Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

Killing Coyotes the Exception not the Rule

January 29, 2017

Originally published for Bullet News Niagara October 26 2012 but that website has since disappeared along with its contents. Hopefully this story will have a longer life here on wordpress. 

coyote-teeth

As the gums on this roadkill coyote recede the teeth that strike fear in parents and pet owners are exposed. There is no need to fear these teeth if you give coyotes proper respect.

There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you are deer hunting and a coyote graces your stand you must shoot it. I checked the Ontario hunting regulations and found that there were no limits and the season was open all year in Niagara but failed to find the part that said all coyotes must die. When I took the Ontario Hunter Education course I specifically remember being told that we’d be more welcome by landowners if we killed coyotes. When I asked my first landowner if I could hunt his land he said yes but informed me there was no need to shoot the coyotes. He and his wife enjoyed watching them mouse the fields as they sat and observed from the back deck.

It didn’t take long to get my first coyote in the crosshairs. I had no intention of shooting it; I just wanted a closer look through my scope. I was after deer and I hadn’t seen any good recipes for dogs. This majestic creature sat pretty while my arrow pointed at his chest. His fur was absolutely perfect as he looked beneath my stand with anticipation. A leaf I had kicked from beneath my feet provided just enough noise to trick him into looking for a mouse in the leaf litter. He left so I dropped another leaf and once again he returned to entertained me with his curious glare.

Some deer hunters will kill coyotes because they see them as competition for deer. The Ministry of Natural Resources issued 1000’s of additional deer seals throughout Niagara over the last decade because there are too many deer. Some hunters shoot coyotes because they scare deer away. There are many things that scare deer because deer are prey animals and by nature they are very wary. Hunters scare deer as do the birds they stir up and even other deer can scare their smaller counterparts away. Coyotes only add one more challenge and element to the experience. If one doesn’t like the challenge they can buy deer meat from a wild game farm.

Ask any hunter why it is important to control deer numbers and most will point to biodiversity. A large deer population will eat their landscape causing a browse line on the forest floor. The overall diversity of the forest suffers. Coyotes are part of that biodiversity and are important scavengers. Who else will be as efficient at cleaning up our deer entrails we leave in the field? With the diverse diet of the coyote, nothing goes to waste. When you see an image of Wile E Coyote carrying a lunch pail remember coyotes do have an important job to do. Some claim biodiversity suffers when a large coyote population eats too many small mammals but when the small mammals disappear so does the coyote.

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A dead deer left in the center median of the QEW where vultures could not reach it was dragged across the busy lanes by coyotes to a place where it could safely be picked clean. Nothing went to waste.

Coyote numbers were not always as high as they are today. Historically coyotes in Niagara were around 25 pounds compared to today’s version which averages just under 50 pounds and is a cross between a western coyote and an eastern wolf. They are an open plains animal so when we cleared the land for farming we encouraged this and other animals like the white tail deer. How dangerous the coyote is depends on who you talk to.

The coyote enthusiast is someone who loves them and wants to see coyote hunting stopped. They elude that without the coyote we would be overrun by vermin and they would have you believe coyotes rarely kill pets. They claim that when you see one with kitty in his mouth it’s more than likely kitty was hit by a car and the coyote simply took the free meal. That isn’t logical because kitty is just another small mammal to a coyote however if urban food waste was not available the coyote would likely never venture into the areas our pets roam.

I saw one of these coyote hugging groups sharing a photo of several hunting dogs holding down a coyote and the coyote was in obvious pain. You are never told that the hunter reaches the coyote as quickly as possible so the dogs do not damage the fur. The responses to that picture were the familiar people hating comments. These coyote sympathizers seem to like to share any bad hunting press as if they are trying to alter the image of hunting in general. These same coyote enthusiasts would never share a picture if the tables were turned and the photo showed 6 coyotes eating a family dog alive. Coyotes often prey on foxes but have been seen killing, playing with and even mating with domesticated pets.

Coyotes don’t always afford their prey a quick death. They can disable and disembowel an animal and the prey can suffer a horrible death as it is eaten alive. This is nature and it is a cruel reality most of us humans don’t want to face. Everything these sympathizers tell you about the coyote paints a rosy picture of a predator that is as dangerous as any other wild animal in Niagara. If you corner a raccoon or grab a hold of a mink you’ll be reminded what the definition of wild is right before a trip to the emergency room. If you chase a coyote it will run so fast its back legs will pass his front ones. However if you corner one you will witness their potential.

The coyote hunter on the other hand would have you believe these dogs might be waiting at the corner woodlot to ambush our children; spreading rabies and that they are breaking farmers by eating too many livestock animals.  The big bad wolf hysteria needs to end. I have been alone in the dark while covered in blood after gutting a deer. I was followed by 3 coyotes but they never came within range of my firearm. They wanted my deer but they are scared of people. Attacks have happened but are far rarer than attacks by family dogs.

mange

When coyote numbers bloom mange infests the population and they slowly scratch themselves bare until winter freezes them to death.

The number one reason coyotes and people’s paths cross is because of feeding. Deer hunters see more coyotes when they bait and residential areas host more coyotes when food is made available. Available food sources in urban areas include outdoor pet food, unsecured litter receptacles, spilled bird seed, road-kill, the bread you threw out for the birds, whatever small critters that aren’t wary enough to spot the approaching danger and much more. Feeding deer, birds and other wildlife means feeding coyotes. Repeated feeding only encourages the frequency of visits by coyotes and over time they lose their fear of humans and actual start to relate people to food. This is when coyotes need to be closely watched or even destroyed. Feeding wildlife encourages wildlife conflicts and lures them across busy traffic areas and into neighbourhoods where they are not safe or welcome by all.

Coyote breeding increases when they are hunted. Research shows that when food sources are up and the coyote count is down they breed more and have bigger litters to compensate. Too many coyotes and other natural factors can cause the food abundance to drop and they struggle to survive. Many will starve or lose their battle with disease as they weaken.  I questioned this research and both Mark Rykman and Anne Yagi agreed. Mark is a Wildlife Biologist with the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters and he stated that hunting coyotes to keep their numbers in check actually may have the opposite effect. Anne, our local Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist in Vineland Station said there are other mammals that display this same breeding characteristic so it’s not out of the question.

Ken Durham a local coyote hunter from Grimsby disagrees. Ken told us he was called by the Niagara Regional Police for help after a women and her dog were attacked by a coyote while walking her two children to the school bus. Grimsby is blanketed by a no fire zone so when there is no wildlife management, populations can balloon and conflicts occur. Ken contacted the Town and they confirmed he had permission to hunt the coyotes with firearms. Ken said over 4 years his crew killed over 60 coyotes the first year, 50 or less the next, about 25 the third and the fourth year they were down to single digits. “Does this sound like their numbers increased?” asked Ken. “You can’t take that many females out of production and expect the population to increase.” Ken admitted that if the hunting stopped the population would quickly rebound as long as food was available.

The OFAH biologist said populations are hard to control through hunting. “Coyotes have a density dependant population” said Rykman. This claim does however have a double edged sword for the coyote because it suggests that coyote hunting is sustainable. Those that hunt them for their pelts have no worries about the populations dropping off as they are a naturally renewable resource. Coyote hunters generally hunt in the cold months of February and March during the height of breeding season. This ensures a good winter coat and is a time when pups are not present and most other game species are closed to hunting. Soon after the hair becomes loose as their coat starts to change for the season.

So where does this leave the deer hunter in the grand scheme of coyote management? The Niagara whitetail deer season happens during the months of October through December. Is it really our job to eliminate the area’s top predator for the farmer? Clearly the research suggests we are just spinning our wheels in this losing battle. If the coyote is here to stay and current practices increase populations then farming operations need to be brought up to modern standards. There really doesn’t appear to be a need to shoot for population control so if you’re not a fur hunter then why kill them?

Hunters have a code of ethics when it comes to all animals. You do not let an animal you killed go to waste. You afford them the quickest possible death and do your best to use the entire animal by saving as much meat as possible. You donate, tan or return the hide to its origin to be consumed by the surrounding recyclers. For some reason the coyote has escaped this general respect by many hunters. Too many deer hunters are simply shooting coyotes and leaving them to spoil in the field. You can’t eat them but there should be an attempt to save the hide.

“I’m seeing it everywhere” says Anne Yagi “and they are not even keeping the hide and that’s not the intent”. Rykman agrees and said that hunters should be trying to utilize the pelt or take it to market. Durham on the other hand reminds us it is not always possible. When Ken was asked to help reduce animal numbers the coyotes had mange; a highly contagious parasitic disease that affects the skin. “One coyote had nothing left but a little patch of fur on his hind end.” Putting this animal in his truck or taking it back to his farm to process could transfer it to his livestock. You never bring a diseased animal to a livestock operation. “When populations are high they compete for space and some are forced to take up shelter in barns and sheds where they come into contact with livestock operations” says Durham. This also causes conflicts. “There are less coyote hunters then there used to be and a deer hunter requires a trapper’s license in order to sell a pelt” said Durham.

So why has the coyote garnered so much public hysteria and disrespect from hunters? Rykman explains that when populations peak nuisance calls increase. “That animal is perceived as a nuisance instead of the majestic creature it is and we’ve seen this with the increasing black bear population as well.” Rykman does remind us however that the coyote does deserve the same respect as any other animal and hunters need to act in an ethical manner.

We as hunters need to encourage a general respect for coyotes and as residents an understanding of how conflicts are created and how they can be avoided. No animal deserves the disrespect the coyote has been given as they are part of the natural landscape and they are here to stay. The coyote enthusiasts are spot on with their advice on how to best avoid these conflicts in urban areas but everyone has to be on board. Feeding wildlife in your back yard encourages visits to neighbouring yards as well. This is an animal we need not fear but proper respect should be given so we shouldn’t attempt to become friends either. Keeping the fear of man in coyotes may also help avoid conflicts.

For more information on coyotes and tips to deter them or protect livestock visit the Ministry of Natural Resources website http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/FW/2ColumnSubPage/STDPROD_089105.html

 

 

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Poacher is the Hunter’s “N” Word

January 29, 2017

I’d like to speak to you about the word “POACHER”.

Yes I spelled it in capitols because that’s the way its noted in public. I think its very important for hunters to stop using the term loosely. When you spot hunters flushing birds or driving deer on a property that’s posted “No Trespassing” have the decency to ask if they acquired permission before telling others he or she is a POACHER. Stop calling good friends “Ole POACHER”.

The overuse of the word has a negative effect on our community as a whole. After all “POACHERS” are just “HUNTERS” who refuse to follow the rules. All poachers are considered hunters and the stigma is also reversed back to all hunters are poachers.

I can’t come out of the woods wearing camouflage without someone asking what I was hunting because deer season is over. Nothing I was just birding today as the lack of gun and camera around my neck would indicate. Even when I am hunting and have all my licencing, permits and tags one shot is all it takes for someone to call authorities to come check my credentials to see if I’m poaching.

 

The animal rights community loves this term. After deer season, dogs and coyotes carry pieces of carcass legally disposed of in the field to open areas where non-hunters find them. It must be POACHERS! Ice flows in a river kill several diver ducks but they must have been shot out of season by POACHERS! Anyone one wearing camo nearby is now suspect because we know they hunt. POACHER is quickly becoming the new “N” word meaning anyone who fits the description should be treated with caution because they are cut from the same thread. There is no demographic that deserves to be suspect due to the actions by others sharing the same demographic be it colour, race or what they eat for dinner. However, the more that accusation is made, the more believable it becomes that that community can’t be trusted.

I am a hunter and I despise POACHERS just like any ARA does but the number of actual poachers in the hunting community is few and far in-between. It’s important for us all to correct anyone using this term out of context or in an ignorant fashion. Yes POACHERS are hunters but hunters are not POACHERS but the association is impossible to avoid so restricting the use of the term to actual accounts is important.

deer-carcass

Just because there are animal remains doesn’t mean they were put there illegally. The law requires us to return the parts of an animal we do not eat to the places those animals reside so coyotes and other recyclers can do their job and prevent spoil and waste. Urban recycling programs do not accept these items in the green curbside bins. Slob hunters throwing from parking lots still in a garbage bag don’t make us look any better.

Just because there is gunfire in the distance doesn’t mean they’re shooting at wildlife that’s out of season and anyone injuring an animal for fun is NOT a poacher. They’re a serial killer in the works because even poachers eat their kill. It is more important than ever before to behave professionally in the field. A good way to stop poaching is to end hunting altogether and that’s what animal rights leaders are hoping for.

Lets treat POACHER like the “N” word for now on and no that doesn’t mean calling your hunting partner your “poacha”. It means it’s a very strong word that should never be used because it reflects badly on the person using it, the person its being used on and the hunting community as a whole.

deer-2

An Introduction; Hello I am Wildniagara

January 16, 2015

I was born in 1968, Paul McCartney is still my favourite singer and I’ve been sprayed with DDT’s while playing beneath the large elm trees in West St Catharines. I hunt, fish and love photographing all things wild. I remember the foam on the Root Beer River, beaches full of dead alewives and the spewing of pollution from the industrial sector before the worldwide environmental awakening. My biggest fear? It’s that this awakening was only the beginning of a cycle that we will see the end of in my lifetime.

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People latched onto the environmental movement like a hockey team on a winning streak. Like anything popular there are those who only see dollars signs and were quick to paint their products green. Manufacturers put their product in containers using less paper and then deemed it environmentally friendly. The same soap was going into our lakes in the same amounts but because it was “concentrated” and used less packaging it was labelled green(er) and we bought it.
In most cases we didn’t start making products greener at all, we just moved the manufacturing sector offshore where we could no longer see or smell it. We think we have made headway in the way our consumerism impacts the earth but really all we’ve done is shift impact from one place to another. We really haven’t “reduced” our consumption or our impact.
Ex: Most people think electric cars are the answer and if you’re not pushing the accelerator the car is not producing emissions. The answer in fact is the opposite. When an electric car is idle it is plugged in. That plug leads to transmission lines which are losing energy as it is fed by power plants that burn coal, gas, nuclear fuel or impeding fish migration. Have you given thought to the danger a firefighter faces while fighting a fire involving an electric car or what the batteries are made of and where do they go when millions of them come to the end of their lifespan?
Enter the militant environmentalist loyal to whatever David Suzuki said or what the scientific report said. I still haven’t seen the entire “Inconvenient Truth” because Al Gore puts me to sleep every time I try to watch it. We know manufacturers can stretch the truth as can scientists with bias agendas perhaps hired by a corporation or a special interest group trying to stop development.
The constant constraints on development and manufacturing are creating job losses that affect all people including those riding the green band wagon. The power given to those in charge of protecting the environment is excessive and the unwillingness to negotiate by these agencies has many frustrated. Green belt legislation, the Clean Waters Act and the Species at Risk Act are stealing land and property rights from the farmers that keep us fed.
If we don’t stop opposing all progress and welcome it here at home where we can watch it and make sure they follow our strict environmental laws, we won’t have to be NIMBY anymore because there will be no more jobs in our back yards. If we don’t reduce our usage and realize we can’t consume without impact we’ll exhaust our resources long before the next ice age wipes us out anyway. If we don’t stop using that toad as a shield against development some ones going to get sick of the environmental movement and make those toads mysteriously disappear.
There is an environmental backlash coming you can be sure of that. When endangered species are used as shields against even the most responsible development, everything you buy is now green including fuels, detergents and SUV’s, and environmentalists are getting sick of the environmental hysteria, you know this movement is nearing the end of its lifespan. As I see it there never was an awakening in the first place. It was all just a passing fad that traveled from lip to lip with buzzwords and very little action by the self professed environmentalist. The disconnect between nature and the masses has widened but we’re all greener thinkers than ever. Perhaps if we start living greener instead of thinking green we might just make greener progress which everyone will benefit from making a clean environment something we cherish forever.