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data muddies debate
hunting was a hotly contested topic
in 2013, with livestock owners, hunters, trappers,
conservationists, animal rights activists, biologists,
pet owners and politicians all weighing in during
debates over the number of coyotes in Delaware
and the threat they pose to the ecosystem.
The coyote sightings, vehicle kills, hunter kills, and
trapper captures that were reported to media outlets
and Delaware’s Divisions of Fish and Wildlife fueled
the arguments both for and against coyote hunting.
individuals and groups, the Delaware Department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Control
established a coyote hunting season in early 2014.
The inaugural season, which ran from Jan. 11 through
Feb. 28, produced one reported coyote harvest (a
male shot near Hockessin by a deer hunter on Jan. 23).
but that data may be unreliable, which makes it all but
impossible to make appropriate population control
decisions. Anyone who shoots or traps a coyote in
Delaware is required to report the harvest to the
Division of Fish and Wildlife by the close of business
on the day following the harvest.
only nine coyote fatalities have been reported
throughout the state. Of them, six were shot, one
was trapped, and two were hit by cars.
coyote kills since 2007. Coyotes have been killed
by cars, hunters, and trappers in all three Delaware
counties, with several killed near Middletown and
Centreville and one hit by a car on I-95 near Rock
Manor Golf Club in Wilmington. What’s more, I’ve
seen photos of coyotes in state parks, a video of
a coyote pup, and a taxidermy mount of a bow-
September under the coyote depredation order,
which allows landowners to kill coyotes on their
property at any time of year if the coyotes present
an imminent threat to human beings, livestock or
domestic animals, according to Division of Fish
and Wildlife Director David Saveikis. Three
coyotes were observed on the Greenwood
property and are believed to have injured a
pet goose and to have killed cats and pheasants.
reports — along with first- and second-hand
accounts of coyote encounters and of livestock
and game animal deaths caused by coyotes in
Delaware and other states— to raise the alarm.
Many believed the coyote population is growing
and, that if left unchecked, it will lead to
declines in Delaware’s deer, turkey, quail,
rabbit, and other small-game populations.
Delaware used the same reports to support
their beliefs that a handful of coyote encounters
in Delaware is a mere nuisance that doesn’t
necessitate population control via hunting.
season that coincides with Delaware’s full
deer season to allow for the opportunistic
harvest of coyotes. Rather than specifically
hunting for coyotes, they requested permission
to shoot coyotes if they happen to see them
while deer hunting.
hunting seasons that run from the beginning
of September through the end of February
and trapping seasons that run from the
beginning of December through early March.
With firearm seasons for deer opening this
month, perhaps reports of coyote harvests
the six-month coyote hunting season and
to report harvests to the division so that we
can gain data on the abundance and
distribution of coyotes to help us best
manage the species,” Saveikis says.
hunters and trappers to follow the coyote
harvest reporting requirements because
hard data is needed to make sound
decisions on population control.