Hunters get cash for coyotes
The Warren Sentinel
FRONT ROYAL – Kenneth Smith was hunting on his own Warren County property Nov. 5 when he shot and killed a grey female coyote.
Because the county offers a coyote bounty, Smith was awarded $50 for killing the animal.
“The coyote itself is classified as a nuisance animal. That's why they have bounty hunting,” said Deputy Walter “Butch” Carper, an animal control officer with the Warren County Sheriff's Office. One of four animal control officers in the county, Carper said in December he had filed paperwork for about 10 people to receive coyote bounty awards from the county last year.
Coyotes are known to stalk livestock animals such as sheep, and, Smith said, they attack young fawns shortly after they are born.
“I think (the bounty program) is a good thing because (coyotes) wreak havoc on the fawns. They destroy a lot of deer as soon as they're born,” Smith said. “Go out in the country at night and you'll hear them howling.”
Coyotes may be killed anytime, according to information from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which opposed legislation passed by the General Assembly in the late 1980s allowing counties to award coyote bounties.
Mike Fies, a wildlife research biologist with the DGIF, says the department's position is that awarding coyote bounties gives the public the false impression that it helps control the population, which isn't the case because not enough coyotes are killed by bounty hunters to make an impact.
Instead, the department recommends a “targeted approach” in which hunters and trappers work with farmers to control coyote numbers in a particular area.
“You need to focus your efforts where the problems are,” said Fies, who estimated Virginia's coyote population to be around 50,000 and growing.
He said it's virtually impossible to control the coyote population because the animals are so adaptable and are even showing up in cities.
“Urban coyotes are going to be an increasing issue in Virginia in the future. Washington, D.C., is ripe for all kinds of coyote problems sometime in the future,” Fies said.
Hunters may only kill coyotes in areas of Warren County where hunting is allowed – not in the town of Front Royal.
Warren is one of about 15 counties in the state with a coyote bounty, although only nine such programs are currently funded, Fies said. As of Dec. 13, 2012, Warren County had paid 276 coyote bounties at $50 each for a total of $13,800 since November of 2000.
Page County also awards a $50 coyote bounty. Frederick, Clarke and Shenandoah counties do not have coyote bounty programs.
Hunters who have killed a coyote and want to claim a bounty bring the animal to a Warren County animal control officer who then files paperwork that is approved by the Board of Supervisors before a check is mailed out.
“If it's on your own property that's fine. If you're hunting on someone else's property, you have to have written permission to hunt on that property and you have to show that to the animal control officer,” Carper said.
Hunters are responsible for disposal of the dead coyotes, Carper said. Most bury the animals, but some have them preserved by a taxidermist.
Carper said coyotes live in all areas of the county and have been sighted in town.
“We're not overrun by them by any means, but there are numbers of them,” Carper said.
Female coyotes weigh an average of 30 to 40 pounds and males tend to be a bit heavier at 35 to 45 pounds, although they can weigh as much as 60 pounds.
They are opportunistic foragers that will eat most any kind of food, scavenging and preying on everything from fruits, vegetables, insects, small rodents, rabbits, birds, snakes and frogs, but they have also been known to attack larger animals including deer and livestock.
Although attacks on humans are rare, the DGIF advises that people avoid feeding or unintentionally supplying a food source for coyotes, which could result in the animals becoming tolerant of or dependent on humans.
“Never leave small children unattended in areas frequented by coyotes,” information from the DGIF states. “Keep small dogs restrained on a leash when walking them outdoors and avoid walking them in areas where coyotes are raising their pups from March to August.”
It was the first time Smith had killed a coyote when he shot the female earlier this month on his property. He said even though the animals are dangerous to fawns, they play a role in controlling the deer population.
“You won't find a hunter out there that wants to see (coyotes) extinct,” Smith said. “There needs to be a balance.”