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Opening Day of NY Coyote Season – At What Cost?

Today, October 1st, is the first day of coyote hunting season in New York State.

Coyotes – like wolves – have been historically persecuted for decades. In over 30 U.S. states, coyote hunting season never ends. New York is one of only a handful of states with a limited coyote season: six months out of the year. From today until March 29th of 2020, hunters can kill coyotes at will. Day or night, at any hour, with no limit to how many coyotes are killed. Young pups born just this May might see their families fragmented – those pups might even be hunted themselves.

Following the historical eradication of large carnivores in the northeast, eastern coyotes have become an apex predator in New York. As such, they have a vital role in nature. Eastern coyotes maintain balance in the species below them on the food web and offer a whole host of ecosystem services from which we benefit greatly. And yet nationwide we devalue them, calling them pests and varmints and work to exterminate them despite what scientific studies tell us.

Though lethal management of coyotes is often touted as a means of population control, the best available science actually shows us that killing coyotes is a completely ineffective management tool. In fact, indiscriminate killing disrupts the stable pack structure, causing females to breed at a younger age and creating more breeding pairs in a given area. Killing coyotes elicits a rebound effect, and has been shown to lead to an ultimate upsurge in the coyote population. Not only that, but coyotes removed from an area are rapidly replaced by others looking to occupy the now-vacant territory, which may lead to increased conflict if these interlopers test the boundaries of their new homes.

This July, a disturbing photo began circulating the internet. In rural Essex County of Vermont, strung up high in front of a residential home were two dead coyote pups each dangling by a hind leg. Not only was the sight distressing to behold, but the message behind it was deeply unsettling. Implied was a blatant disregard for the lives of animals, and the decision to deny these creatures any dignity in their untimely deaths spoke to a greater culture of celebrating killing rather than recognizing our place in the nature of things. Almost as disheartening as the act itself is the fact that such a display violated no laws or codes. The homeowner simply received gentle encouragement from law enforcement to remove the corpses following a series of complaints. This display was just a symptom of a greater cultural disregard for our essential wild species.

The key to our cohabitation instead lies in our practice of coexistence techniques. This means removing attractants, actively hazing coyotes away from our homes and livestock, and ultimately understanding that they play a key role in keeping the ecosystem balanced and healthy.

Today, the opening day of New York’s coyote season, we need to rethink our cultural and managerial approach to such a clever and resilient species. Our relationship with coyotes does not have to be a contentious one. After years of persecution by landowners, ranchers, and government agents, the fact is that coyotes are here to stay. It is up to us to employ our best management strategy: managing ourselves.

Learn more about coyotes and coexistence via the button below.