The sight of a mounted fox hunter in traditional attire—including red blazers and navy coats—is rare these days, and it seems that their quarry is rarer still. The coyote population on the East Coast is growing and in some areas pushing into fox territory. For the fox hunters in these regions, fewer foxes means that more and more clubs are finding coyotes a challenging, if unusual, substitute.
“What the coyote has done is made [hunting] more difficult because the fox didn’t run into other areas.” Dennis Foster, executive director of the Virginia-based Masters of Foxhounds Association, told WTNH.
Traditional fox hunting in America is descended from the 16th century form of the sport that originated in England. The hunt is usually carried out by mounted hunters, their hounds, and occasionally hawks. Also called fox chasing, many hunting clubs prohibit the killing of foxes and end the hunt once the animal has “gone to ground,” or reached the safety of a hole. Clubs also go to great effort to protect the habitat of red foxes, which is dwindling in the East. When it comes to the hunt itself, the sport is notorious for its rigid adherence to ritual and rules. So when debating whether or not to change their main quarry, it comes as little surprise that many hunters prefer foxes instead.
“When you do find one, the chase is so fast you’ve really got to hang on,” Mary Huribal, a hunter from New York, told the Associated Press.
Hunters find coyotes frustrating for the same attributes that gave the species an edge over foxes. Coyotes are stronger, larger, and have wider ranges. Coyotes are also better equipped to handle rough terrain and are oftentimes even faster than foxes. Coyotes’ adaptability is what sets them apart from many other predators of comparable sizes. Unlike larger predators such as wolves and mountain lions, coyotes have adjusted to life in urban areas. No longer just a pest to ranchers and rural communities, coyotes are fast becoming a nuisance in more populated areas as well.
Coyotes are generally loathed by many communities that co-exist with them. Coyotes will also prey on domestic dogs and cats. Hunters and trappers routinely cull coyotes from areas where they are overpopulated.