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Michigan shortens coyote hunting season, irking some hunters

State regulators have shortened Michigan’s coyote hunting season from year-round to nine months, hoping to avoid killing parents while their pups are in the den. (Shutterstock)
  • Michigan regulators have shortened coyote hunting season from year-round to nine months
  • The change is meant to avoid orphaning newborn pups in the spring
  • The issue has divided the hunting community, with some advocating for the change while others say it’s not justified

State wildlife regulators have shortened Michigan’s public coyote hunting season by three months, a move designed to prevent hunters from orphaning pups that depend upon their parents for survival.

Starting this year, hunters are not allowed to target the animals between mid-April and mid-July.


As the state Natural Resources Commission voted 4-2 on Thursday to make the change, Chair Tom Baird said creating a “quiet period” during pup season aligns Michigan’s regulations with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which prioritizes the code of fair chase.


That ethical code warns against killing animals when hunters have an unfair advantage.

“I would say that shooting pregnant coyotes or taking pups out of their den is not fair chase,” Baird said.

The change is expected to have little impact on the number of coyotes Michigan hunters are able to kill each year. 

But it has irked some hunting advocates, including the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, whose leaders argue the state hasn’t scientifically justified the decision to scale back hunting opportunities.

“The commission has a responsibility and a legal charge to use the best available science,” said Justin Tomei, policy and government affairs manager for the conservation clubs. 

The new policy shortens Michigan’s coyote hunting season from year-round to nine months, closing off April 15 to July 15. 

The change was recommended by most members of a state advisory group made up of hunting and trapping interests. The rationale: Allowing hunting while pups are in the den could turn the public against hunters, leading to anti-hunting policies in the future.

During public testimony before Thursday’s vote, commissioners heard lengthy testimony from supporters and opponents of the policy. Ultimately, they voted 4-2 to return Michigan to a 9-month season that was in place before 2016, when Michigan switched to year-round coyote hunting. 


The 2016 change was made amid concerns that coyotes were a growing nuisance that needed to be controlled. But DNR officials say the longer season has not tamped down on coyote populations, prompting questions about whether year-round hunting is justified.

Jill Fritz, senior director of wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, argued a return to a 9-month season would “demonstrate respect for public values and the science.”

In 2020, the most recent year for which records are available, about 7,000 Michigan hunters killed 13,000 coyotes. 

Hunters are still able to kill nuisance coyotes year-round on private land, without a permit. And DNR surveys show that 65 percent of coyote hunters hunt only on private land.

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