Coyotes are thriving in the Mountain State.
And it looks as though they are here to stay.
They are not only well entrenched around many of our towns and communities, but they are also fat and happy.
And they are looking for more fast food.
Many West Virginian pet owners, meanwhile, are keeping an eye on their felines, hoping the furry critters will not be carried off in the jaws of a coyote.
And the predators are taking their toll on livestock too.
Farmers in Monroe, Greenbrier, Summers, Randolph, Pendleton, Pocahontas, and Raleigh counties have reported costly losses on their sheep ranches.
To bag one of these elusive creatures, though, you have got to be a good all-round hunter. A varmint rifle with a scope that permits sighting in low light is the weapon of choice for most gamesters.
And with the increasing local population has come an escalated interest in coyote shooting, especially since it offers an excellent off-season opportunity when other seasons are closed.
In fact, hunters are missing a good bet by passing up coyotes in Southern West Virginia, because the wary canines are well-established throughout the area, according to Raymond Short of Oceana.
“Coyotes are everywhere, including the cities and towns,” says the 65-year-old hunter and trapper. “Farmers seem to be doing most of the hunting as landowner complaints about coyotes are on the rise.”
There was a time when coyotes were basically Western residents of the U.S., but their boundaries have expanded enormously during the past few decades.
And coyotes continue to be a problem in Southern West Virginia, as well as statewide, according to David Richmond, WVU extension agent for Raleigh and Summers counties.
“It’s a problem that’s here to stay,” Richmond says.
“We’ll never completely eliminate them, we just hope to slow them down through management practices, trapping and hunting.”
Coyotes now occupy the Eastern states, where they immediately caused much consternation and grief among human residents, as the predators discovered that suburban cats and dogs were plentiful, easy to catch and good to eat.
A coyote will eat almost anything that can be digested—and some things that cannot. It will feed on carrion, vegetation, birds’ eggs, and anything alive that it can catch and kill. Practically everything alive is welcome on the menu, whether it has feathers, fur, or scales.
The only things that are turned down are those that are either too big to tangle with or too mean to overcome. A beaver, boar, or raccoon, for example, might make a coyote think twice about mounting an attack—but that is not the case when it comes to many of the tasty barnyard creatures, such as poultry, piglets, and sheep.
“Forget what you have read about and what you’ve heard about coyotes taking only sick, weak, and aged victims,” says John Wayne Davis of White Oak.
“A fully grown coyote can take down a 100-pound deer. There is plenty of documented records that show where coyotes have taken perfectly healthy deer and other similar-size animals.”
There is no closed season on coyotes in West Virginia. They can be hunted any time, although appropriate licenses are required to carry a gun during hunting seasons. Hunters are not permitted to carry an uncased gun in the woods after the close of small game seasons. Hunters are urged to check state regulations before heading afield for coyotes.
Farmers may take coyotes by any legal means if the landowners are experiencing damage.
Road kills have been reported recently in Raleigh County, where Davis does most of his hunting and trapping.
He has taken nearly a dozen during the past couple of years with his .222-caliber Savage model 340 rifle and Tasco 3-9X variable scope. His ammo of choice is Remington soft-point 50-grain bullets.
And though Davis has taken scores of turkeys, deer, and groundhogs during the past three decades, he says coyotes offer different challenges than most other game.
The crack-shot granddaddy nailed one of the creatures from more than 200 yards with his trusty hunting rifle.
“I can do better than that, but I really don’t like to take long shots anymore,” he says. “I bag them only when people want them killed. The best time to hunt is dusk. In winter, they may be active anytime during the day while searching for food.”
Davis trapped a pair of the shaggy-coated animals on a farm in the Shady Spring area. One of the coyotes, a male, weighed 50 pounds. He described the animals’ color as rusty brown, gray, or light brown.
“Some people think they’re seeing a gray fox when they see a coyote in the woods,” the veteran hunter explains. “They’re quick as they are nasty.’’
Davis says the coyote offers a unique style of hunting for sportsmen. “A coyote will always be a coyote,” he says. “They are as smart as any four-legged animal that roams the continent.”
Top o’ the morning!