For those that love the outdoors, here is some GOOD news, some BAD news, and a solution.
The good news: The vast majority of Americans approve of hunting. A recent study by Responsive Management, an internationally recognized survey research firm, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation revealed the following:
The current approval rating of hunting by adult Americans is the highest it’s been since Responsive Management began monitoring approval rates in 1995. During the past 25 years, overall approval of hunting has steadily grown from 73 percent to 80. During the same time frame, overall disapproval of hunting has declined even more rapidly from 22 percent to only 13.
But the bad news: Participation in hunting and recreational shooting has been generally declining since the 1980s. Hunting license sales produce valuable funding each year for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration, while hunter expenditures generate billions of dollars annually for the national economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. [Sport fishing had a similar negative trend until 2017. Now participation is increasing.]
U.S. hunters have dwindled from nearly 17 million in 1980 to just more than 11 million in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ninety percent of hunters are male and most are 45 years and older — leading to steeper losses as more participants age out.
Those that love the outdoors have an urgent calling: Become a mentor to the sport you love. The sporting industry and the sporting organizations that love the outdoors are already active in their “R3 Program”: Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation. But the program relies on individual volunteers – You.
Following are a few of the programs available to help you recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and anglers and other “outers”. There are many other mentoring opportunities out there; so get involved and enjoy yourself.
Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s (TWF) Hunting and Fishing Academy provides hands-on instruction in the outdoors to novice hunters and anglers of all ages. The Academy’s trained, lifelong hunters and anglers lead participants through courses in: Understanding species’ habits, ethical hunting practices, field safety, wildlife conservation principles, and more. Parents and family can be full participants, helping to create a new family tradition.
The TWF has several mentored deer hunts planned on Jan. 10-12. Get more information on all they do at www.tnwf.org.
“Pass It On – Outdoor Mentors” is a non-profit program that matches caring adults with a passion for the outdoors with youngsters that want to learn about it. Whether it is fishing, camping, hiking, bird watching, archery, hunting, shooting sports, sailing, or any other traditional outdoor activity, Pass It On works to provide opportunities to learn from mentors willing to share their time. Learn more at www.outdoormentors.org.
“Hunters Connect” is a new YouTube channel and social media platform sponsored by the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA-USA). It is an entertaining and informative destination for all new hunters to further their interests with an abundance of digital media and videos. Go to http://ihea-usa.org.
The “Field To Fork” hunter recruitment program of the Quality Deer Management Association has introduced “Deer Hunting 101”. This is a YouTube series of 17 videos that describes the complete hunting experience, starting with understanding deer behavior, scouting and hunting techniques, hunter ethics, marksmanship, field-dressing, and processing the harvest for food. For more information see www.qdma.com/fieldtofork.
“Let’s Go Hunting” is a hunter recruitment program of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. It uses www.LetsGoHunting.org to encourage experienced hunters and target shooters to mentor youths and adults. From small game and upland birds to big game and waterfowl, hunting offers a priceless bond with the natural world, food for the table and a welcome respite from the world’s daily grind.
“Hunting Buddy Finder” is a website that helps hunters find hunting buddies in their state and other states across the U.S. A one-year subscription is $24, allowing you to post your hunter's profile and view others. www.huntingbuddyfinder.com.
“Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician”. Jeff Cooper has been credited for many gun-related aphorisms such as this. Cooper was a U.S. Marine during World War II, gaining the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the Korean War.
Based on his personal and battlefield experiences, Cooper developed the modern techniques of combat handgun shooting. In 1976 he founded the American Pistol Institute (API) and the Gunsite Academy in 1999. He is the author of “Principles of Personal Defense”, and other classic books.
Here are Jeff Cooper’s widely revered Four Cardinal Rules of Gun Safety:
Are Oak Ridge deer radioactive? What is this stuff about “internal radiological contamination” of some deer on the Oak Ridge Reservation? How bad is it?
It is well known that after WWII some radioactive materials were improperly dumped or disposed of on the property of the three atomic plants of the ORR. Those sites have been isolated and cleanup operations have been underway for a few decades and will continue for years to come.
But in some cases wildlife are exposed to the vegetation and groundwater at these sites. Certain radioactive elements, two in particular, can accumulate in the body tissues of these animals to unhealthy levels: Strontium-90 concentrating in the bones and cesium-137 concentrating in the muscle tissue. Oak Ridge National Lab radiochemists and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency biologists test every deer taken for both of these radionuclides.
Since the deer hunts began in 1985 and including data from 2014, more than 12,200 deer have been harvested, and 205 animals have been retained due to internal contamination, a 1.68 percentage historically; in the last decade the rate is well below one percent [For 2016 the figure was .554 percent]. The critical threshold is 1.5 times the background radiation level. All but two of the deer retained were due to high levels of strontium-90.
While most deer retained were only slightly above the cutoff, 30 to 40 counts per two minutes, the highest reading so far was an 86-pound doe, five-and-a-half years old, taken in 1999 near the old Tower Shielding reactor site. Her bone chip measured for strontium-90 at 853 cpm.
The quota deer hunts on the ORR are some of the most popular in the state, and the deer are typical specimens of the Tennessee herd. In 2009 a pair of bucks was taken with fatally locked antlers, unusual but not unheard of in nature.
The Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area had its third and final deer hunt of 2019 on Dec. 7-8. A total of 53 deer was taken, 24 bucks and 29 does. The largest buck field-dressed at 144 pounds; the biggest rack was an impressive 15 points; the largest doe weighed 112 pounds. None of the 53 deer was retained due to internal radiological contamination. There was no turkey harvested in this hunt.
Superlatives for the three ORWMA hunts of 2019: Total harvest was 221 deer, 125 bucks and 96 does; largest buck was 181 lbs. (1st hunt); biggest rack was 15 points (3rd hunt); largest doe was 112 lbs. (3rd hunt). None of the deer this year was retained. One turkey was taken in 2019, weighing 17.0 pounds and having a 9.0 inch beard and 1.0 inch spurs. It was not retained.
In recent years the annual deer harvests for the ORWMA have been dismal, but slowly improving: 2017 was 137; 2018 was 194 and this year 221. None was retained in those years. The 2016 take was a more typical 361, but two deer and two turkeys were retained.
The 2019 winter – or December – solstice occurs on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 11:19 p.m. EST and winter begins (universal time Dec. 22 at 4:19 a.m. UTC). It is the shortest day – or more correctly, shortest daylight – of the year. At our latitude the Sun rises (7:43 a.m.) in the southeast and sets (5:26 p.m.) in the southwest (Knoxville times).
The Sun “stands still” (solstice) in its apparent movement south, reversing direction. Historically this date was called midwinter; and our beginning of summer, June 21 or so, was called midsummer (as in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”).
Interestingly, the first day of winter is not the date of earliest sunset or latest sunrise. Those dates are approximately Dec. 6 (5:21 p.m.) and Jan. 7 (7:47 a.m.) respectively. That phenomenon is caused by progression, according to astronomers (look it up).
Benefitting farmers, ranchers, landowners, and natural resources throughout the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency has announced a general signup for the longstanding Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from Dec. 9 – Feb. 28. This will be the first general enrollment since 2016 and will represent one of the largest program acreages ever offered to landowners in the United States. Landowners should visit their nearest USDA Service Center to learn more about general CRP eligibility at this site.
Wildlife populations and rural communities have been supported by the CRP since the mid-1980’s when President Ronald Reagan signed it into law on December 23, 1985. With the CRP cap raised to 27 million acres in the 2018 Farm Bill and millions of acres set to expire, there is a significant opportunity for enrollment of over 8 million acres over the next year. Landowners are encouraged to contact their nearest USDA Service Center, map available here.
Caution: Gift-giving to hunters and anglers is not easy. They tend to have specific preferences for equipment, and they tend to already have all of their basic equipment. It is best to forgo the surprise gift and get a detailed shopping list from either the recipient or a close fishing/hunting buddy.
Practical gifts for hunters and anglers are available from the TWRA. Starting small, there’s a subscription to the TWRA magazine “Tennessee Wildlife” for just $10 per year ($17/two years and $25/three years). Next, there’s a specialty license plate for $35 above the price of state registration; choose from the bluebird, black bear, wild turkey, and smallmouth bass.
Finally, a gift to be cherished for a lifetime: a Resident Lifetime Hunting/Fishing License. These are real bargains. The prices per age group: Under age 3 is $200; ages 3-6 is $659; ages 7-12 is $988; ages 13-50 is $1,976; ages 51-64 is $1,153; ages 65 – over is $329.
All of these items can be purchased at www.tnwildlife.org or at the mobile app gotwra.org. By phone the contact number is 888-814-8972. A card to acknowledge the gift is available.
Here is an interesting look at firearms ownership and production in the United States. The 2017 Firearms Production Report was recently published by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association. The report compiles the most up-to-date information based on data sourced from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Reports (AFMER). Key findings for public release showed:
• The estimated total number of firearms in civilian possession from 1986-2018 is 422.9 million.
• 17,740,000 Modern Sporting Rifles are in private ownership today.
• More than half (54 percent) of all rifles produced in 2017 were modern sporting rifles.
• In 2017 there were 7,901,218 total firearms produced and imported. Of those, 4,411,923 were pistols and revolvers, 2,821,945 were rifles and 667,350 were shotguns.
• An interim 2018 estimate showed a total 7,660,772 total firearms were produced and imported. Of those 4,277,971 were pistols and revolvers, 2,846,757 were rifles and 535,994 were shotguns. Those are interim reports and will be updated as complete information becomes available.
• Firearms ammunition manufacturing accounted for nearly 12,000 employees producing over $4.1 billion in goods shipped in 2017. An estimated 8.1 billion rounds, of all calibers and gauges, were produced in 2018 for the U.S. market.
“These figures show the industry that America has a strong desire to continue to purchase firearms for lawful purposes,” said Joe Bartozzi, President of the NSSF. “The Modern Sporting Rifle continues to be the most popular centerfire rifle sold in America today and is clearly a commonly-owned firearm with more than 17 million in legal private ownership today. The continued popularity of handguns demonstrates a strong interest by Americans to protect themselves and their homes, and to participate in the recreational shooting sports.”
The report also shows that as lawful firearms ownership in America continues to grow, criminal and unintentional misuse of firearms is falling. During the 25-year period covered in this report (1993–2017) the violent crime rate has decreased by 48.6 percent and unintentional firearm-related fatalities have declined by 68 percent.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.
Three Billion Birds Gone. According to the American Bird Conservatory, “ In less than a single human lifetime, 2.9 billion breeding adult birds have been lost from the United States and Canada, across every ecosystem and including many familiar birds.”
The Dark-eyed Junco has lost an incredible 175 million individuals from its population. The White-throated Sparrow has lost 93 million. Of the nearly 3 billion birds lost, 90% came from just 12 bird families, including sparrows, warblers, finches, and swallows. The article describes it as a “biodiversity crisis”.
These findings were reported in the world's leading scientific journal, Science, by researchers at seven institutions. Read the full story at https://abcbirds.org/3-billion-birds/.
Although the study did not investigate causes, scientists have identified habitat loss as the biggest overall driver of bird declines. Habitat loss occurs when land is converted for agriculture, development, resource extraction, and other uses. Habitat degradation was a second cause of losses. In this case, habitat doesn't disappear outright but becomes less able to support birds. The principle causes appear to be farming and development, pesticides and climate change.
Become a citizen scientist and be part of the solution to the bird crisis. Join a local Christmas Bird Count (CBC), organized by the National Audubon Society for the past 120 years. Between December 14 and January 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers will participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere. The twelve decades’ worth of data collected by participants continue to contribute to one of only two large existing pools of information notifying ornithologists and conservation biologists about what conservation action is required to protect birds and the places they need.
Audubon’s CBC is the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world. Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations directly to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day—not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.
Tennessee will have more than 30 circle counts statewide this year. For more information and to find a count near you, visit www.christmasbirdcount.org.
Now is the time for high school sophomores and juniors to prepare for this exciting – and free – trip to Washington, D.C. The National Youth Education Summit (Y.E.S.) is an opportunity for leadership training and a share of $55,000 in college scholarships, sponsored and paid for by the National Rifle Association. The 2020 Y.E.S. session will be July 13-19 in our Nation’s Capital.
Y.E.S. encourages young adults to become engaged and knowledgeable U.S. citizens by learning about American government, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the importance of being active in civic affairs. Participants will enhance such academic skills as leadership, public speaking and debating. Tours of Arlington National Cemetery and other national monuments are included.
Up to 50 outstanding students will be chosen to attend. Applicants must include a high school transcript, an essay on the Second Amendment, one-page personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Applications are being accepted now and the filing deadline is Jan. 24, 2020. To apply or for additional information on the 2020 Y.E.S. go to www.friendsofnra.org/yes, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 800-672-3888, ext.1351.
Changing names again? Smith & Wesson handgun fans were startled a couple of years ago when the iconic brand was absorbed into American Outdoor Brands Corp. (AOBC). Of course S&W kept its identity as a leading American firearms manufacturer. Well, the AOBC deck is being shuffled again.
American Outdoor Brands Corp. (NASDAQ Global Select: AOBC) includes firearms and many products for the shooting, hunting, and outdoor enthusiast. In 2020 the company has decided to split into two independent factions. Smith & Wesson Brands, Inc. will represent the firearms business (S&W and Thompson/Center Arms) and will remain in S&W’s longtime Springfield, Massachusetts headquarters.
American Outdoor Brands, Inc. will represent the outdoors accessories products, including: Caldwell, Crimson Trace, Wheeler, Tipton, Frankford Arsenal, BOG, Hooyman, Smith & Wesson Accessories, Thompson/Center Arms Accessories, Schrade, Old Timer, Uncle Henry, Imperial, and LaserLyte.
“Woodsman, spare that snag.” A standing dead tree is called a snag. Many landowners make plans to drop a snag promptly post mortem. Wildlife biologist Joel D. Glover suggests, “Have you ever considered the benefits of a dead tree?”
Dropping a dead tree is logical if it is positioned to threaten people or property. However, a snag is a natural and necessary part of the woods. In forested habitats cavity-nesting birds may account for 30-45 percent of the total bird population. Snags are essential for nesting, roosting, and foraging; snags are a rich source of food.
Woodpeckers are the primary excavators of the snag real estate, and the cavities they create can have a long life span with a variety of tenants. Bird species include: Chickadees, bluebirds, wood ducks, titmice, great crested flycatchers, nuthatches, barred owls, screech owls, and kestrels. Other critters include: Bats, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, flying squirrels, raccoons, frogs, snakes, honeybees, wasps and spiders.
Manage your woodlot for a variety of habitats. An absence of suitable snags can be a limiting factor on the balance of nature. If you decide to make your own, snags should be large and well distributed using both hard and soft woods.
The State-Fish Art Contest is entering its 22nd year, bringing children, art and aquatic conservation together. The contest is for all grades from K-12. The young artists in four age categories will create an original illustration of any official state-fish and one page of writing (a personal one-page written essay, story or poem) detailing its behavior, habitat, and efforts to conserve it. Winners receive prizes and national recognition. Wildlife Forever created this award-winning program, and Bass Pro Shops again is this year’s sponsor.
New for the 2020 contest is the Fish Migration Award, created in partnership between Wildlife Forever and the World Fish Migration Foundation. Contestants may choose to apply in either the State-Fish Art Contest, the Fish Migration Award or both. Art for this award will be judged in two age categories, 5-11 years old and 12-18 years old.
Educators, homeschoolers and parents nationwide can utilize a lesson plan for the contest called “Fish On!”, which is available for free on CD and for download. Entries are due by March 31, 2020. Judging will be held in April and winners announced early in May. For more details and to view the 2019 winning art and writings visit www.StateFishArt.org. Tennessee has two official state fish, the largemouth bass and the channel catfish.
For delicious venison, many hunters like to hang the meat for aging and tenderizing, but that process can be risky if you don't have a temperature-controlled environment between 35 and 50 degrees. Consider getting the meat cut, packaged and into the freezer quickly. Wild game can be aged and tenderized later using this alternative process.
Remove a package of meat from the freezer and allow it to partially thaw in the refrigerator. When the package is beginning to soften and is covered with slushy ice crystals, put a tally mark on the package and refreeze. Then repeat. When a package has three tally marks, it is aged and ready for cooking.
There is good information on butchering your own deer at the website of Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, including photos, charts and breakdowns of cuts. Go to www.rmef.org/hunting and click on "Carnivore's Kitchen."
Bizarre. A deer was killed by a vehicle in Powell, Tenn. after crashing through a hospital window. On Monday morning, Nov. 11, a six-point buck crashed through the window of the outpatient imaging center at Tennova North hospital. After thrashing around inside, it ran back out through a different window and left the area with injuries. Moments later it was struck and killed by a vehicle on Emory Rd.
TWRA Wildlife Officer Roy Smith investigated the incident, and, by coincidence, his brother Michael Smith was the driver that hit the deer. Michael stated that he saw the deer just before he hit it and it had injuries to its face. The deer was given to a third party.
This is breeding season for white-tailed deer, called the rut. During this time, both male and female deer become very active causing them to cross into urban areas and sometimes ending up in unusual places. When rutting bucks see their reflection in glass or mirrors, they will often ram what they perceive as a potential competitor.
Nature prepares furbearing animals for winter with thick, prime pelts. For Tennessee pelts are prime from mid-November through February. Tennessee’s trapping season corresponds to that time and is Nov. 22 – Feb. 29.
Eligible furbearers are: Bobcat, fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, river otter, raccoon, skunks (striped and spotted), and weasel. There are no daily or annual limits. Beaver, coyote and groundhog can be trapped year round since they are such costly pests to farmers, stockmen and landowners.
Modern trapping is highly regulated by state wildlife agencies and it is similar to hunting as an effective tool for controlling populations of target species. Such regulations include the style and size of traps, identification tags on all traps, and frequent inspection of trap sites. See pages 15-16 (Manner and Means section) and page 19 (Trapping Seasons) of the 2019-20 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide for more details; also at www.tnwildlife.org.
When will the 2019 fall duck migration begin? The Ducks Unlimited Mobile App can tell you when and where. The app is a big help for hunters and it is free for your smart phone. You can track the fall migration of waterfowl so you know ahead of time where to go and when to go. There is a useful waterfowl identification gallery, plus breaking news, hunting reports, season and bag limit details, special DU events, videos, and hunting tips. Of course the website www.ducks.org has all that and more. Consider joining this fine waterfowl conservation organization.
Bad news? There is a full moon on Nov. 12; this will flood with moonlight the opening week nights of muzzleload deer season (opening Nov. 9). Everybody knows that the deer will feed all night and hole up all day, frustrating hunters. Everybody knows this. Except that it is not true.
A recent study by Penn State University monitored movement of female adult whitetails fitted with GPS tracking collars during the month of October for several years. These were wild, free-range deer on public forests. During full moon nights they moved less than on nights when the moon was dark (a new moon). Again, under the full moon deer moved less, not more. But the difference in movement amounted to an average of just six meters per hour.
More significant was when deer moved. They averaged about 60 meters of movement per hour until about 6 a.m., when movement spiked quickly to peak at about 125 meters per hour at roughly 7 a.m. It then declined to 45 meters per hour at 10 a.m. Evening activity showed a similar spike starting at about 3 p.m., peaking at about 6:30 p.m. and dropping sharply toward minimal movement at about 8 p.m. New moon, partial moon, full moon. It didn’t matter.
This makes perfect sense when you think about whitetail physiology. Deer are ruminants; they have more than one stomach. It takes them from one to four hours to fill up the first stomach, depending on forage abundance. Their maximum movement will be while transitioning from bedding cover to feeding grounds and back again.
After filling their rumens (first stomach) they bed and ruminate, i.e. regurgitate and re-chew what they took in. This process takes about four to six hours with, perhaps, some stretching and nibbling every few hours. Soon after, feeling hungry again, the deer travel back to a major feeding site. Like clockwork this cycle moves through the days, months, and years.
Deer movement is largely determined by their digestive systems coupled with their preferred initial foraging times, dusk and dawn. Moonlight or no moonlight, deer movement is slave to deer digestion; there is no way they can “feed all night”. So, continue to expect dusk and dawn deer activity. [Thanks to Ron Spomer, www.ronspomeroutdoors.com, of Sporting Classics for this revelation.]
At the October meeting of the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission, updates were presented on chronic wasting disease (CWD) and an ongoing turkey research project. Crockett and Gibson counties are now being classified as CWD high-risk counties. As a result, wildlife feeding and carcass expiration restrictions now apply there. However, the counties will remain in Unit L, not Unit CWD. Additional CWD public meetings are planned for Crockett and Gibson counties on Nov. 7 and 14, respectively.
During the 2019-20 deer season thus far, 17 CWD-positive deer have been detected in West Tennessee; the combined total, including those from the 2018-19, is 203. In a related issue, privately-owned landfills operators in southwest Tennessee have decided that no deer will be accepted at these facilities. Although TWRA does not have authority or legal responsibility for waste disposal, the agency will work with other state agencies to honor this decision.
A five-year study on turkey declines in southern Middle Tennessee has reached the half-way point. The preliminary report to the TFWC indicates turkey populations in the area are declining because of poor productivity. Experimental habitat management is being implemented to address limitations in nest success and brood survival. Hunters are very concerned about the status of turkey hunting and are willing to consider regulatory changes, according to surveys. Turkeys are being exposed to a variety of diseases but there is little evidence that these diseases are limiting populations. [Coyote predation?]
The next TFWC meeting will be Dec. 12-13 in Gatlinburg.
It looks like another good season is in the offing for waterfowl and duck hunters. The 2019 Waterfowl Population Status Report, conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service since 1955, puts the breeding duck population at 38.90 million, a 6 percent decrease from last year’s population of 41.19 million, but still 10 percent above the long-term average (LTA). The 2019 survey marks the first time since 2008 that the estimated breeding duck population has fallen below 40 million.
Even though breeding duck numbers are down overall, the lower numbers are a reflection of last year’s dry conditions for nesting ducks. The U.S. prairies were incredibly wet from south to north, which will lead to strong duck production. Conditions remained wet and actually improved during the breeding season, with temporary and seasonal wetlands retaining water into July and August. This should also increase the number of more easily decoyed juveniles in the fall flight, compared to the savvy, adult birds. For detailed information on the various species of ducks, see this blogs full story on 8-28-19; for more general information on the seasons go to www.deltawaterfowl.org.
For those concerned citizens who would like to beautify their communities, here is some state money to help. The TWRA has grant dollars available to assist community organizations, civic groups, watershed organizations, and conservation groups with riparian tree planting projects. The best tree planting season in Tennessee is December through March. The TWRA will accept proposals through Dec. 1, 2019.
Five grants of $500 each are available for each of TWRA’s four regional Aquatic Habitat Protection projects, a total of $2,500 per region. The grants require the group to have a nonprofit tax number. The projects are to be completed, the money spent, and a report submitted by June 30, 2020.
Applicants should have complete contact information in their request, including the leader’s tax number. The proposal should also include the name of the stream, county or counties involved, and the project area and description. For more information contact Della Sawyers at 615-781-6577 or by e-mail at Della.Sawyers@tn.gov.
Have you been seeing or hearing more coyotes lately? This report from the biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission explains why. October and November are the months when young coyotes — those born in early spring — are leaving their parents’ territory to find a mate and establish their own territory. Young coyotes often travel with their siblings during this time and can travel long distances — upward of 300 miles before settling down into their own territories.
During these wanderings, their characteristic yipping, howling and barking often can be heard as they keep track of each other, as well as other coyotes whose territories they are passing through. Because of the hollow tone of the howl, two coyotes often sound like a huge group and may seem closer than they actually are.
Contrary to popular belief, a coyote howling does not mean it has just taken down prey, although some people do find their howls unnerving. Fortunately, hearing or seeing a coyote, even during the day, is usually no cause for alarm.
“Coyotes rarely attack humans,” said Falyn Owens, the agency’s extension biologist. “Coyotes are curious, but wary whenever they are near humans; however, they can become bold and habituated to humans if people feed them, either purposely or unintentionally.”
For this reason, Owens recommends that people follow several tips to keep coyotes, and other wildlife such as raccoons, from being attracted to their homes:
• Secure garbage in containers with tight-fitting lids; take trash out the morning of pickup.
• Keep bird seed off the ground and bird feeding areas clean.
• Remove fallen fruit from trees.
• Feed pets indoors or remove food when a pet is finished eating outside.
Because coyotes view outdoor cats and small, unleashed dogs as a potential food source, people should keep their pets inside, leashed or inside a dog-proof fence at all times.
By having no unnatural food attractants available, coyotes are more likely to stay wary of people and avoid them and their homes.
Additional tactics can help them actively avoid certain areas. “Hazing, or standing your ground and scaring the animal off can be a good way to ensure these wild animals develop or maintain a healthy fear of humans,” Owens said. “You can effectively intimidate a coyote by throwing small objects toward it, making loud noises, or spraying it with a water hose. Keep it up until the coyote leaves.”
Hunters, watch out for the color purple in the field. Just as a flash of hunter orange means “do not shoot”, a splash of purple on a tree or fence means “no hunting or trespassing”. In 2017 Tennessee joined a growing number of states with a new law that simplifies a landowner’s task of posting his property.
Once a traditional “No Trespassing” sign has been posted in a prominent place, the law authorizes property owners to provide notice that trespassing is prohibited on their property by marking trees and posts with purple paint as an alternative to posting signs. The purple mark can be an “X” or a vertical stripe at least one inch wide and eight inches long placed in the baseball strike zone (three feet to five feet high) for easy viewing. Trespassing in Tennessee is a Class C misdemeanor which can result in a $50 fine or up to 30 days in jail.
SaveOurMonarchs Foundation has a good idea for the upcoming holidays. For a donation of $35 they will send you 100 milkweed seed packets holiday-themed for Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas. The packets make nice handouts for trick-or-treaters – but not in lieu of candy, of course – or simple gifts for holiday gatherings.
The various milkweed plants are perennial wildflowers that can grow anywhere in the U.S. and they are essential to the survival of all monarch caterpillars. Besides that, milkweed adds a lot to a wildflower garden and it requires no maintenance. Autumn is a good time to plant wildflowers, or you can wait for the spring.
Check out SaveOurMonarchs Foundation, a 501c3 charity; they offer free milkweed seeds to anyone requesting them, and larger quantities for a small donation. For seeds and more information go to www.SaveOurMonarchs.org; or contact Ward Johnson at 952-829-0600.