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A New Season of Terror for New York’s Coyotes: Hunting Begins Oct. 1

Coyote 1 7 Butler Wide Credit

As the seasons change, so too does the landscape of fear and risk for a local wild species. In just a few short days, horror will strike New York’s coyote population; October 1st marks the first day of coyote hunting season. From the onset of October through the end of March, hunters can liberally slaughter coyotes at will. Day or night, with no bag limit, hunters can employ the use of bait, calls, lures, and even dogs to bring a horrific end to the life of a vital member of the state’s ecosystem. New York’s coyote season is the longest of all its hunting seasons. For six full months of the year, coyotes are brutally killed across the majority of the state.

Participants in this cruel practice often use their knowledge of coyotes’ social structures and behaviors to draw them in. In the fall when coyotes have adolescent pups, hunters use recorded distress calls of animals to exploit the families’ need to catch prey. Hearing what sounds like an easy meal, coyotes are unknowingly lured to their deaths. Their offspring – about 6-7 months old at that time of year – may themselves be attracted by the sound of easier prey and wander into the sights of a human waiting to kill them. If not, they may still not survive long without the guidance of their parents.

In February and March, hunters change tactics to capitalize on a coyotes’ search for a companionship by playing howls to attract them. Coyotes mate for life. Curious and drawn in by the sound of a potential life-mate, they meet their end. At this time of year, it is also likely that many females are already pregnant at the time they are hunted.

These hunters do this for what purpose? Certainly not to eat, and there isn’t much of a market for pelts. No, many coyote hunters claim that it’s to protect the state’s deer. But the reality is that white-tailed deer are massively overpopulated throughout the state due to a lack of natural predators. And though coyotes eat fawns and injured adult deer, it is rare that they’re able to successfully take down healthy adult deer. Their impact on the overall deer population is negligible. In a 2019 study performed by wildlife biologist Dr. Roland Kays, they found that despite a consistent uptick in coyote populations, there was no corresponding drop in the populations of the areas’ deer. Kays also noted that removing coyotes or reducing their population size in order to protect the deer population will not be successful, but could instead have the opposite impact. According to a statement by the Department of Environmental Conservation, “Coyotes are a natural part of the environment and should be valued as a component of New York’s ecosystem. Simply shooting a coyote because they can and do kill deer does not add significantly to deer survival … Reducing coyote numbers on a large scale is neither practical nor warranted.”

With that established, why are these hunters claiming they need to “protect” deer? It appears it is so they themselves can hunt the deer during their designated season. They are preserving deer not for management, but instead for their own recreational use.

In terms of coyote hunting, not all hunters agree with this blood sport. Some find killing for killing’s sake a deeply disturbing motivation. If the hunted animal isn’t going to be consumed and isn’t an invasive species, what is the reason? A lot of it has to do with the pervasive perception that coyotes are a danger to humans. In reality, they are naturally quite wary of people. Like any animal, coyotes can become habituated to humans if they are fed or find no reason to be avoidant. If our concern is conflict mitigation, it is vital for both their well-being and our own that humans commit to a method that works. “Hazing” coyotes, i.e. frightening them off with loud noises and exaggerated movements to reinforce their fear of humans, humanely and effectively addresses conflict before it begins. It can also be used on coyotes that have begun to grow bold, as a reminder that humans are unpredictable and should be avoided.

Lethal removal of coyotes is not the answer.