NH Bill Seeks To Protect Coyote Pups From Inhumane Deaths
HB 442 would essentially create a NH coyote hunting season with closure during the pup-rearing months, to help prevent indiscriminate hunting and the inhumane death of pups.
Part one of a two-part series
Coyotes have proven themselves to be an incredibly adaptive species. With the war that has been waged on them, they've had to be. An estimated 500,000 coyotes are killed nationwide per year, with the US Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services killing 69,041 coyotes and destroying 393 potentially pup occupied dens in 2017 alone.(1) Here in New Hampshire, coyotes have yet to experience a reprieve. They are hunted year-round, with no bag limit.(2) Those lax restrictions contribute to coyote killing contests, which grant prizes for the most coyotes killed.
Coyotes are additionally trapped six months out of the year and hunted at night with spotlights for three. They're also hunted over bait and with the use of deceptive devices, mimicking the sound of wounded prey or a mating call.(3)
The persistence of such indiscriminate hunting, particularly throughout the months that coyotes raise their young, leads to the inhumane death of pups, ineffective long-term population management, and contributes to human-wildlife conflict. And many Granite Staters are saying, no more. House representative, Ellen Read (Rockingham-Dist 17) has heard them loud and clear and has introduced House Bill 442.
House Bill 442
HB 442 (as introduced) would prohibit coyote hunting for five months; April 1st - August 31st, to correspond with pup-rearing. The bill essentially creates a coyote hunting season of September 1st - March 31st, providing coyotes with the protection of a closed season while they raise their young, as is currently the case with every other lawfully hunted animal in NH (excluding fish).
As with all proposed legislation, HB 442 has support, as well as opposition. Below are some frequently asked questions, which shares insight as to why residents support the bill, and addresses concerns expressed by those against it.
1. How Does HB 442 Prevent The Inhuman Death Of Pups?
Coyotes are generally monogamous, sometimes mating for a lifetime. They mate between January and March, typically peaking in February. Females have a gestation period of 63 days, often giving birth between April and May.
Both male and female play an essential role in the survival of their young. The female stays in the den with the litter, while the male hunts for food and provides protection from predators.(4)
If the male is killed, the female is forced to leave the pups to hunt. The chances of her finding enough food for her and her pups are low, as are the chances of the pups surviving when left unprotected. If the pups do not fall prey to other predators, they will likely die a slow death due to starvation, as is also often the case if the female is hunted as well.(5) HB 442's hunting prohibition during those months will help prevent that inhumane outcome.
2. How Does HB 442 Help Prevent Human-Coyote Conflict / Harm to Domestic Animals?
Between one and two months old, pups will begin to venture out of the den and learn how to hunt by following both their parents. If a pup is orphaned, they lose that crucial time learning how to avoid humans and hunt properly.(6) That lack of training can lead to starvation, or a turn to livestock, garbage, hand-outs from humans (not recommended), or even cats for food. This causes a higher risk of habituation to humans and further conflict.
The death of those parents also means the greater loss of resident, experienced coyotes who are less likely to depredate. Therefore, increasing the percentage of younger, habituated coyotes who move into that open territory; causing an increase in conflict. HB 442's hunting prohibition during the pup training period will help prevent the death of parents, habituated coyotes, and the loss of domestic animals.
With that said, passing legislation such as HB 442 is only one aspect of successfully implementing responsible predator management and preventing human-wildlife conflict. It's essential that the NH Fish and Game, wildlife biologists, and other experts actively educate the public on safe coexistence with wildlife and humane ways to protect their domestic animals. And in turn, residents must be willing to learn and implement those methods.
3. Will HB 442 Endanger The Deer Population?
According to the IUCN, a species is considered 'Endangered' if the species suffers or is anticipated to suffer a population decline of 50%-70% over the last/next 10 years or three generations.(7) In terms of an annual 5-month moratorium on coyote hunting, the concept of endangering NH's deer population is a bit extreme.
When determining if HB 442 would have an adverse impact on the deer population in more realistic terms, one might consider the following:
Coyote Diet - Minimal Impact On Deer & Domestic Animals
Coyotes are generalists and will adapt based on abundant food sources depending on the season and where they live. Coyotes will eat hares, mice, squirrels, woodchucks, fawns, insects, berries, apples, raccoons, unsecured garbage, cats (if left outside), and handouts (again, not recommended).
According to the NH Fish and Game, "The great majority of coyotes don't prey upon livestock." The Department additionally notes that a resident coyote can be an asset to a farm, removing rodents and preventing problem coyotes from moving into the area.(8)
However, it is also noted that coyotes occasionally eat livestock if not protected. Such incidents can be prevented with proper fencing, 'Coyote Rollers', hazing technics and ensuring that non-problematic, resident coyotes are not removed.
Coyotes do also prey on fawns, which is a natural form of mortality for deer. From a conservation and game management perspective, the number of fawns killed by coyotes during a closed season would not jeopardize the population.
"The deer population is thriving in terms of historic perspective. So if the justification to allow for take during the pupping season is that there would be an adverse impact on deer, I think you'd find yourself on the wrong end of that debate; the deer population argues otherwise."
Wildlife Division Chief, NH Fish and Game(9)
Based on a study of 200 radio-tagged fawns, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reports that "Of the fawns killed by predators in our study, 84 percent were killed prior to 9 weeks of age." Yet, "Despite predation and other mortality causes, 57-72% of fawns were still alive in Pennsylvania at 9 weeks of age."(10) Additional research shows ungulate survival is more dependent on protecting breeding females, and access to adequate nutrition, which points to habitat as opposed to predator control.(11) Coyotes also cull sick deer, reducing the spread of disease, opening up the habitat and increasing nutrition for healthy deer. Studies have shown that coyotes help healthy deer remain healthy, having an overall stabilizing effect on the population, despite fawn predation.(12)
Coyotes Often Scavenge Carcasses, Rather Than Kill Adult Deer Themselves
Research shows that the majority of adult deer eaten by coyotes are scavenged carcasses. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry biologists conducted a research study of eastern coyotes fitted with GPS collars. Out of 39 deer eaten by the coyotes, 36 were scavenged, and only 3 were killed by the coyotes; less than 10% of the total.(13)
4. Will HB 442 Increase Coyote Problems Involving Domestic Animals?
Not likely. In fact, it is without HB 442 that Granite Staters could experience increased conflict. Conflict with coyotes is often due to lack of proper hunting training of orphaned young, the extermination of older and non-problematic coyotes (see 2. above) and extreme killing (see 6. below), which HB 442 will help prevent.
The underlying cause of most human-coyote conflict is human failure. Whether it is those actions listed above, leaving our domestic animals unprotected, feeding coyotes intentionally or unintentionally by leaving out unsecured garbage and pet food, not picking up fallen fruit off the ground, not hazing, or not implementing other humane coexistence practices, those actions are all in the hands of residents and increase the risk of conflict.
Learn More About Safety Coexisting With Coyotes Here
5. Why Are Coyotes Believed To Be Invaluable, Vicous Animals That Constantly Attack Our Pets?
Most coyotes are afraid of humans, and many NH residents go years or even a lifetime without seeing one. However, ineffective coyote management (see 6. below) has caused an increase in their range. Combined with habitat loss, and humans feeding wildlife, the chances of encountering coyotes has increased. Public education, however, is relatively slow going. When residents witness a coyote, they have difficulty judging or reacting to the situation if they are uninformed, or misinformed about the species.
"Coyotes are often blamed for events for which domestic dogs, automobiles or other wildlife are responsible. As for your safety, coyotes pose little risk to people."
-NH Fish and Game(14)
Misconceptions From Bloodsport Participants
Misconceptions are also often perpetuated by those who partake in coyote killing contests, such as for the most coyotes killed. Such contest killing is utterly haphazard, causing the death of coyotes unrelated to conflicts. Coyote meat is not consumed, and the fur trade is becoming less sustainable each day. With no justification, such contests are considered a bloodsport; killing solely for the enjoyment of killing. That unsporting exploitation of coyotes is often masked with assertions that participants are doing the public a service by exterminating what they describe as 'vicious varmint.' Those comments fly in the face of responsible game management and conservation, and with sheer disregard for the valuable benefits that coyotes provide.(15)
Coyotes Are Vital For Healthy Ecosystems
Coyotes play a significant role in ecosystems, benefiting wildlife and plant species, as well as humans. Depending on the season and level of urbanization, rodents, rabbits, and hares can make up to 40% or more of their diets; keeping those species in check, protecting farmer's crops, reducing the use of rodent poisons, and curtailing the spread of deadly rodent-borne diseases to humans, such as hantavirus. Coyotes also cull sick animals, and keep the environment clean by scavenging animal carcasses. They additionally balance ecosystems and increase biodiversity, through trophic cascade effects, and competitive exclusion; indirectly protecting other plant and wildlife species, such as nesting birds and songbirds by naturally repressing populations of other species (like raccoons and skunks) that compete with coyotes for food sources, and who would otherwise adversely impact those birds.(16)
Truthfully, as an essential part of healthy ecosystems, it is coyotes who are doing the public service, and the bloodsport participants who are massacring them for the sheer fun of the kill.
Exaggerated Media and Public Hysteria
There are documented attacks from coyotes, which are sometimes disheartening. However, the media and the public also tend to exaggerate 'attacks,' such as a recent incident in Litchfield, NH.(17) One article headline reads, "Coyotes Attack Family Dog In Southern NH," which caused public panic. Although it is indeed a heart-racing moment, upon review of the video, the coyote is seen demonstrating protective behavior over his mate or what he sees as his territory, by chasing the dog. The dog ran to the house uninjured. Also noticeable is the lack of a fence, which could've prevented the incident, among other hazing and coexistence methods. Sharing these stories for insight on coyote behavior and coexistence education is key, as opposed to out of fear.
6. Does The Current Year-Round Season Contribute To Increased Coyote Population?
Science shows that indiscriminate hunting of coyotes causes an expansion of their range and increases their overall population. While coyote populations may be controlled through hunting and trapping, those methods produce short-term effects, and contribute to human-coyote conflict longterm.
For over 150 years coyotes have been relentlessly hunted, trapped, baited, poisoned and hounded without limitation throughout the nation, including New Hampshire (except for purposeful poison, RSA 644:16, 1971). Despite that extreme killing pressure, coyotes have expanded their range by an estimated 40% since the 1950s; double the amount of any other North American carnivore.(18)
That scientific information is widely accepted by an overwhelming majority of biologists, conservationists, and wildlife management agencies, including the USDA's Wildlife, and Forest Services, as well as our very own NH Fish and Game.
"Most coyote management attempts have been designed to reduce their population numbers, however, due to their fecundity, behavior and adaptability, those attempts have failed."
-NH Fish and Game(19)
"Hunting coyotes doesn't seem to reduce the population, Tate said. These territorial animals actually produce larger litters if their packs decrease."
-Patrick Tate, quoted by Union Leader
Wildlife Biologist II, Furbearer Project Leader
NH Fish and Game(20)
Although there is an acknowledgment that NH's current immense, haphazard hunting of coyotes is an ineffective method for long-term population management, the NH Fish and Game Commission has yet to implement any changes.
In January of last year, the Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously against a petition for a closed hunting season on coyotes during the pup-rearing months, without reading the petition or conducting a public hearing on the matter. The Commission asserted that they had no scientific information or data supporting it, nor any scientific research to even consider.(21)
However, included in testimony submitted to the Commission, were references to multiple scientific studies, some of which cited how the current open season causes pups to die of starvation, and leads to increased conflict, as well as the valuable benefits coyotes provide as predators, and two potential explanations as to how the coyote has withstood extreme hunting: compensatory immigration response, and compensatory reproductive response. Unfortunately, that information was unread before their vote, as it potentially remains unread by the Commission today. It is now up to NH residents to who show our legislators that irresponsible and unethical management practices of coyotes will no longer be accepted in our state.
Call Your House Representative
The full House will vote on HB 442 between March 19th and the 21st. With the House Committee being divided, and their motion, collectively, being 'ITL' (inexpedient to legislate/kill the bill), it is essential that our representatives hear from us to vote against the ITL and then vote to pass the bill.
HB 442 will NOT pass without your help - Calls are essential.
Find the Committee roll call here
Find your voting district and House Rep here
DEADLINE: Mon. March 18th - 7pm
Or March 19th at 7:30am sharp
Example: "Hello, my name is [your name], from [town] New Hampshire. I'm calling about HB 442, relative to coyote hunting. As a constituent, I strongly support this bill, and I kindly ask that you vote NO on the Committee's motion to 'ITL' and then vote YES to pass it. Thank you."
My House Representative expressed a concern/asked me a question - Now What?
Feel free to contactStraight Twist with any questions or concerns, and helpful information will be provided if possible.
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USDA APHIS, Wildlife Services, 'Program Data Report G - 2017, Animals Dispersed / Killed or Euthanized / Removed or Destroyed / Freed,' https://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/pdr/PDR-G_Report.php?fy=2017&fld=&fld_val=, Last visited Jan 2019
(2) fis 303.06
(3) fis 303.6, 307.1; RSA 207:3-d, 208:1-e
(4) C. A. Hennessy, J. D. Stanley, D. Gehrt, June 2012, 'Long-term pair bonding and genetic evidence for monogamy among urban coyotes (Canis latrans),' Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 93, Issue 3, Pages 732–742
(5) C. Schadler, 'Coyote: To understand Eastern coyotes, look to their wolf relatives,' Wildlife Journal, November/December 2010
(7) International Union for Conservation of Nature, 'IUCN Red List Categories And Criteria, Version 3.1 Second edition, 2012, https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/RL-2001-001-2nd.pdf
(8) NH Fish and Game, 'Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans var.),' https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/profiles/coyote.html, Last visited Jan 2019
(9) NH Fish and Game Commission Meeting, January 17, 2018, at 01:19:33, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4728&v=vI_4JrmPEq0, Last visited Jan 2019
(10) Pennsylvania Game Commission, 'Predation and Deer Population,' https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/WildlifeSpecies/White-tailedDeer/Pages/PredationDeerPopulation.aspx, Last visited Jan 2019
(11) C. J. Bishop, G. C. White, D. J. Freddy, B. E. Watkins, T. R. Stephenson, 'Effect of Enhanced Nutrition on Mule Deer Population Rate of Change,' 2009, Wildlife Monographs 172: 1-28, https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=27710&inline=true, Last visited Jan 2019;
M. A. Hurley, J. W. Unsworth, P. Zager, M. Hebblewhite, E. O. Garton, D. M. Montgomery, J. R. Skalski, C. L. Maycock, August 2011, 'Demographic response of mule deer to experimental reduction of coyotes and mountain lions in southeastern Idaho.'
(12) eMammal, 'Do Coyotes Cause Deer Declines,' July 2013, https://emammal.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/do-coyotes-cause-deer-declines/, Last visited Jan 2019;
D. Kramer, 'Does Predator Control Really Work? The Science Behind Hunting Coyotes and Other Predators to Protect Game Animals,' March 2016, Outdoor Life, https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/game-changers/does-predator-control-really-work-science-behind-hunting-coyotes-and-other, Last visited, Jan 2019
(13) Dr. J. Frair, and Dr. J. Gibbs, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, G. Batcheller, and P. Jensen, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, 'Population Status and Foraging Ecology of Eastern Coyotes in New York State,' 2014, http://media.syracuse.com/outdoors_impact/other/Coyote_Progress_Report_2014.good.pdf, Last visited Jan 2019
(14) NH Fish and Game, 'Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans var.),' https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/profiles/coyote.html, Last visited Jan 2019
(15) T. Williams, 'Coyote Carnage: The Gruesome Truth about Wildlife Killing Contests,' Yale Environment 360, May 2018, https://e360.yale.edu/features/coyote-carnage-the-gruesome-truth-about-wildlife-killing-contests, Last visited Jan 2019;
'Coyote Killing Contests: The Truth;'
J. A. Vucetich, Ph.D., 'The Problems With Wildlife Killing Contests: A contest with the aim of killing predators?', Nov 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIphN2trwRo, Last visited Jan 2019
(16) S.E. Henke, and F.C. Bryant, 1999, 'Effects of Coyote Removal on the Faunal Community in Western Texas,' Journal of Wildlife Management 63, no. 4;
K.R. Crooks, and M.E. Soulé, 1999, 'Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system,' Nature 400: 563–566;
J. M. Fedriani, T.K. Fuller, R.M. Sauvajot, 2001, 'Does Anthropogenic Food Enhance Densities of Omnivorous Mammals? An Example with Coyotes in Southern California,' Ecography. 24(3): 325-331;
P. S. Morey, E. M. Gese, S. Gehrt, 'Spatial and Temporal Variation in the Diet of Coyotes in the Chicago Metropolitan Area,' 2007, The American Midland Naturalist. 158(1): 147-161, http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1693&context=icwdm_usdanwrc, Lasted visited Jan 2019
Watts, A., V.M. Lukasik, S.M. Alexander, and M.J. Fortin, 2015, 'Urbanization, grassland, and diet influence coyote (Canis latrans) parasitism structure,' EcoHealth DOI: 10.1007/s10393-015-1040-5;
N. M. Waser et al., 'Coyotes, Deer, and Wildflowers: Diverse Evidence Points to a Trophic Cascade,' 2014, https://www.eeb.ucla.edu/Faculty/Blumstein/pdf%20reprints/Waser_etal_2014_Naturweiss.pdf, Last visited Jan 2019
(17) J. Claffey, 'Coyotes Attack Family Dog In Southern NH,' Patch, Jan 2019, https://patch.com/new-hampshire/londonderry/coyotes-attack-family-dog-southern-nh, Last visited Jan 2019
(18) J. W. Hody, R. Kays, 'Mapping the expansion of coyotes (Canis latrans) across North and Central America,' May 2018, ZooKeys 759: 81–97 (2018), https://zookeys.pensoft.net/article/15149/, Last visited Jan 2019
(19) NH Fish and Game, 'Eastern Coyote (Canis latrans var.),' https://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/wildlife/profiles/coyote.html, Last visited Jan 2019
(20) H. K. Wickham, 'Experts howl at 'coywolf' headlines; limited NH hunting season called for,' Union Leader, Jan 2018, https://www.unionleader.com/news/animals/experts-howl-at-coywolf-headlines-limited-nh-hunting-season-called-for/article_99696d5b-92eb-5188-90ab-a9ee8e714a56.html, Last visited Jan 2019
(21) NH Fish and Game Commission Meeting, January 17, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4728&v=vI_4JrmPEq0, Last visited Jan 2019