Coyotes have lived and thrived in the United States since long before Lewis and Clark made their way through the American wilderness. They have been a part of native American culture as well as frontier culture for centuries. Coyotes can be found in just about every one of the lower forty eight states. These critters are shrouded in mystique and folklore as well as being the subject of many a western song. Classic western movies idolized the howl of the coyote as well as the image of their silhouette against the late evening dessert sky. From these portrayals, the coyote is probably the most recognized member of American wildlife by young and old alike. However, the real life and existence of the southern coyote is far less glamorous than most people have been led to believe. In fact, most people that don’t actually live in the country with these critters, don’t really have a clue as to what coyotes really are and the impact they have.
Coyotes were mainly located west of the Mississippi up until the last 70 years or so. They began to travel and thrive east of that boundary in the early to mid 1900’s. Coyotes breed and multiply abundantly and at a fast rate with the average litter being 4-6 pups per dame each spring. These critters are able to adapt to just about any land range and food sources that are afforded them. Coyotes are normally scavengers and opportunist in their normal wilderness habitat feeding on natural fruit, mice, rats, birds, rabbits and other small mammals of which they can prey on easily. When food is abundant, they will almost always choose the quickest and easiest targets. When food is harder to readily find, they will expand their hunting range by vast distances in a short period of time.
Coyotes love to raid wild turkey nests eating eggs and any young birds they can catch often wiping out a whole new flock of turkeys with one meal. They seem to love about any type of fowl including quail, pheasant, and waterfowl. Countless coyotes have been killed over the years while being in the act of chasing chickens on farms and ranches. Coyotes are also infamous for killing and eating new born deer fawns as well as young livestock such as new born calves, goats and sheep. Many missing house cats and small dogs have also become victims of these critters in country areas as well as suburbs and residential areas. Coyotes will usually kill simply for food rather than sport, but when their numbers are high or at over population, young males will often group together and kill apparently just for the fun of it. This pattern of killing has put coyotes on the “most wanted dead” list for most ranchers and hunters in most every state that they live in.
When you really boil it all down, coyotes are critters that share a real love-hate relationship with humans. Since these critters are so adaptive, they enjoy and benefit from human manipulation of the land and the easy food targets that people unknowingly generate. However, they seem to hate when their denning and hunting areas are entered by humans and will often become more troublesome and aggressive in these situations seeming almost vindictive or revenge motivated. Coyotes are indeed, very intelligent and calculating in their moves.
On the flip side of the coin, humans often embrace the howl of the coyote as a true and pure sound of nature whether it be on the movie screen or in real life. I too, have often enjoyed the song of the coyote on a cool fall evening while breathing the cool crisp air and taking in the wonders of the season. However, to most of us who live or have lived in the country know that with this howling, there is the often fulfilled threat of danger to our livestock and small domestic animals(pets) not to mention the messes that these critters make around crops, trash dumps, and out buildings.
Coyotes have a haunting appearance in the wild, like ghost appearing and disappearing at will as they prowl and hunt dark timber openings and old field edges. I am at the age of 42 now, and have spent several weeks of each year since I was 12 years old in the woods scouting and hunting. Still to this day, the often unexpected close encounter with a coyote in the early morning light before sunrise, or late in the evening after sunset will make the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention. The sight of coyotes in the wild commands a sense excitement as well as a slight hint of nervous fear with each step they take closer to your location as they are so unpredictable and abrupt in their actions.
Coyotes have been hunted, trapped, and even the center pieces of many money bounties over the years, yet they still thrive and their population is growing as fast of faster than ever before as well as the problems that their over-population brings.
In my years of experience living in coyote land in northern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri for most of my life, I have found two main reasons why coyotes are becoming over-populated in my part of the country as well as many other areas in the U.S.
The first reason came back in the 1980’s when government trade embargoes with foreign countries drove the prices for pelts and fur into the ground, and sadly, the fur market has never recovered from those actions. From age 12 until age 26, I had a trap line every winter and must admit that I done quite well with my efforts for a country kid that was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My first vehicle was bought with money I made from trapping, not to mention the hundreds of hours of experience and knowledge I gained about animals in the wild and the balance needed to keep them strong and healthy.
The second reason, and in my opinion the most appalling are those so-called Animal rights activist. I am quite passionate with my disconcern and basic discontent with those uneducated, unknowing, wildlife illiterate fools!! I am a strong believer in ethical and responsible hunting practices and good land management and I have found that the (ARA) farce has done far more damage to America’s wildlife than all of the hunters, poachers, and natural disasters put together have ever came close to doing! If these people would spend the years it takes in the field studying and researching the aspects of wildlife habits and needs, then they might get somewhat of a listen from me. Sadly, though I have conversed with several ARA supporters, I have not yet talked to one single member of the ARA that basically has a clue about the very animals they foolishly think they are helping. Their sickening political efforts continue to haunt and harm our wildlife, but that is another subject and article that I will address and write about in the near future.
The sum of these two reasons that I have listed has resulted in coyote hunting a trapping being reduced to just a few knowledgeable hunters such as myself and a few old timers doing it to retain their livelihood. In turn, the coyote being such a strong and resourceful creature, has become over-populated from not being harvested as they should be. With a little research online, you will easily find many coyote nuisance reports from all over the country. There is a balance that must be managed and maintained for the healthy and balanced survival of coyotes. When there are too many, they suffer from and spread diseases to other critters. There is a multitude of problems that is caused by their over-population. As man continues to claim and clear forest lands destroying wildlife habitat, proper and effective wildlife management it a must.
Fortunately, in just the past few years coyote hunting has been gaining popularity and harvest numbers have grown considerably. The new electronic predator calls have helped to spur coyote hunting as well as other species of predators! Coyote hunting is quite a challenge as well as being a lot of fun. The rewards are many, from making memories of a lifetime to helping to keep the balance of nature in tact. The fact of the matter is simple, when you grow a garden you have to weed it out on a regular basis for it to flourish and grow strong. The same principle goes for wildlife that have to live with mans invasion of their homeland. Hunting and trapping holds great benefits for coyotes and these benefits carry on to us, the people of this great country! I hope more people will start to support “real fur” once again as was done in years past throughout the history of our land.