Matt Reese, Ohio’s Country Journal editor
(Previously published in Ohio’s Country Journal: Febuary 19, 2020)
When coyote predation becomes a problem for a livestock operation, it can be a major issue that requires extensive measures to address. For this reason, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife proposal to designated coyotes as furbearers generated concerns from Ohio’s agriculture and hunters and trappers.
“There are a fair amount of hunters that don’t agree with it,” said Mike Rex, who sits on the Ohio Wildlife Council. “They see coyotes as vermin and not a furbearing animal like a fox, and they don’t think there should be any additional regulation.”
With the furbearer designation, coyote trapping by any person (including landowners) would be limited to the existing trapping season for fox, raccoon, skunk, opossum, and weasel which is Nov. 10 to Jan. 31. The current “landowner exemption” for fur taker permits and legal year-round nuisance trapping would remain in place.
Concerns about the proposed changes, though, led to a Feb. 18 announcement from the ODNR that the rule changes have been put on hold for now. ODNR plans engage with stakeholders, including Ohio Farm Bureau, regarding this issue before proceeding further with their proposals impacting coyote trapping and hunting regulations.
The proposal was put forth, in part, to address an existing conflict between the current rules. The current law requires a fur taker permit to hunt or trap all furbearing animals including fox, raccoon, opossum, skunk, weasel, mink, muskrat, beaver, river otter and coyote. An Ohio Department of Natural Resources rule, though, exempts coyotes from the fur taker permit. The proposal addressed that inconsistency by eliminating the exemption. In addition, the proposed rule was designed to address concerns of accidental trapping of non-target species (including bobcats) when trapping coyotes year round.
From the perspective of many in Ohio agriculture, the coyote issue revolves around the ability to control predation of livestock with every tool possible when needed. As it stands, there is an open season for coyotes and they can also be controlled as a nuisance.
“There are laws on the books in Ohio to deal with nuisance wildlife outside of the regulated hunting and trapping season. Raccoons and fox are currently regulated with a trapping season, but if raccoons are coming in your barn and eating your corn or a fox is getting into your chicken coop, through nuisance laws you’re allowed to trap them or shoot them any time of year,” said Tommy Springer, Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District wildlife specialist. “Coyotes are already lumped into those nuisance laws and those laws aren’t changing. If you need to protect your animals, you can still trap coyotes any time under the nuisance laws.”
Coyotes currently do not need a specific paper trail permitting process to be hunted or trapped as a nuisance.
“You do not need to have a special paper permit like you would with deer or geese,” Springer said. “In Fairfield County we have a pretty good relationship with our farmers on what is a nuisance or what is not. Make contact with your wildlife officer and get on the same page with what is a nuisance and what is not.”
Springer said changes that went into effect in 2013 eliminated requirements for private individuals to be commercially licensed nuisance wild animal control operators when removing certain nuisance wildlife outside of the closed seasons, under the caveat that they may not charge a fee or otherwise receive compensation for their control efforts. Springer advises anyone to contact a local wildlife official before removing any nuisance wildlife.
“Bringing your wildlife officer into the loop before you start removing nuisance wildlife will help prevent misunderstandings if your actions are reported by neighbors or other observers,” Springer said.
The potential room for interpretation of a “nuisance” outside of the furbearer season if a closed trapping season for coyotes would be introduced, though, is the source of some concern, said Tony Seegers, director of state policy for Ohio Farm Bureau.
“Our concern with relying on the nuisance section is who says it is a nuisance? We are concerned that a farmer will trap a coyote and be well within his right to do so under the nuisance statute and rule, but there is no preventing a wildlife officer from disputing if the coyote was a nuisance. We are afraid the wildlife officer could cite the farmer. It is not like the deer damage permit where there is a clear process in which the farmer can stop deer per the permit. It is a matter of who is the final say if the farmer was trapping the coyote because it was a nuisance or if the wildlife officer believes the farmer trapped it for other reasons,” Seegers said. “Additionally, requiring farmers to utilize licensed commercial nuisance wild animal operators for outside the proposed season will greatly decrease the pool of available trappers.”
These concerns do not exist under the current open season for coyotes. And, for now, the controversial ODNR furbearer designation of coyotes is on hold.