[Talk about backsliding…]
By Brad Pedersen
Published: Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, 1:01 a.m.
Pending legislation could make controlling the coyote population lucrative for hunters across Pennsylvania.
The State House approved a bill on Wednesday in a 111-78 vote, which would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to place a $25 bounty on coyotes. The bill proposes to use $700,000 for coyote control, meaning the state could pay bounties for up to 28,000 coyotes per year.
The bill needs to be approved by the State Senate before it becomes a law. The senate reconvenes on Jan. 7.
If it gets approval from the Senate, the Pennsylvania Game Commission plans to conduct a study on the state’s coyote population and complaints, to determine if a bounty is necessary, according to game commission press secretary Travis Lau.
“Right now, the Game Commission’s stance is we need to wait and see what happens in the Senate,” Lau said.
The game commission does not keep estimates on the coyote population in Pennsylvania, but loosely bases the number of animals on game surveys and harvest reports, Lau said.
According to a report from the Game Commission, the number of coyotes harvested across Pennsylvania quadrupled from 10,160 in 2000 to 40,109 in 2012.
Cliff Chestnut, a local hunter and hunter safety course instructor from North Buffalo, said although coyotes have taken residence in Armstrong County, the region is not overrun with them.
Although he has never gone hunting for coyotes specifically, Chestnut said he has encountered the animals in the wild.
“Most hunters, especially archers, see them out around October,” Chestnut said. “In certain areas, there are a lot of coyotes, but I don’t think Armstrong County has a problem with them.
“Even with a bounty, I don’t think you’ll ever eradicate the coyotes here. They have a foothold.”
The Game Commission’s last bounty program was in the 1950s, in an attempt to control the state’s red fox population, Lau said.
“Historically, bounties were used in Pennsylvania for wolves, cougars, the red fox and predators,” Lau said. “The bounties are meant to thin the population of predators, hunters blamed for killing too many game animals or that generated a safety concern or general fear for the public.”
Hunters can harvest coyotes all year, as long as they have a general hunting license, Lau said.
The Game Commission limits coyote hunting during the rifle deer hunting season, Lau said. Although it permits hunters to hunt coyote, they must also have a deer-hunting license, he said.
“We do it as a way to keep people from deer hunting without a license,” Lau said.
Today (Saturday) marks the final day of rifle deer hunting season, he added.
The Game Commission regulates coyote trapping by setting a statewide trapping season from Oct. 27 to Feb. 23, Lau said. Trappers using a cable restraint trap can begin coyote trapping on Dec. 26, he added.
“The harvest is high, so people are going out there to find and hunt coyotes,” Lau said. “Coyotes can be elusive and a true challenge to find and hunt because they do a lot of their moving at night, when they’re harder to see.”
Chestnut said a $700,000 per year allotment for coyote bounties may be too steep. Instead, he said the game commission could explore other ways to spend the money.
In addition, coyote pelts sell for $75 to $100 each, depending upon the fur market, which is more than the bounty program could offer, Chestnut said.
“Wherever you see deer populations, you’ll probably find coyotes,” Chestnut said. “It’s a beautiful animal, but I think around here, we have them under control, and they’re not a problem.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 , ext. 1337.
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