting season

  • An eastern coyote frequenting a backyard in Hudson. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/4/2019 9:15:14 PM

A proposed state bill seeks to close the coyote hunting season from April through August when the animals are raising their pups.

“Eco-systems are healthier with an apex predator,” said Democrat Rep. Ivy Vann of Peterborough, one of the co-sponsors of the bill. “While Fish and Game has not taken a position on this bill, in general, biologist are in agreement that not hunting them during the pupping season is the better thing to do.”

Currently, the state does not have a set hunting season for coyote, which can be hunted or trapped year round. The state does limit hunting coyotes at night to between Jan. 1 and March 31.

The bill has gone through House Fish and Game Committee, which voted 14-6 in February to declare the bill “inexpedient to legislate,” recommending it not be passed by the house. The main objection of the committee, according to reporting by the Concord Monitor, was that lawmakers should leave hunting limits in the hands of the state’s Fish and Game, which can adjust them as needed without going through a legislative process.

Is there a need for hunting limits on coyotes?

The lack of hunting limits on coyotes is unique when looking at the state’s large fur-bearers. Not only is there no off-season for coyote, but there is also no limit for how many animals a hunter can take.

Despite that, according to Fish and Game head of the state’s furbearer project and Wildlife Biologist Patrick Tate, the state’s population of coyote has been steady for the past decade or so.

The state doesn’t do comprehensive population studies on coyote, as they would be too expensive to maintain, but extrapolation data from surrounding states and from coyote hunters in the state suggests the state has an Eastern Coyote population of about 4,500 Tate said.

“The population is very wide-spread,” Tate said. “Every town and every city has coyotes.”

Fish and Game fields between 40 and 60 calls annually about coyote concerns, Tate said, but the majority of calls are limited to coyotes sighted in a populated area. About 10 calls annually relate to coyotes killing domestic pets or farm animals.

Studies in surrounding states have shown coyotes are most aggressive during mating season and when they have pups in a den, Tate said, as they are more territorial during those ties.

Gordon Webber of Antrim hunts and traps coyotes both himself and in his capacity as a Wildlife Control Operator, a position that gives him authority to trap nuisance animals.

“Probably half of my calls for nuisance trapping are for coyote,” Webber said Thursday. “Typically from people who are losing farm animals, chickens and household pets.”

Webber, who attends to nuisance wildlife across the Monadnock Region, said he gets about 20 calls annually for nuisance coyote.

Jim Morse, the president of the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation, said the federation opposes the bill, mainly on the grounds that hunting and fishing rulemaking should be left in the hands of Fish and Game officials.

“This is their specialty, and we pay them thousands of dollars to do just this,” Morse said. “Let them govern our seasons.”

Tate agreed that in general, Fish and Game should be able to adjust hunting seasons as needed, and putting a law in place through the legislature regarding hunting would mean having to go back through the legislature to change it, a more time-consuming and arduous process.

Vann said she agreed with that sentiment in general, saying hunting seasons should remain for the most part in the purview of Fish and Game, but said in this case, there “was a sense that using the legislative solution was the best way to go.”

Arguments for and against

“It’s a highly controversial subject, and there are strong points on both sides,” Tate said, about the debate on whether or not to institute hunting limits on coyotes.

The majority of U.S. states – 42, including New Hampshire – have year-round seasons on coyote, though not all of them allow night hunting when coyotes are most active.

Arguments for creating a hunting season for coyotes include the need for coyotes as predators of the state’s rodent population, Tate said. Rodents are heavy carriers of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease.

An increase in the predator population is not as impactful as the availability of food on prey populations, Tate said.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.




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