Think a little more about coyotes

August 26, 2013

Many years ago a coyote took up residence at Prime Hook Nation­al Wildlife Refuge. The critter lived along a hedgerow, trotting up and down the fields now and then; other times it sat at a distant corner where two fields met and kept an eye on things. Eventu­ally it either died or moved on looking for a mate. No one complained about the animal.

It became part of the refuge’s wildlife mix and joined the occasional bobcat or cougar sightings in the exotic animal lore of the wild fringe of marshes and woods along the coast.

Since that time there have been a few more coyote sightings. But anyone would be hard-pressed to state with any credibility that there’s been any great spike in Sussex coy­ote numbers. Wildlife populations, because of management of natural areas and certain protections, have been enjoying decent health in recent decades. Coyotes are right there in the mix. The range of the dog-like animals is expanding across the nation. On the Del­marva Peninsula – a virtual island because of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal – we shouldn’t expect to see any kind of steep spike in coyote numbers. It’s just not that easy for them to get here.

Sussex Council recently passed a resolu­tion calling on the state to declare an open season on coyotes throughout the year. The discussion included concerns about impact on real estate values and the economy as well as fears about the toll coyotes could take on crops and livestock. Discussion would have benefited from testimony by a wildlife biolo­gist conversant with the habits of an animal that we, in Sussex, have little experience with.

For example, do we know whether our rapidly expanding deer and resident Canada goose populations could be controlled to a certain extent by having more natural predators like coyotes?

Empowering farmers to control varmints like ground hogs, deer and coyotes that cause demonstrable problems in their fields makes sense. But in a rapidly urbanizing county with homes increasingly closer together, problems created by declaring an open season on coy­otes by anyone with guns and traps could be greater than problems created by the coyotes themselves.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Dave Frederick, sports editor.