By Steve Linenfelser – Exponent outdoors writer
They say variety is the spice of life. I like putting a little salt on my French fries or popcorn. It just makes it taste a little better. However, growing up my brother and I would sometimes pull a prank on each other and loosen the cap on the salt shaker, causing it to pour out all over our intended snacks. Yuck! That was too much.
Many would argue that too much of a good thing is bad. For example, consider the increase in population of coyotes in Michigan over the last several years. I remember as a kid growing up in Brooklyn when spotting a coyote was a rare sight. Today, their numbers have increased to a point where they become a nuisance. One local business, Knutson’s Sporting Goods, located at 151 Wamplers Lake Road in Brooklyn, is hosting a trial coyote bounty hunt that runs Jan. 27 through March 1st.
The rules are pretty straightforward. The person that brings in the most coyotes and/or brings in the heaviest coyote will receive a gift certificate from Knutson’s. First place receives a $500 Knutson’s gift certificate, second place a $300 certificate and third a $150 gift certificate. Folks may harvest coyotes by trapping or hunting, but only fresh coyote carcasses will be accepted, not frozen. They must be brought in to Knutson’s between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., where they will be weighed and marked so each coyote cannot be registered more than once.
Owner Jim Knutson pointed out that his 21-year-old grandson, Topio, as the man who came up with the idea. “There is no fee to enter this contest,” pointed out Jim Knutson. Topio stated that in just the first few days of the hunt they had gotten 13 coyotes, brought in from Jackson, Washtenaw, and one guy, Brett Arnold, brought in five coyotes from Hillsdale County. The heaviest as of early Jan. 30 was brought in by Logan Nabozny. It was a male coyote that weighed in at 36.5 pounds.
I personally think it’s a great idea. Biologists will tell you that it is important to have a balance of nature, where prey like deer and rabbit numbers are kept in check by predators like coyotes. There are even areas in Jackson where sharp shooters/hunters have been given permission by authorities to shoot a certain number of deer where they have caused excessive damage to people’s flowers and gardens. This may also cut down on car/deer accidents and the possibility of disease when a population gets unnaturally excessive.
Of course, there are many people who do not like the idea of killing any wild animal, arguing that “they were here first,” and many may even consider it cruel. However, history has shown that increased numbers of predators such as coyotes can interfere in hunting and even kill livestock.
Sean Hawley, an employee at Knutson’s, said that he and his dad witnessed an incident while bow hunting last October. Two coyotes came in and flanked a couple of does. He said the deer got away, but realized that coyotes will prey on deer.
Having a bounty on coyotes is nothing new. In the early 1800s Michigan had a bounty on certain animals. One book, written in 1922 by Norman Asa Wood, notes that in Washtenaw County in 1837 a bounty likely existed of $5 each for coyotes. Some states like North Dakota had bounties on coyotes several decades ago. Some businesses in the Kalamazoo area sponsor weekend bounties/contests, but “never over a month long,” stated Hawley. There was a cash award program in the Province of Nova Scotia, Canada in 2011. This was a government-sponsored bounty of $20 per each coyote pelt brought in.
I have spoken to a number of local coyote hunters who tell me the coyote numbers have gotten out of control. Hawley stated he knows of one man that has killed over 30 of them.
Coyotes have a natural fear of humans, and will often make themselves scarce if they scent humans or are spotted by them. One of the biggest problems is caused by people feeding them have caused them to be less fearful of people and they may even become aggressive to livestock, pets, and yes, even to people.
According to a story by the Huffpost in January 2013, a man named Faron Scarberry of Kent, Washington was attacked by three coyotes in his own backyard. The coyotes were apparently after Scarberry’s pet dog initially. Also in the same year, a suburban Chicago man named Roger Nelson stopped a group of coyotes that broke a glass door trying to get his three dogs. Experts will tell you that coyotes see dogs as a threat to its territory.
Coyotes are opportunistic hunters that, although extremely rare, have attacked small children. There was a case in July in 1998 in Forestdale, Massachusetts that a coyote attacked a three-year-old playing in his backyard. His mother had to pry the animal off her son. They boy survived and the coyote was later killed. In Phoenix, there an incidence where game officials trapped and killed a coyote at the same Mesa home where a toddler was nearly dragged off by a coyote. The boy’s father killed the coyote, but his son got a month-long series of rabies shots. In October 30, 2009 in Nova Scotia, a rising Canadian folk singer, 19-year-old Taylor Mitchell, was killed by coyotes according to Chip Bird, the Parks Canada field unit superintendent. Hikers witnessed the attack and called 911, but after being airlifted to a hospital in Halifax, she later died of her wounds. These cases are extreme, and they are rare. Coyotes are not simply cute critters, but are wild animals and one should not necessarily fear them, but respect them.
Yes, coyotes are fun to watch in nature, but like just like too much salt, perhaps a reduction in numbers will be beneficial to both coyotes and humans. Good luck to all you hunters and trappers out there! And hats off to Knutson’s for their efforts.