A reader of a popular New York outdoor magazine recently blamed coyotes for the drop in hunting license sales in an editorial. He said that no one buys hunting licenses because the hunting is so poor in New York, and the cause of that is eastern coyotes. The writer said that he was an avid hunter since 1945, and in 1945 there was plenty of open land and lots of small game, but now in 2008 the coyotes have eaten all of the small and much of the large game. A lot has changed since 1945, and in 63 years a lot of the open land that small game once flourished in is gone. Asian Ring Necked Pheasants, which are an introduced species, were doomed long before coyotes entered the scene. Pheasants and other small game species need vast tracts of open and undisturbed land to successfully propagate. There are not enough large tracts of land any more that are undisturbed. Most large fields are cut up to three times a year for hay and those cuttings destroy the nests and young. Most other open land is farmed, and fertilizer and pesticides are no friend to ground nesting animals . Houses, developments, businesses, big box stores and roads now cut through areas where species such as pheasants and varying hare once flourished.
Thanks to logging and a high browse line, the deer have traveled into the suburbs where food and cover are plentiful. Studies have shown time and time again that coyotes have little overall effect on deer populations, and while they may take some fawns, there are many other mortality factors for fawns such as bear predation, disease, cars and domestic dogs.
A lot has changed since 1945 and habitat loss, not coyotes is to blame for many things, including the loss of game species. One can also explore human lifestyle changes since 1945 to answer some questions regarding hunting license sales, but that is another blog.