Mostly Trapping

Landowners must reduce predators
Aug 1, 2019 08:10 ET

(Reprinted from above link)

On July 24, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission approved new regulations for hunting furbearer species.

Coyote, raccoon, opossum and striped skunk may now be hunted year-round on private land in Arkansas. There are no daily or possession limits for any of these species on private land, and wanton waste regulations will no longer apply to these four species.

A new free predator control permit also will be available in August to private landowners. This will enable permit holders to shoot or trap a bobcat, coyote, gray fox, red fox, opossum, raccoon and striped skunk day or night.

Commission Chairman Ken Reeves of Harrison said the regulations are a common sense solution to reduce overpopulations of predators on private property.

"I think everyone knows that the reason we're doing this is we simply don't have people trapping and hunting raccoons and opossums like we did many years ago because the pelts aren't worth much," Reeves said. "We're trying to fill that gap by letting private landowners reduce these predators on their property to try to boost their quail and turkey numbers."

For years, turkey hunters especially have clamored greater latitude in reducing the number of furbearer predators that they believe eat turkey poults, eggs and even adult turkeys. Raccoons, skunks and other furbearers also prey on quail nests.

Wildlife biologists have long argued universally that predators have a negligible effect on turkeys and quail, and that lack of quality habitat limits quail and turkey productivity.

Waterfowl conservationists have had the same argument for decades. Ducks Unlimited emphasizes acquiring and enhancing habitat, but Delta Waterfowl has demonstrated that reducing predators improves reproductive success for waterfowl in test areas.

It shouldn't be a conflict because the philosophies are complementary. There is no substitute for large amounts of quality habitat, but in Arkansas, wildlife habitat is diminishing from residential and commercial development and from converting habitat from greater to lesser productivity.

Less habitat concentrates predators and prey. Reducing the density of nest-raiding predators is simply another tool for landowners and lessees to reduce contact between predators and prey.

The question is whether the liberalized regulations will achieve reduce predator numbers.

The effect will be neutral. Hunters that belong to clubs on leased land generally do not visit their leases except during deer season and during spring turkey season. Lessees, therefore, will only see raccoons occasionally around deer feeders. They are unlikely to risk spoiling a deer hunt by shooting a raccoon. On the other hand, many hunters will compromise a deer hunt to shoot a coyote.

As much as I hunt, I've only seen one coyote while hunting, and it was crossing a road. I see tons of armadillos, but I don't recall ever seeing an opossum in the deer and turkey woods. I've seen foxes in daytime, but I think foxes are super cool. I like having them around, even if they do occasionally cadge my chickens.

I killed the only skunk I remember seeing in daylight. That happened during a spring turkey hunt in Oklahoma. As it ambled past, the skunk noticed me and became alarmed. From a distance of a few feet, it spun its rear toward me and threw up its tail. I shot it in self defense. It stunk up the area so badly that I had to abandon it.

Except for rare situations like that, hunters seldom shoot animals that they don't intend to eat or to harvest their fur. For that reason, the Game and Fish Commission is examining the possibility of connecting predator control permit holders with registered fur harvesters. When somebody kills a raccoon, fox or coyote, he can transfer the animal to the fur harvester who can then harvest the fur for market.

AGFC ready to liberalize furbearer hunting rules
Some landowners will intensively hunt predators, and they will see results. However, their efforts must be ongoing because if prey is abundant, predators will move in from neighboring areas to replace those that were removed.

On properties where hunters kill a predator opportunistically, it won't make a difference at all. The overall reduction of predators will be very small.

Still, more opportunity is better than less.

Sports on 08/01/2019

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