The last time I checked, my dictionary included two definitions of coyote – and neither is admirable.

The primary definition explains that a coyote is a "wolf-like wild dog native to North America."

An informal definition considers a coyote a person who smuggles illegal aliens across the U.S. border with Mexico, typically for a high fee at an equally high risk.

In either case, fewer coyotes in Ohio – not more – would be a good thing.

However, in their infinite wisdom while searching for additional revenue enhancement, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources now wants to charge us $15 to shoot the mostly nuisance animal.

In a proposal to the Ohio Wildlife Council, a new hunting regulation would requite a fur-taker permit while adding a coyote hunting and trapping season.

Buried in the January ODNR press release, which The Highland County Press published under the state's innocuous headline "Ohio Wildlife Council receives small game, migratory bird hunting proposals," was this paragraph:

"New proposals also include requiring a fur-taker permit for coyote hunting and trapping, and adding coyote to the furbearer trapping season. This proposal was made to better align with other furbearer hunting and trapping regulations and will ensure proper training will be completed prior to trapping coyote by requiring the fulfillment of a trapper education course. Ohio resident landowners are not required to have a hunting license or fur-taker permit when hunting or trapping on land they own."

That last sentence is worth remembering, too: "Ohio resident landowners are not required to have a hunting license or fur-taker permit when hunting or trapping on land they own."

At least, for now, that's accurate. But it's only a question of time until some ill-informed state worker from Cleveland will set a legislative trap to shoot down another right that's best left to the land owner.

In a Feb. 7 HCP online comment, Ron Dillard accurately summed up the state proposal: "Most people don't care about the fur. They want their livestock and family pets left alone and the coyotes gone. I would guess a good portion of kills happen by deer and turkey hunters who are not out there for coyotes, but seize the chance to take one. They know that coyote will kill well in excess the number of small game, deer and turkeys in a year than their bag limits they are allowed to take. By requiring the proposed changes you will lose a large portion of these management kills. In return, you will help promote a burgeoning population of coyotes that's doing very well on their own."

Dillard's comments seem to reflect the same opinion of Ohio Division of Wildlife coyote expert Susie Prange not long ago.

In a 2015 Cleveland Plain Dealer story that was updated on Jan. 12, 2019, it was reported that "Coyote attacks on small pets are becoming common, but attacks on humans are extremely rare. Ohio wildlife officials want to keep it that way, allowing hunters to shoot them on sight all year round, and unfettered by bag limits or hunting hours. The coyote is the only wild animal that can be trapped without restrictions, or without having to get an Ohio trapping permit.

"'It's good to keep pressure on coyotes and keep them afraid of people,'" Prange said. 'The annual coyote hunts help to keep the population down, and trapping will push them out of an area. You have to keep it going every year, though. You can't stop pushing the population down or it will come right back.'"

The report added that "Farmers and deer hunters despise coyotes because the cunning animals feast on deer fawns and livestock, especially lambs."

Another aspect of the ODNR news release was conveniently omitted. The release did not outline any proposed legal penalties should someone kill a coyote without a permit. I recall a prominent Highland County land owner who shot and killed a coyote on his property several years ago. As it turned out, this coyote had been released into the wild by the state. It had an electronic tracking device around its collar. Maybe it should have radioed to Columbus for backup. In any case, that private property owner was not charged.

Now, suppose one lets his neighbor hunt during deer season and that neighbor happens to come upon a pack of three or four coyotes. If the neighbor snaps a cap on the varmints, what, pray tell, will be the criminal charge? Will a dead coyote equal the same punishment as shooting a black bear (unless you're the Uniontown Police Department, in which case there were no charges filed)?

I spend a lot of time in the woods in Adams County. I enjoy the peace and tranquility of well, suburban Tranquility, where my dad was born. Most of us so inclined do not need the state of Ohio changing hunting regulations that protect varmints. Coyotes are varmints. They’ll eat just about anything, and an adult female typically has a litter a year ranging from four to 10 pups.

Giving a more protective status to a nuisance animal is most likely going to accomplish two things: A few more dollars in the ODNR coffers and a heckuva lot more of the protected nuisance animal.

This is a money grab, much like the notorious red-light cameras and speed traps at the church parking lot in Fairview. (I often wondered if the church had to consent to such use of its property.) What's next? Permits to shoot snakes?

By the way, the ODNR budget request for fiscal year 2020 was $495.9 million. That's a lot of licenses, permits and fees.

A complete list of proposed hunting season dates for 2020-21 are available at Ohioans may comment on the proposed rule changes and may do so in person or online. In-person comments may be submitted during the weeklong open house period from March 2-6 at any Division of Wildlife district office. Online submissions may be made at beginning Feb. 21. A statewide hearing on all proposed rules will be held at the Division of Wildlife’s District One office on March 25 at 9 a.m. The office is located at 1500 Dublin Road, Columbus. Call (614) 265-6304 to share your thoughts.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, Highland County's only locally owned and operated newspaper. 

Note: After hearing concerns from Ohio Farm Bureau, the ODNR Division of Wildlife will be putting its suggested rule changes regarding coyote trapping and hunting on hold for now, according to a Farm Bureau report this week. ODNR will engage with Farm Bureau and other stakeholders regarding this issue before proceeding further with their proposals impacting coyote trapping and hunting regulations.