- The Washington Times - Monday, June 20, 2005

A bounty hunting program in Southwestern Virginia will allow residents to earn money while ridding the area of coyotes, which kill livestock and other animals.

Hunters will be paid $50 for every female coyote killed with a $2,500 annual cap under the program that Pulaski County officials approved last month.

Pulaski is one of several counties in Southwestern Virginia that have considered programs to curb a growing coyote population.

Officials in Northern Virginia said they don’t allow hunting or bounty programs even though coyote sightings in the region have increased.

“The bottom line is since you can’t discharge a firearm in Fairfax County. That poses a lot of problems for bounty hunting,” said Charles Smith, a senior natural resources specialist with the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Virginia considers coyotes to be a “nuisance species,” allowing hunters to kill the animals year-round, regardless of season, time of day or location, said Michael Fies, furbearer project leader with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

“The only thing that would vary county to county is individual weapons restrictions and the bounty program,” he said.

The state sanctioned bounty programs for coyotes several years ago. The law gives counties the authority to choose whether to use a bounty and how much to offer per coyote.

“It’s a fairly recent phenomenon, based on complaints that congressmen were receiving about coyotes from their constituents. They thought that by having a bounty in select counties they would curb the coyote problem,” Mr. Fies said.

Mr. Smith said Northern Virginians began spotting coyotes in the late 1990s, but “they’re not a big problem currently.”

“They are definitely growing in our area. However, they are very smart animals, generally speaking. Incidents will really only occur when you have younger, less experienced animals crammed into small areas.”

Coyotes look like German shepherd or small husky dogs and can weigh up to 40 pounds. They are most active from dusk to dawn and adapt easily to urban locations. They feed on berries, nuts and small animals such as raccoons and squirrels.

Researchers estimate that about 3 million coyotes roam the U.S. and Canada. Local coyote population estimates were not available yesterday.

Coyotes’ biggest threat in urban areas is to small pets, Mr. Smith said.

“The key thing is this: If you’re in a highly urbanized area where it is wall-to-wall houses and town houses, your biggest worry comes when the animal is off the leash and in fact, by far dogs off leash are a bigger problem than coyotes will ever be,” he said.

Maryland and the District also have seen growing coyote populations.

Maryland allows licensed hunters to kill the animals, regardless of season, but the state does not sanction bounty hunting on state property, said Marion Joyce, a spokeswoman for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Naturalists say coyotes are a native species and have been in the region long before urbanization.

Last fall, two coyotes took up residence in Rock Creek Park but have generated few complaints, said Bill Line, a spokesman for the National Park Service. Until the coyotes pose a problem, officials view the animals as wildlife that have a right to be in the park, he said.

“We don’t move them until they become a hazard to people,” he said. “If anything, coyotes are much more afraid of humans than what human beings have to fear.”

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