Coyotes and humans
Documented coyote sightings are not new in any of Delaware’s three counties. Coyotes are adaptable to change and quick to learn new ways of survival. But by making life less endurable for coyotes in your area, you can increase the likelihood that they will go somewhere else.
• Do not feed coyotes, and eliminate standing sources of water for them.
• Elevate bird feeders so that coyotes can’t get at them. Coyotes are attracted by bread, table scraps, and even seed. They may also be attracted by birds and rodents that come to the feeders.
• Do not discard edible garbage where coyotes can get to it and make sure to secure garbage containers.
• Don’t allow pets to run free. Keep them safely confined and provide secure nighttime housing for them.
• Discourage coyotes from “cohabitating” with humans. If you see them around your home or property, chase them away by shouting, making loud noises, or by throwing rocks at them.
Source: Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
GEORGETOWN — For half the year, it will be legal to hunt and kill coyotes in Delaware, under a new wildlife law taking effect this weekend.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is allowing the coyote hunting season under a legislative mandate to manage coyotes as a non-native species that could harm native animal populations if unchecked.
State wildlife officials estimate there are 100 or so coyotes in Delaware, one of the last U.S. states to see the animals in its borders in modern times. Coyote numbers in some western and southern states have grown rapidly.
The rules allow coyotes to be hunted from Sept. 1 to Feb. 1 and take effect this Saturday, giving hunters a window of a few weeks right away to lawfully take coyote – if they manage to find the elusive predators. The new law also allows trappers to capture coyotes from Dec. 1 to March 10.
DNREC initially proposed a four-month coyote hunting season, starting Nov. 1. At a public hearing in September, many farmers and hunters, especially in Sussex County, said that would not be enough time to keep the coyote population in check. Many lobbied for a year-round season, and said the goal should be eradication.
“They should not be treated as a game animal at all. We should have an open season on them,” Nathan Hudson, a Laurel wildlife management consultant and landowner, said Wednesday. “We have a pretty good wildlife balance in Sussex; we have a few more white-tailed deer than we need. My fear is something like this could come in and wipe it out.”
The final regulations add two months to the original proposal in response to the clamor for a longer season.
“The Division (of Fish and Wildlife) recognizes the recreational opportunities and benefits of a longer hunting season,” the order finalizing the regulations states.
The order does not take Delaware as far as Virginia, which has a continuous open season on coyotes and even allows counties to offer bounties for killing them, or Maryland, where daytime hunting for coyotes is allowed year-round and nighttime hunting is allowed from October to March.
Sportsmen will be able to use bows, shotguns, up to .25-caliber rimfire or centerfire rifles and muzzle-loading rifles during the firearm season for coyote. During the six weeks when deer firearm seasons overlap, hunters must leave the rimfire and centerfire rifles, which aren’t permissible for deer hunting, at home.
The revised hunting regulations also include new rules on where and what kind of traps can be set to capture wild animals, and make it illegal to either hunt or release feral pigs.
Not everyone views coyotes as an inevitable ecological disruptor, bound to prey on smaller animals to the point of near-extinction.
“I don’t think they could be classified as being any more detrimental to ground-nesting birds than the rampant red fox population we already have,” said Brenna Goggin, of the Delaware Nature Society, which opposed a year-round open season. “This is probably a good compromise, considering we still don’t have definitive numbers on the number of coyotes that we have.”
Hunters say they’re unlikely to set out on day trips with the goal of bagging a coyote, given how evasive they are. It will be more common to come across them when hunting for deer.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife calls the state’s coyote herd “small, but confirmed,” with many documented sightings around the state, from White Clay State Park in Newark to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Sussex County. Even in western states, coyote attacks on people are quite rare, and there have been no documented human-coyote encounters in Delaware that led to people being injured.
In September, Fish and Wildlife Director David E. Saveikis said biologists’ very rough estimate is that about 100 coyotes roam Delaware. They’re only thought to have come into the state in the past few years, likely moving in from Pennsylvania.
“If there’s plenty of food and places for their dens and they’re not bothered, then they don’t have to have a big range,” said Chip West, president of the state chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association. “But the ones who have been displaced, they travel a lot.”
Opening the hunting season may give the state important statistics about the coyote population, since hunters will have to report any coyote they harvest to the Division of Fish and Wildlife. That will be the first hard data gathered in Delaware about their population.
DNREC officials have also said in public hearings they could give farmers and landowners broader leeway to shoot coyotes on their land, via a secretary’s order. The regulations setting up the six-month coyote season reiterated that such an order is being developed, but hasn’t been issued yet.
“The good news is it’s not protected anymore,” West said of coyotes. “We can start to manage it.”