Coyote activity on rise in suburban areas
By Rick Wills
Published: Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Harold Kennedy, owner of a 212-acre beef cattle farm in Adams, does not remember ever seeing so many coyotes.
“We see tracks every day. They sing and howl at the top of their lungs,” said Kennedy, 76, who has lived on the same farm his entire life.
The proliferation of coyotes dates back only about a decade, said Kennedy, who three years ago had a trapper come to his farm to capture some of the coyotes.
“They killed goats. They are also really hard on fawn deer. They are very, very sly animals and hard to shoot,” he said. “Years ago, there was nothing. In the last 10 years, there have been many more coyotes. They go for easy food. That's why they are here and in places like Cranberry.”
Coyotes are increasingly showing up in areas that were once off limits, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Eastern coyotes, which generally weigh 30 to 50 pounds, expanded their range dramatically in Pennsylvania from the 1970s through the early 1990s.
“There are more coyotes in parts of the state where they did not used to be. They are now in all 67 counties,” said Travis Lau, a game commission spokesman.
Once a northern tier resident, coyotes now are becoming as common in the state's suburban sprawl as raccoons, skunks and groundhogs, Lau said.
“The biggest populations are in Northeastern and Southwestern Pennsylvania,” he said.
Fluctuations in animal populations is not unusual, said Regis Senko, the game commission's information and education supervisor for the northwest region.
“We continue to build in lots of areas that were formerly farmland. We are in their habitat in many ways,” he said.
Coyotes are even a presence in heavily developed areas like Cranberry.
“We get calls on them. They have been around for a number of years. You don't really see them. You hear them. The main concern people have is with pets. There is nothing we can really do about them,” said Lt. Jeff Schueler, Cranberry's director of public safety.
The game commission estimates about 40,000 coyotes were killed by hunters in the one-year period between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, about double the number killed in Pennsylvania a decade ago.
Statewide, the number of complaints about coyotes has risen to 435 in 2012 from 304 in 2000, according to the game commission.
The game commission does not provide a county breakdown.
Coyotes are not protected in Pennsylvania. Last month, the state House passed a bill that would authorize the Pennsylvania Game Commission to set a $25 bounty on each coyote.
It would be the first bounty on a wild animal in the state in nearly 50 years.
The Senate has not voted on the bill.
How effective a bounty would be is a matter of debate.
“There's no way to guarantee that a pelt would even be from Pennsylvania,” said Lau, of the game commission.
The game commission's website speaks emphatically against bounties.
“A bounty system has never successfully eliminated or significantly reduced coyote populations anywhere in North America. Coyotes have a superior ability to adapt to a changing environment,” the game commission states.
Attempts to reduce coyote populations in Western states using year-round poisoning, hunting and trapping resulted in millions of dollars being spent over many decades with little reduction in coyote numbers, according to the game commission.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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