Michigan Is Getting Sued for Shortening Its Coyote Season

After expanding Michigan’s coyote season to year-round in 2016, the Michigan Fish and Wildlife Commission has decided to return to a 9-month season to prevent take of coyotes when they have pups
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A pair of coyotes stand in brushy cover.
Two coyotes in the Midwest. Michigan has returned to its shorter season. Photo by Anna Weyers / USFWS

Tensions are rising in Michigan over new regulations shortening the coyote season from year-round to nine months long, with a three-month hiatus from mid-April to mid-July. Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the self-proclaimed largest statewide advocacy group of hunters, anglers, and trappers in the nation, filed a lawsuit on Thursday in Ingham County Circuit Court arguing that the Michigan Natural Resource Commission’s vote on March 14 to shorten the coyote season was not grounded in sound scientific research.

“The record is unambiguous: the commission has not heard or cited any scientific literature or rationale justifying the closure,” MUCC chief executive officer Amy Trotter said in a MUCC press release. “Meanwhile, there were hours of public testimony on the practical benefits of coyote hunting during the spring season, while being reinforced with cited literature.”

On Jan. 16, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources issued a memorandum to the NRC addressing a number of issues, including the coyote season length. After consultation with two large groups — one a user group consisting of members of various furbearer hunting and trapping organizations and one a group of furbearer biologists  — the DNR encouraged the NRC to adopt the season change.

The DNR’s recommendation pointed out that, even with a year-round season in place from 2016 to 2020, a significant increase in harvest did not occur with that extended season, nor did the number of of coyotes harvested per hunter. Instead, the reasoning for the three-month closure — essentially a return to the season structure in place before 2016 — was one of general public perception of open coyote hunting during pup season.

“There is concern about social perception and future loss of management tools if the open season continues to allow coyotes to be taken when there are dependent young present,” the memo reads. “The proposed change will result in not allowing coyote harvest while female coyotes have dependent young. However, the coyote hunting season will still be one of the most liberal seasons in the state, open for nine months.”

The recommendation clarified that, even with the new season closure, an open season should remain in place for nuisance coyotes on private land that are either in the act of causing damage or are an imminent threat to private property. They also declared that most members of the “Furtaker User Group” agreed with the three-month closure, a fact that member groups like the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association denounced publicly. In fact, MTPCA filed a lawsuit of their own against the NRC in Mackinac County Circuit Court in response to the 4-2 vote adopting the recommendations.

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The debate in Michigan over coyote hunting and trapping is just one debate over furbearer take that’s reaching a boiling point in many states across the nation. In Vermont, a bill to ban hunting coyotes over bait and with dogs is currently working through the state legislature. The language is attached to a larger bill to overhaul the state wildlife agency’s decision-making process, a move that is causing much alarm the conservation community. Advocates also point to similar changes to predator hunting laws in Colorado and Washington as a sign of things to come.