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OUTDOORS: Coyote population expanding in Kentucky

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Fall a good time to start enjoying outdoors

By Jeff Lilly

 When I was growing up here in Anderson County the only coyote familiar to local folks was named Wile E. Coyote and chased a roadrunner on Saturday morning cartoon television. 

Now, some 40 years later, the coyote (Canis latrans) seems to have adapted its way from the Saturday morning cartoon hour to 24/7 occupation of pretty much everywhere east of the Mississippi River including all of Kentucky’s 120 counties. It is not uncommon in the last several years here locally to see these wily varmints zipping across the highway (or laying slightly mashed in the road due to a timing issue). 

They are often seen hunting in freshly mowed hay fields or near woodlots for their next meal.  Coyotes are omnivorous, which means they feed on both plants and animals, and are very opportunistic. This helps to make them that much more adaptable to many different habitats from the back woods to wood lots to lots near subdivisions.

The coyotes are believed by researchers to have expanded their range into the Bluegrass State mostly from states to our north and southwest during the 1970’s. That seems about right as I remember it since it was in the early 1980’s that I killed my first coyote during the modern firearms season for deer at our Franklin County farm. It was a big male that weighed over 50 pounds (average adult male coyotes typically weigh around 50 pounds with females slightly smaller in most cases). 

Back then we still had deer check-in stations where you physically had to transport your deer harvest and tag to be checked in and recorded by licensed retailers working in conjunction with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. I placed the big coyote on top of a load of firewood we had gathered in the back of Dad’s pickup truck before leaving deer camp and hauled it to Anderson County alongside my deer harvest. It was my first coyote and I was kind of proud of it. 

I soon realized how little the locals knew about coyotes and how few had ever seen one when some fella started pointing and telling everyone near him I had shot a German Shepherd. To that I say “you can’t fix stupid”. 

Researchers seem to think the coyotes eastward expansion is also attributed to filling an ecological niche. This niche was left by the extirpation of two native species in the southeast, the gray wolf and red wolf.

I’m of the opinion, and some don’t agree, that coyotes have an impact not only on small game populations (rabbits, etc) but on turkeys and deer populations. Coyotes prey on deer fawns in the spring as well as young turkeys (some even before hatching you would think) due to ground nesting. Farmers also know that newborn calves and lambs as well as chickens are also favorites to hungry coyotes. 

Rural homeowners might also wonder where their pet cat “Fluffy” just up and disappeared too. Well, keep your eyes open, because ole Fluffy may very well have become or could be supper for a local coyote. House cats seem to be a favorite on the coyote menu.

The State of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has recently taken measures to help combat the growing population of coyotes in the state. Check with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources on the latest rules and regulations for hunting and trapping coyotes. 

For quite a while now the hunting has been allowed year round with no bag limit during daylight hours only. This past spring the powers that be made some changes regarding night time hunting so definitely check with the Department before going afield as the regulations may be a little tricky depending on the time of year you’re hunting. 

Trapping for coyotes is scheduled to open at noon on Monday, Nov. 11 and runs through Friday, Feb. 28, 2014.

I’ve been able to eliminate several coyotes over the years at our Franklin County farm as well as my place here in Anderson County. I have recently encountered a very bold coyote that is next on my list. I’ve seen him twice in the middle of the afternoon and once right off my back deck.  Seeing him has been a little surprising since coyotes are mostly nocturnal and are not seen often in the middle of the day for the most part. He looks like he might be about to develop lead poisoning if you know what I mean.

 

October seasons

October is the true beginning of fall and the start of several seasons many hunters in Kentucky set their annual clocks by including me.

Although archery season for deer and turkey opened in early September, the first phase of crossbow season opens Tuesday, Oct. 1 and runs through Sunday, Oct. 20

Raccoon hunting season opens Oct. 1 and runs through the end of February 2014.

Youth gun season for deer is scheduled for the weekend of Saturday, Oct. 13 and Sunday, Oct. 13.

Early muzzleloader season is slated for the following weekend, Oct. 19-20.

Last but not least, and one of my favorites, is the fall shotgun season for turkey.  This first of two segments runs from Saturday, Oct. 26  through Friday, Nov. 1.


Quick shots

*Squirrel season is still in so get out and getcha some.

*Kentucky’s Youth Weekend deer hunt is a great time to out and enjoy the youngins, teach them about the outdoors and make some memories.

 

Take a kid hunting and fishing soon.

See ya outside!

 

Jeff Lilly is an outdoors columnist for The Anderson News.