CRESTLINE, Ohio – UPDATED – To some, the coyote may seem like any other animal. But according to Crawford Park District Naturalist Logan Masters, the wild four-legged canine is a cunning creature whose population should be regulated.
Concern over the rising population of coyotes was the topic of Masters’ discussion, “Coyote Crazy,” Wednesday evening in the Larsen Room at Lowe-Volk Nature Center.
“The whole state of Ohio, along with the entire country, has really seen this giant increase of coyotes around the area,” he said. “I’m a person that’s a big believer that our coyotes are doing severe damage to our deer population.”
During the presentation, Masters displayed charts that showed a decline in deer population and an increase in coyote sightings over the last several years.
“If you’re not a believer that coyotes can take down a deer, look at the research that the [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] along with other scientists and researchers are doing because the coyotes are not only evolving, but they’re population is growing,” he said.
Conversely, ODNR Wildlife Communication Specialist Jamey Emmert said there is currently no factual evidence that coyote populations are on a dramatic rise in Ohio.
"There are many things that point in that direction, but nothing as far as hard facts to support it as of right now," she said in an email, adding that the ODNR has not performed studies on coyotes' influence on deer population. "Factors like habitat gain/loss, development, urban sprawl, and habitation all play parts in humans seeing more coyotes."
In his presentation, Masters said coyotes were first found in Ohio in 1919 and now are in all 88 of the state’s counties. They can run up to 43 miles per hour and weigh 15 to 46 pounds.
Additionally, he said because of cross-breeding between coyotes and gray wolves that are making their way into Ohio from the North, it is not uncommon to see coyote hybrids that weigh significantly more, adding that coyotes are smaller and more basal than the gray wolf, which is a close relative.
The coyote is nocturnal and smart and hunts by circling its prey until it has an opportunity to strike from behind, according to Masters. And even though most people believe the coyote is a pack animal, they technically are not, he said, adding that coyotes sometimes are spotted in pairs and are showing pack-like behavior because of the cross-breeding with wolves.
“The fact that they are packing up now, being the coyote hybrids they are, that is something scary to think about,” he said. “You don’t want to be walking through the woods and run into a pack of coyotes – that isn’t going to turn out well for you.”
Despite common opinion, Emmert said the species tends to stay under the radar.
"To that end, that also means we have much to learn about cross-breeding between wolves and coyotes," she said. "There is plenty of information and a plethora of studies from many organizations about the topic and the effect cross-breeding has on coyote populations throughout the country, but nothing specifically current in Ohio and to date."
Of the many other things he shared Wednesday, Masters said coyotes are omnivores and will eat trash, fruit, insects, and meat, among other things. He also showed a video from Animal Planet about a boy who was attacked by coyote.
“The reason I like to educate people is because when I see videos like I showed today, that kid getting attacked by a coyote,” Masters said. “We have thousands of kids who come out here to the park all year long and do different programs out here – field trips, camps, stuff like that – and for us to think here in Crawford County a kid got attacked by a coyote, that’s not something I want to think about.”
He also said a man from Wooster was attacked by coyotes.
"Certain factors are possible which could play a role in a coyote attack – a habituated coyote that has lost its fear of humans, a sick coyote, or a coyote that’s protecting pups – those are all scenarios where a human might be attacked unprovoked," Emmert said. "That said, these are very specific circumstances that people must understand."
Another concern about coyotes Masters shared was their role with other animals, such as livestock and small game.
“I have a lot of friends who are farmers, and they have problems with these animals getting into their livestock,” Masters continued. “That’s a problem, and in my opinion, coyotes are a major problem around here.”
Coyotes can take down a full-grown cow or horse, which Masters showed alleged pictures of, and are wreaking havoc among the rabbit and fox population in Ohio.
Furthermore, coyotes can be hunted all year long and have no bag limit, but hunters still must have a valid Ohio hunting permit.
Emmert said once any wild animal becomes habituated to humans, it’s downhill for everything involved.
"This means protecting your small pets by keeping them leashed and near you at all times and removing attracts to reduce indirect feeding," she said. "Protecting your garbage from being raided by wildlife is a big step in the right direction.
"Coyotes will indeed prey upon small pets; these wild canines are mousers, preying regularly on rodents and rabbits. They often view small pets as just another food source."
Emmert added, "Do not let coyotes be comfortable with human presence."
Lowe-Volk Park is located 3 miles north of United States Route 30. For information about the park, call the Crawford Park District office at 419-683-9000 or visit its website at crawfordparkdistrict.org or its Facebook page.
According to the ODNR, coyotes are a nuisance animal. It is recommended that residents remove attractions, like garbage, from their property. If coyotes persist in municipalities, residents are encouraged to contact a nuisance control officer. For rural areas, hunting and trapping regulations apply.
The ODNR Division of Wildlife is not considering and does not plan to put a bounty on coyotes – as there are in some states – in the foreseeable future, Emmert said.
"This has not been a recent topic of discussion and will not be," she said. "The major problems with bounty programs are that 1) they are expensive; 2) they at best only temporarily reduce predator numbers and at worst have no effect; 3) they are indiscriminate and do not target problem individuals; 4) they must be widespread and continuous (i.e., without end); and 5) they stimulate fraudulent behavior increasing the cost of their operation via increasing demands on law enforcement."
For information about coyotes, contact the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.