Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II
I don’t know about you, but I routinely jot down detailed entries of wildlife sightings in my daily planner so I can easily consult them for future reference or incorporate them into a piece I’m writing. A recent review of my 2018 wildlife observations revealed several interesting trends. One I deem very positive is that I’m seeing more bald eagles than ever before and those sightings are taking place throughout Western PA on a monthly and now almost bi-weekly basis. (I can remember 25-years ago averaging about one bald eagle observation per year away from known nesting locations.) Another trend that I don’t know whether to classify as either positive or negative is that I can count on seeing a PA coyote on at least a monthly, if not bi-weekly, and sometimes even weekly basis. As I’ve recently written, my wife and I saw a pack of four coyotes back on New Year’s Eve and then I saw one dart away on Jan. 11 while I was fl intlock hunting. Now, I don’t have any animosity towards coyotes, but I know they are much more common and widespread than many people realize. As an alpha predator, they prey on a wide variety of big game, small game, and nongame species, as well as dogs, cats, and a variety of livestock; and can frequently fi nd themselves in confl ict with human interests. I know of one coyote pair near Harrisville, PA that between May 17 and July 2, 2003 took 28 fawns based on trail camera photos of their den. Additionally, I personally watched a feral cat slink past my tree stand during archery season six years ago, only to hear a frantic, “Meow!”, and then witnessed a large coyote trotting off with the dead cat in its mouth. It was June 2015 when my wife and I encountered a few days-old fawn that was killed and partially eaten by a coyote within the hour behind our house, and since then my wife has encouraged me to pursue coyotes as much as possible.
Across PA, over 50% of coyotes are taken as incidental kills by deer hunters, bear hunters, and groundhog hunters who happen to cross paths with a meandering coyote. However, there are a core of dedicated coyote hunters who relentlessly pursue the cagy canines with either electronic or mouth calls, chase them with wide-ranging dogs, or entice them with smelly bait stations comprised of a myriad of dead animal parts. If you travel much around PA, you will periodically encounter road-killed coyotes who met their demise by stepping out in front of a moving vehicle. Unbeknownst to many people, coyotes are legal quarry for trappers using foot-hold traps from Oct. 21, 2018 – Feb. 17, 2019, and knowledgeable trappers probably take more coyotes on an individual basis than anyone else pursuing them. Additionally, those who complete a mandatory PA Game Commission certification course can use PA-compliant cable restraints from Dec. 26, 2018 – Feb. 17, 2019 to harvest coyotes and foxes. Several years ago, I drove over to the Fryburg Sportsman’s Club in Clarion County to obtain my PA cable restraint certification. While many folks, at first glance, would improperly call them snares, PA-compliant cable restraints are made to very specific guidelines (see Page 61 of the 2018-19 PA Hunting & Trapping Digest) which mandate the cable cannot exceed 7-feet in length. Additionally by regulation, it must be equipped with: (1) a PGC-approved cable restraint lock, (2) at least one swivel device, (3) a “deer stop” to keep the loop from closing to less than 8-inches (allowing a deer’s leg that errantly steps through it to not become caught), and (4) a breakaway device rated at 375-pounds or less (thus allowing an unlikely neck-caught deer to pull free). PA trappers are taught at their certification course that PA cable restraints may not be set where a captured animal may become entangled in anything greater than ½-inch in diameter (i.e.: fence post, saplings, etc.) or where the animal may become suspended off the ground and choked (i.e.: barbed wire fence, etc.). I waited until after the end of the PA statewide fl intlock season on Jan. 12 to set out any PA-compliant cable restraints, so next week I’ll share some details of my ongoing efforts. God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019