Furbearer season starts Saturday in Iowa. Hunters and trappers will likely see greater numbers of raccoons and coyotes from previous years, but fewer red foxes.
Vince Evelsizer, a furbearer and wetland biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says Iowa’s raccoon population has rebounded from canine distemper.
The respiratory virus, which is sometimes mistaken for rabies, took out a large number of the state’s raccoon population in 2011 and 2012.
“It seems like they rebounded this year by having pretty big litters, and quite a few litters,” says Evelsizer. “So coon numbers appear to be up in most places in Iowa this year.”
Evelsizer says coyotes are taking over red fox habitat, meaning hunters and trappers are likely to see more coyotes but fewer foxes. Additionally, while the fox population has suffered from mange, coyotes continue to be very adaptable.
“I think it’s good to have some harvest pressure in the form of coyote hunting and coyote trapping to just help to keep their numbers in check,” says Evelsizer. “And to keep them from being so bold and common...in urban areas, and the outskirts of town, and people’s backyard.”
Despite the numbers dropping across the upper Midwest for the past 20 to 30 years, Iowans can also harvest muskrats this season. Evelsizer says these mammals are prolific breeders.
“There’s enough muskrats that they can withstand some harvest,” says Evelsizer. “(They're) pretty much like rabbits…they have a lot of babies, multiple litters a year.”
The reason for the drop in the muskrat population is unknown. Muskrats play an important role in marsh ecosystems. By using plant material to build their houses, they combat vegetation encroachment.
Furbearer seasons runs through January. Evelsizer recommends that pet owners be mindful of traps.