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Some conservation clubs, state NRC clash over coyote management

Starting this year, hunters are not allowed to target coyotes between mid-April and mid-July.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission voted to bring back a three month “quiet period" at its March 14 meeting that lasted nearly four hours. Some conservation groups disagreed with the decision, two of which announced this week that they intend to sue the state.

A year-round coyote season was introduced in 2016 amid concerns the small canines were a growing nuisance to property owners and having an adverse effect on their prey populations — including deer.

Now eight years later, the NRC says the move didn’t really help solve those issues.

In the meeting, NRC Chair Tom Baird said bringing back the quiet period will have little impact on harvesting numbers and that hunters will still have ample time to go after coyotes.

“There’s no effect on population, a minor reduction in opportunity…. We don't eat coyotes, we can’t use the fur from that period of time, and nuisance hunting is still allowed on private property,” he said. “There’s very little reason biologically, to continue the hunt during the quiet period.”

Baird said the quiet period will also address some ethical concerns raised in recent years. The period is set during pup season to reduce the likelihood of hunters orphaning the young.

He said the decision further aligns with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation which emphasizes “fair chase” ethics.

“I will say that shooting pregnant coyotes or taking pups out of their den is not fair chase. That’s my personal view of that,'' Baird said.

The decision passed in a 4-2 vote but came with some opposition.

On March 28, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, announced it is filing a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court, saying the decision came without enough scientific evidence. The Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers filed a similar suit in Mackinac County.

Amy Trotter spearheads MUCC. She said she’s concerned the NRC relied too much on public comment from non-hunters and other “social factors.”

She cited Michigan’s Proposal G of 1996 which emphasizes the need for wildlife officials to use “principles of sound scientific management” when making decisions about game.

“MUCC, and all of those other organizations and individuals that had testified, want to provide the maximum amount of opportunity to harvest a coyote as long as it is done sustainably and not at the detriment of the population,” Trotter said.

“Our ultimate goal here is to really send the message that [public perception] is not a factor that should be considered when addressing wildlife management by the NRC.”

Addressing Proposal G in the March 14 meeting, Baird said the NRC has always taken public input into account and that statute allows decisions to be made on economic and social factors.

“The wildlife of Michigan is sort of owned by all of us in Michigan, not just one group or another,” he said. “We take so-called social or non-scientific considerations into account all the time.”

He referenced the recent decision to not change Michigan’s Nov. 15 deer season opener based mainly on tradition.

A 2022 survey by the state Department of Natural Resources showed the number of youth hunters has declined 37 percent since 2013. Trotter said the public perception of hunting should be fostered through education, not regulation change.

Hunters will still be able to go after coyotes for the other 9 months of the year and kill them on private property anytime if they pose a threat under “nuisance kill” law.

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency, we note that the Michigan DNR is a financial supporter of WCMU.

Copyright 2024 Interlochen Public Radio. To see more, visit Interlochen Public Radio.

Michael Livingston reports for IPR from the tip-of-the-mitt – mainly covering Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties.