By SHAWN ROSSLER
Biologist, Department of Natural Resources
EDITORS NOTE: The following article is an abridged version of a report DNR furbearer biologist Shawn Rossler wrote for the 2015 DRN Hunting & Trapping Regulations booklet.
Personal experiences shape our attitudes toward most wildlife. This is especially true for coyotes.
Thoughts range from worthless varmint that should be removed completely to a beautiful creature deserving of protection.
One thing for sure – Indiana is coyote country.
Coyotes are a native species once limited to the prairie regions of western Indiana. Reports of coyotes in Indiana began to increase in the 1970s. They have adjusted to the landscape changes and now are common in all Indiana counties, including many urban areas. For some Hoosiers, this is old news. For others, the sight of a coyote is new and little is known about how to live with this species.
The DNR has a full list of tips to minimize conflicts with coyotes.
If coyotes can find water and shelter, they will find something to eat. Their natural diet includes berries, birds, vegetation, rabbits, deer fawns and animal remains, but they mostly eat small mammals such as mice, moles and voles. Reducing the local rodent populations is a benefit to landowners often forgotten when talking about coyotes.
Studies have found coyotes in urban areas have the same general needs as coyotes in rural areas. Human-supplied food items such as household garbage and garden vegetables, as well as domestic animals and pet food, have become part of their diet.
When there is plenty of food, coyote populations expand quickly. Coyotes breed in January and February, and pups are born in a den during March or April. A litter can be as few as one pup or exceed 10, with the average around five.
Small, undisturbed green spaces are all that coyotes need for a den site. A typical den is made underground with a pie-pan-sized entrance that opens into a larger area.
Coyote discussions often revolve around conflicts. In rural areas conflicts include loss of livestock and pets or reaction to a trail camera capturing a coyote hauling off a deer fawn. Urban conflicts are focused on attacks on pets, concerns for safety, and fear of the unknown.
In rural areas across the United States, removal efforts have used toxicants, trapping, shooting and other techniques to control coyotes, protect livestock and increase populations of other wildlife. These efforts usually have a high cost and short-term results. In addition, coyotes reproduce quickly, are located throughout the United States, and are highly adaptable, which makes curbing their numbers a challenge.
Coyote populations can be lowered in small areas with focused efforts, but they can bounce back quickly once these efforts are reduced or stopped. In areas where coyote numbers have been lowered, coyotes will breed at younger ages and have larger litters.
The DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife manages trapping and hunting seasons for coyotes: Oct. 15 through March 15, 2015. The seasons are not meant to remove every animal, but they do provide a good, low-cost way to manage coyotes while giving hunters and trappers opportunities to pursue coyotes.
Coyotes also can be taken outside of these seasons on private land. Landowners may remove a coyote at any time on land they own, or they can provide written permission for others to take coyotes on that land at any time without a permit. This gives landowners the ability to control what happens on their property, even outside of established hunting and trapping seasons.