Local hunter works to keep coyote population in check

Shawn Allen: 'You try to do it as humanely as possible'

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — The sound of distant howls carrying across a night breeze, a lack of pheasants and other birds, and dead livestock and pets are familiar sights and sounds for Michiganders who have dealt with the effects of a growing coyote population up close and personally.

One of those people is Shawn Allen, a predator hunter who lives along the Mecosta/Osceola county line and has made it his mission to hunt coyotes — frequently at the request of people who have lost pets or livestock — all across Michigan.

"A lot of times they get a hold of me because the coyotes attack either service animals or farm animals," Allen said.

Allen said that within the last 15-20 years, the population of coyotes in the area has skyrocketed.

"You could drive down any back road, and you would see pheasants off in a ditch, Now, you're lucky to see one a year," Allen said,

The huge rise in coyotes was noticed by Allen, who has been hunting for 26 years, but it has also been noticed by animal owners of all kinds in the area. 

Allen described coyotes as intelligent, cautious and opportunistic. He said he thinks they are beautiful creatures, but if they are left unchecked, other small game like birds, rabbits, and cats, have no defense, since few animals prey on coyotes in the area, like wolves, cougars, and bears.

Despite respecting and appreciating coyotes for the beautiful animals they are, Allen knows the pain and loss they can cause other animal owners in the area, especially those with service animals.

One individual, who is blind, had their seeing-eye dog killed by a coyote, so they employed Allen's services to get some retributive justice, and to stop the same fate from falling upon their next service dog.

Allen also helped a cattle farmer who lost three calves due to coyotes.

"You know that affected him. He fed the mama cow for nine months. He ain't got nothing to show for it," Allen said.

Out of respect, he tries his best to use every part of the animals he hunts, including pelts, which he sells during the winter, skulls, claws, teeth, jaws, and tails. 

"You can only do so much. So you try to do it as humanely as possible and responsibly enough. That way, if people don't like the idea of it, they see that we're utilizing the animal, not just massacring them and throwing them in the ditch," Allen said.

Allen knows it's the circle of life when people's animals are killed by coyotes, and that is something that people must simply accept. He is also aware of the high population of coyotes in the area and said he won't be making a "dent" in the overall population, despite doing this all across Michigan.

"People don't like them around because they kill. They're doing what they do. You can't hate them for it. But they take their toll," Allen said.

"It's the lesser evil," Allen said about hunting coyotes. He said every coyote killed saves nine fawns.

Allen noted that despite having modern technology like thermal scanners and scopes, coyotes have "made a fool of him" many times, "busting" him from dozens of yards away and giving away his position to the rest of the pack.

"They have over 70 vocalizations," Allen said. "You can almost hear a conversation with them," he said.

Allen said there are thousands of people who hunt coyotes statewide but locally he is one of few. He also runs a sponsor hunting team called Frostbite which partakes in nationwide hunting tournaments.