CALDWELL, Ohio — In response to outspoken criticism from hunters and farmers, the Ohio Department of Natural Resource postponed a proposal to change coyote trapping and hunting rules, Feb. 18.
The proposed rules would have required coyote hunters and trappers to get fur taker permits, and would have limited the season for trapping coyotes. Farmers were concerned that this would make it more difficult to manage coyotes. This proposal is no longer under consideration for the current round of changes, but could be considered again as soon as this summer, according to ODNR.
Christine Gelley, of Ohio State University Extension, found out about the decision less than an hour before a farm talk supper in Caldwell, Ohio, Feb. 18, where she had planned to talk to farmers about the proposal.
There is still a public rule hearing scheduled for March 25 to discuss other proposed rule changes that do not include the coyote proposals. To view the proposed rule changes and submit public comments online, visit http://ohiodnr.gov/proposed-rule-changes.
There will also be an open house period for in-person comments March 2-6 at Division of Wildlife district offices. For more information on the open house period or on the March 25 hearing, visit http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/stay-informed/proposed-rule-changes-csi-review#tabr1.
It was originally set to be included in a March 25 statewide hearing and voted on soon after. It was not, however, filed with other proposals in the rule package, Feb. 21, said ODNR Division of Wildlife publications editor, Brian Plasters.
“We’ve heard several suggestions, and we want to explore those suggestions before we file an official proposal,” Plasters said. “We’ve heard all kinds of different feedback.”
The proposed rules, now on hold, would have primarily affected coyote trapping. They would have limited the season for trapping coyote to the current season for trapping fox, raccoon, skunk, opossum and weasel, which is Nov. 10 through Jan. 31.
The proposed rules would have required anyone who hunts or traps coyotes to get a fur taker permit as well. There would remain no season limits for hunting coyotes.
Anyone applying for a fur taker permit for trapping would have to take a trapper education course.
The education course would be free, Plasters said. Fur taker permits cost $8 for youth and $15 for adults.
Exemptions for resident landowners and their children would still apply. Rented land, however, is a gray area, Gelley said.
Ken Schilling, a cattle farmer, in Marietta, Ohio, was concerned that the proposed rules would make it harder for him to get help from his friends and neighbors to deal with coyotes.
“I’m an older farmer, 69, going on 70, and I’m not a very good shot anymore, I’ll be honest with you,” Schilling told Farm and Dairy in a phone call.
He worried that if people had to get permits to hunt or trap coyote, and could only trap in a specific season, they would be less inclined to help him out.
Hunting coyotes can be difficult for anyone, according to Roger High, Ohio Farm Bureau’s director of livestock.
“The reason they’re trapping is because coyotes are a very sneaky, intelligent animal,” High said. “The problem [coyotes] are not always available by means of hunting, so we need to have the ability to trap those as they’re coming into our farms and through our fencing.”
ODNR decided to delay a decision on the proposal after receiving feedback from farmers and hunters.
Ohio Farm Bureau is one organization that expressed concern about the proposals. The organization was concerned that requiring fur taker permits would increase costs and add hurdles for farmers who need to deal with coyotes, High said. It was also concerned that limiting the trapping season for coyotes would limit farmers’ abilities to control coyotes during lambing, kidding and calving times for their livestock.
The proposed rules were a result of rule review that revealed a conflict in the Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Administrative Code. The revised code defines coyotes as a fur-bearing animal, which means that people need a fur taker permit to hunt or trap them. The administrative code, however, provides an exemption for coyotes, Tim Parrett, of ODNR, explained.
The proposed changes would have resolved this conflict.
Some farmers at the meeting in Caldwell suggested that the Ohio Revised Code should be changed, instead. Parrett said that was another possibility, but could be complicated. A bill would have to go through the legislative process, which takes time.
“There’s a fear that if a certain rule or law gets opened up, well, then, other things might happen to that rule or law, so there are some that are reluctant to go that route unless you really have to,” Parrett added.
The Ohio Revised Code, however, does establish definitions for nuisance wild animals, Plasters noted. Nuisance wild animals can be killed. So, what is a nuisance coyote?
One attendee at the meeting said, “one that’s breathing.”
“I don’t know of anyone who targets coyotes with either shooting, snaring or anything like that without them dealing with them as a nuisance,” Schilling said.
Legally, though, the Ohio Revised Code defines nuisance wild animals as wild animals that interfere with use or enjoyment of property, pose a threat to public safety or may cause damage or harm to a structure, property or person.
“Everybody in here that has livestock, you’re gonna have nuisance coyotes,” said Brad St. Clair, Noble County’s wildlife officer.
Most people with sheep and cows will have calves and lambs outside of the trapping season. Coyotes that pose a threat to these animals may be considered nuisances, St. Clair said.
The proposed rules would not have stopped farmers from hunting coyotes at any time of year, but as High noted, sometimes trapping is more effective. Plasters said the division of wildlife also trains and certifies nuisance trappers.
St. Clair and Parrett encouraged farmers to talk to their county wildlife officers to find out how they handle nuisance animals.
High said ODNR told farm bureau it wanted to talk to groups, including the bureau, about rules and proposals that it might consider in the future. The current Ohio Administrative Code rules, which exempt coyotes from rules on hunting and trapping fur-bearing animals, are already ideal for farmers, High said.
“When we get the invite, we will meet with them, and we will have discussions as far as how they affect our farmer members,” High said.
Plasters said he hasn’t heard about any plans to meet with farm bureau or other producer groups on the proposal yet. The next opportunity for the proposal, or a similar proposal, to be considered would be in the summer. He said it is too early to know whether it will be added to that package.
“Typically, as it gets closer to the deadline, we’ll have a better idea,” he said.
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