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By Colin Campbell
An N.C. Senate bill filed this week to end a ban on nighttime coyote hunts in five counties will face opposition from environmental groups.
Sen. Bill Cook, a Beaufort County Republican, wants to allow coyote hunting at night in Beaufort, Dare, Hyde, Tyrrell and Washington counties in northeastern North Carolina – the only counties where that activity isn’t allowed.
“Coyotes are nonnative and invasive – they’re very destructive to the native wildlife,” Cook said in an email. “I am simply proposing for five coastal counties to be coequal with the other 95 counties in our state in regards to the rules of hunting coyotes.”
The reason for the coyote hunting ban isn’t to save the coyote population. The concern is that the endangered red wolf looks like a coyote, and hunters can easily mistake the two. Hunting coyotes during daylight hours is legal with a permit.
The five counties included in the coyote ban are part of the state’s Red Wolf Recovery Area, home to the world’s only remaining population of red wolves. The nighttime hunting ban is part of a 2014 federal court settlement in a lawsuit between the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and several environmental groups that seek to protect the red wolves.
The groups had sued the state, arguing that coyote hunting practices were harming the red wolf population in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. The settlement also required the wildlife commission to issue permits for daytime coyote hunters in the five counties.
Cook’s bill would direct the Wildlife Resources Commission to end the nighttime hunting ban. The Southern Environmental Law Center – which was involved in the 2014 settlement – said Wednesday that it is opposing the bill.
“A bill to allow nighttime hunting of coyotes using spotlights within the five-county Red Wolf Recovery Area flies in the face of a recent settlement agreement between Wildlife Resources Commission and conservation groups in federal court,” spokeswoman Kathleen Sullivan said in an email. “Clearly the bill sponsor did not consult with the state agency.”