Walking my dogs early in the morning, I often hear and see coyotes. Coyotes are large predators that will attack small dogs, so I keep a close watch on my two terriers. The presence of coyotes can be a concern.
On another walk, I came across a pile of eight dead coyotes next to a county road. There is nothing illegal about killing eight coyotes, although it is ethically shady to dump the carcasses. But that sight made me ponder the attitude toward coyotes across the West, and especially in Nevada.
Wildlife services is a part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture charged with controlling predators. In 2016, Wildlife Services killed over 4,000 coyotes in Nevada. They shot coyotes from the ground, from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. They used neck snares, foothold traps, and M-44 cyanide capsules to kill coyotes. During November of 2015, Nevada’s Wildlife Services killed 448 coyotes and killed 435 more during December.
Last year I wrote a column on how we have been persecuting coyotes for over 100 years, shooting, trapping, snaring and poisoning them. During this time, coyotes have increased their population and increased their range across North America. Such killing year after year is obviously not controlling coyote populations.
I recently talked to a Montana rancher who routinely has grizzly bears and wolves moving among their cattle and sheep. When I asked her how she could ranch under these conditions, she said it is “just part of the deal.” If you ranch in that area, you tolerate and deal with large predators. She has developed various non-lethal means to protect her livestock. Yet, many western ranchers feel the only way to live with coyotes is to kill large numbers of them each year.
Coyote hunting in Nevada is simple to describe. Anyone can kill any coyotes they see with no limits, they can hunt coyotes without a license, anytime they want through the year, day or night. True, night hunting is banned but an NDOW biologist told me there is no way to monitor night coyote hunting.
Hunters can use any type of weapon and ammunition they want, along with broadcasted alarm calls, decoys, baits and dogs. Many coyote hunters come from neighboring states, drawn by Nevada’s numerous coyotes and open, accessible spaces to hunt them.
No bounty is offered on Nevada coyotes but other states do offer bounties so some hunters cut off body parts of Nevada coyotes to claim the bounty when they return to their state. A coyote pelt can bring $50-60, but not many hunters skin their kills. If hunters do sell the fur, or trap coyotes, they need a trapping license.
A local NDOW game warden told me he often finds piles of dead coyotes. After hunters take trophy photos of their kills, they often leave the carcasses. Coyote calling (and killing) contests are becoming quite popular, including a World Championship Coyote Calling Contest.
Coyotes are large predators and they can cause problems. However, the amount of coyote killing is troubling.