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Coyote hunters are booming in Pennsylvania

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Sunday, Jan. 3, 2010
 

The reasons people have for hunting coyotes are varied.

Some chase coyotes because they'd like to get rid of every deer-eating predator they can. Others target them because of the challenge they present as a game animal. Some chase them in hopes of winning thousands of dollars in the state's organized coyote hunts.

While the number of people targeting other predators, like foxes, has held relatively steady over the last 20 years, coyote hunting has boomed. In 1990, the state had 7,782 coyote hunters. Last year, it had a record 40,982 — an increase of more than 500 percent.

"We've seen a stunning jump in participation," said Matt Lovallo, chief furbearer biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The harvest of coyotes has climbed accordingly. Hunters and trappers killed 1,810 coyotes in 1990. That went as high as 28,974 in 2007 before dipping slightly last year to 23,699.

There's no indication that the growing number of coyote hunters or the coyote harvest is negatively impacting the population, Lovallo said.

"They're one of those species that we don't manage too intensively because they seem self-regulating. They don't seem to be a species you can overexploit," Lovallo said.

Certainly, federal programs aimed at eradicating coyotes — some of them lasting for decades in the West — have all failed, agreed Roland Kays, curator of mammals for the New York State Museum.

"You can knock back their numbers in a specific location for a while, but you can't get rid of them completely," he said.

Sportsmen's clubs have been taking advantage of all the new interest in recent years. A number sponsor coyote hunts as fundraisers, with the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Association hunt the largest. Last year, it drew more than 3,800 contestants and offered more than $30,000 in cash prizes.

If you're thinking of joining the crowd and giving coyote hunting a try, the coming weeks are prime time.

"They're in season year-round, but winter, after deer seasons close, is when most people seem to go after them," Lovallo said.

Contest information

Here's a look at a few of the organized coyote hunting contests set for the region this winter.

• Tubmill Trout Club will hold its "big dog" coyote hunt Jan. 28 to 31. Cost is $20 and all registered hunters who bag a coyote will share in the prize money. Visit www.tubmilltroutclub.org for details. To get ready for the event, the club will sponsor a free coyote calling seminar with Dave Dunbar of Critter Busters game calls at 1 p.m. Jan. 9 at the New Florence VFW. Reservations are required by contacting Lin Gamble at 724-235-9798 or lingamble1@verizon.net .

• Cresson Community Sportsmans Association will hold a coyote and fox hunt Feb. 12 to 14. Seminars on predator hunting will be offered Jan. 16 and Feb. 6, too. For details, visit Cressonsportsmans.com .

• Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Association will hold its annual coyote hunt Feb. 19 to 21. For information, visit Mosquitocreeksportsmen.com or call 814-263-4510 or 814-263-7217. The St. Marys Sportsmen's Club ( Stmaryssportsmen.org ) and Sigel Sportsmen's Club ( Sigelsportsmensclub.com ) will hold hunts on those same days.

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