By MORGAN MANNS
This winter’s treacherous weather has created difficulties for humans and animals alike.
Local residents have reported seeing an abundance of coyotes this winter near and in city limits.
According to Wildlife Communication Specialist John Windau of the state Department of Natural Resources, severe cold temperatures and excessive amounts of snow have significantly reduced the vegetation and other food sources for coyotes in the wild.
“Coyotes are typically around all the time, people just don’t notice them,” Windau said. “But they come out more in the winter because of scarce food sources.”
Windau said if a resident has a coyote problem, they should first identify the animal in question is a coyote and not a stray dog. Once identified, the resident should eliminate the problem, which in most cases is accessible pet food.
“They’re drawn to smells of food sources,” Windau said. “They can be aggressive towards other animals; they see those as potential food sources. But they’re usually pretty shy around humans. If you just yell at them to go away, and take the food inside, they shouldn’t be a persistent problem.”
Although coyotes have a notorious reputation for killing sheep and some other domesticated livestock, studies show that livestock makes up only 14 percent of the coyotes’ diet, according to ODNR.
ODNR personnel assist farmers and other landowners in identifying and controlling nuisance coyotes. Windau said it is open season throughout the whole year for hunting coyotes with no bag limit, although there are certain regulations and restrictions hunters must follow.
According to ODNR, coyotes can be hunted or trapped. If hunted during the deer gun season, hours and legal hunting devices are the same as for deer gun season.
Rifles and night vision scopes are legal for coyote hunting; however, rifles and night hunting (between sunset and ½ hour before sunrise) are prohibited during any firearm/muzzleloader deer seasons.
Allowable hunting equipment includes a longbow or bow, crossbow, handgun, rifle, shotgun or air gun.
Windau said individuals must have a license to hunt or trap coyotes. However, landowners are authorized to take necessary action when they feel a coyote is a danger.
“Attacks on humans are extremely rare,” Windau said. “We don’t get very many reports of that. Coyotes are curious but generally are fearful of humans. If there’s a serious problem, I suggest they contact a nuisance trapper.”
Licenses and permits may be purchased online at wildohio.com, where there is a list of authorized license sales agents.
“We routinely get calls about coyote disturbances,” Windau said. “Though sometimes people just need educated about coyotes.”
Coyotes have been around for quite some time, living around people, Windau said. “They’ve found populations (of coyotes) living in large metropolitan areas. The people living there are completely unaware,” he said.
Windau said this time of year people see coyotes more often.
“Not only is the vegetation down, but they’re active this time of year, moving more during hours when we’re awake,” he said, adding the typically nocturnal mammals are more active in the winter to hunt and for mating purposes.
Windau said ODNR doesn’t keep track of the coyote population in numbers; however, they do use population index, which tracks population changes through time.
Research is ongoing on resident coyote populations. Biologists are studying the animals’ behavior, movements, and population in the state, according to ODNR.
“They typically aren’t a threat to humans. They’re very secretive, shy, adaptive animals,” Windau said. “When seen in residential areas, they’re most likely just trying to find food to survive, just like all other animals do.”