Fish & Game rejects bid to limit coyote hunting in NH

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader
January 17. 2018 11:41PM
A wildlife advocacy group is calling for an end to the state's year-round coyote hunting season, proposing instead a season from Oct. 15 to March 31. (Jon Way)

CONCORD — The state Fish and Game Commission overruled its own staff and overwhelmingly turned down a bid Wednesday to limit coyote hunting in the state.

Commissioner Eric Stohl of Colebrook said coyotes are practiced killers and there is no evidence that their population is at risk that would justify limiting the hunt.

“Why would the Fish and Game Department propose to protect the most efficient predator we have out there?” Stohl asked.

“They operate in packs; they are a vicious predator.”

New Hampshire is one of 42 states that allows year-round hunting of coyotes.

A citizen advocacy group, Voices of Wildlife in New Hampshire, petitioned the agency to end year-round hunting as a way to protect newborn pups that the group says can’t survive if either adult parent is killed.

The petition sought to limit the hunt to five and a half months every year, Oct. 15 through March 31.

The state Fish and Game Department had instead proposed to the commission an eight-month long hunt, starting July 15 every year to the following March 15.

Senior Scientist Mark Ellingwood said limiting the hunt of coyotes every year should not put at risk the deer population that is currently thriving and the spring months are not a busy season for coyote hunting.

“My sense is most coyote management occurs in the winter months,” Ellingwood said.

“I don’t believe the late spring or early summer is that great a period.”

Commission Chairman Robert Phillipson of Keene said the agency should not make any changes because it has no scientific information about how many coyotes exist and whether this reduction in the season would cause their numbers to increase.

“We are supposed to be managing game populations and wildlife by the best available science, not by petitions, not by emotions,” Phillipson said. “The only responsible thing in my mind is to be sticking with that.”

After a half-hour of commissioners attacking this idea, Voices of Wildlife President Linda Dionne of Raymond had heard enough.

“Don’t sit there and tell lies,” Dionne shouted to the commission.

“There are studies; there are all kinds of studies. We have brought all kinds of information.”

After the vote, Dionne praised the staff for coming up with the compromise proposal.

“I’m really stunned the commission just threw the idea out. They are going to find there’s a lot of public support, that most people don’t want coyotes being hunted year-round,” Dionne said.

The group will consider seeking legislation to set a restriction on coyote hunting in state law, she said.

That’s what this organization and its supporters did in fighting Fish and Game after it proposed in 2016 a limited season to hunt bobcat.

Opponents convinced a legislative rules committee to object to the proposal.

This prompted the Fish and Game commission to drop its bobcat hunt.

Ellingwood said he came up with this plan in part to keep the commission from having another hunting season caught up in State House politics.

“We fully understood putting this on the table was controversial but we felt it was important to discuss it to avoid having this topic forced before us,” Ellingwood said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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