First it was the black bears, now it’s coyotes.
Beginning next Monday, New Jersey will permit hunters to shoot the prairie wolves on the spot for a special hunting season.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife estimates more than five thousand coyotes are running wild around in the Garden State.
Biologist Andrew Burnett says they usually prey on rodents and rabbits, but can easily attack small pets, alarming many residents and pet owners.
“There have been incidences of coyotes trying to take small dogs while their owners are walking them on a leash. Cats are usually always at risk. It’s not that the coyote will actively go out and seek these animals. However, should they encounter one they wouldn’t necessarily turn it down”, warns Burnett in an interview with Newark-based radio station website, WBGO.org.
Wildlife experts say it may be difficult to hunt coyotes because they are generally wary of humans and run away quickly when spotted.
Last year, a coyote attacked and killed a small dog while it was out for an early-morning walk with his owner in a park in Sussex County.
Police reported the dog owner, a 22-year-old Sparta man, out for the walk at 8:30 a.m. when the unleashed dog ran about 100 yards ahead on a hiking trail in Sparta Glen Park.
The dog’s owner heard the sound of animals fighting and ran toward the commotion to check on his 3-year-old Miniature Pinscher, which weighed about 20 pounds.
When he arrived at the bloody scene, the man saw a large coyote standing over his dog, which suffered serious wounds to its abdomen. The dog died several minutes later, according to NJ.com.
Coyotes resemble German shepherd dogs and have various colors, including blond, red and black, according to the state Division of Fish & Game.
Eastern Coyotes, the type of coyote involved in the Sparta attack, weigh on average about 40 pounds and are found in all of the state’s 21 counties, said Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
They are larger than their Western counterparts and some have been found to weigh as much as 60 pounds.
While they generally do not attack people, one or two of the renegade coyotes tried to drag off two children in separate incidents in Monmouth County in 2007, which state wildlife officials described as the first known predatory attacks by the wild canines.
“With coyotes, you’re dealing with a perception issue. A coyote attack on people is extremely rare,” said Hajna.
Most wildlife experts agree that is better to be safe than sorry and advise pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash when outside in public places.
Burnett says, “Most of the coyotes that are taken by hunters are taken incidentally to deer hunting. I’m not sure whether it’s just that people are not used to that type of hunting because they are very intelligent and wary. It’s also during the wintertime. Maybe people don’t want to go.”
Hunters in the Garden State have been allowed to use rifles to shoot coyotes during daylight since November.
Now, the special permit will allow hunters to shoot the animals at night.
Coyote hunting season will continue until mid March.