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Penalties for Shooting a Coyote

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 20, 2016 3:57 PM

Whether you're a rancher or a suburban mom, seeing a coyote can be a bit frightening. Shepherds have always tried to keep them away from their flocks, and as neighborhoods expand, seeing a coyote lope down a street or through a city park becomes more common.

So are you free to shoot a coyote if it's near or on your property? And do you have to prove that you, or your children, or your sheep were in danger?

State Statutes and Seasons

State fish and wildlife laws generally regulate if, and when, you can shoot a coyote, and the laws can differ from state to state. For example, while Florida law allows lethal control measures against nuisance coyotes that have lost their fear of humans, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends directing such methods "at specific coyotes or toward coyotes in a specific area." Texas law prohibits "the shooting of a coyote from a helicopter pushing cattle, unless the described permits have already been acquired," but allows shooting coyotes on your own property.

Michigan, on the other hand, has a complex coyote hunting season regime:

  • July 15 - April 15: Statewide hunting season.
  • September 15 - October 14: Damage control season, legal only on private lands when doing or about to do damage.
  • October 15 - March 1: Special season for night hunting.

The state also has strict limits on who can shoot a coyote on private property (landowners and guests), what type of weapons can be used (bow and arrow, crossbow, .22 caliber or smaller rimfire rifle or handgun, or a shotgun with loads other than buckshot, slug, or cut shell), and whether artificial lights can be used (only portable lights designed to be carried in the hand or on the person).

Effective Deterrent?

Beyond the question of whether it's legal to shoot a coyote is whether it will work in keeping coyotes away. The Humane Society doesn't seem to think so, and many believe that killing coyotes, even in an urban setting, can cause more problems than it solves.

Most coyotes can be scared off or deterred with fences or dogs. So before you start shooting at coyotes, check your state laws on hunting. Or, better yet, check with a local criminal defense attorney.

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