An increasing coyote population in Kentucky has led the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (DFWR) to issue new regulations that will allow night hunting of the animal.

“This new opportunity offers landowners another tool to assist in the removal of coyotes associated with livestock depredation,” said Steven Dobey, furbearer program coordinator for the DFWR, in a news release. “Coyotes are generally less wary at night and hunting at this time can result in increased harvest success.”

Kentucky’s General Assembly enacted a night-hunting law earlier this year in response to the growing numbers of coyotes within state borders, leaving regulation specifics to the DFWR. Coyotes were rarely seen in the Bluegrass State before the 1970s, when the species moved in from the North and Southwest to replace the red wolf. Since then the population has grown large enough to become a nuisance to livestock farmers, especially in spring when depredation is at its highest. Coyotes can also be a menace to native wildlife.

“They’ve taken over, killing the small game, the rabbits, the pheasants; and they’re a major problem,” State Representative Fitz Steele (D-Hazard) told the Courier-Journal earlier this year.

While coyotes restrict themselves to chasing after mice and voles in the winter, spring means bigger game and larger meals. Newborn livestock and deer fawns are all fair game to an adult coyote.

“Coyotes are very adaptable. They are now found in all 120 Kentucky counties,” said Laura Patton, furbearer biologist for the DFWR. “I suspect there are higher concentrations in agricultural areas.”

There are no bounties or state-employed coyote trappers in Kentucky, so the DFWR depends on sportsmen to keep the population in check. The task used to be easier when coyotes were more active during the day, but living alongside humans has taught these adaptable animals to adopt a nocturnal lifestyle.

“Coyotes are probably one of the toughest critters we have in Kentucky to hunt. They’re like a turkey on steroids,” said DFWR spokesman Mark Marraccini. “They’re very spooky. […] It’s one of the ultimate quarries for our hunters.”

The DFWR hopes that night hunting will bring more successful hunts and a more noticeable impact on coyote numbers, complementing the state’s pre-existing year-round daytime hunts.

According to the department, shotguns are the only type of firearm allowed to be used for night coyote hunting, and the use of slugs is also forbidden. Using lights and night vision optics will be allowed between February 1 and May 31 but cannot be connected to or operated from a vehicle. Calls and decoys can be used year-round.

Image courtesy Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

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