Delaware coyote
 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.
After garnering verbal and written input from concerned
 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).
State officials base their decisions on reported harvests,
 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.
According to DNREC officials, over the last decade
only nine coyote fatalities have been reported
throughout the state. Of them, six were shot, one
was trapped, and two were hit by cars.
But I am personally aware of more than 15 Delaware
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-
killed coyote.
A coyote was harvested neer Greenwood in
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.
Hunters and trappers have used the harvest
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.
Opponents of a coyote hunting season in
 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.
Many hunters asked for a coyote 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.
DNREC obliged by implementing coyote
 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
 will increase.
“We want hunters to use the opportunity of
 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.
I couldn’t agree more. I, too, encourage
 hunters and trappers to follow the coyote
 harvest reporting requirements because
hard data is needed to make sound
decisions on population control.