- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006


The coyote population in Virginia is not being reduced by bounty programs that paid tens of thousands of dollars to hunters to kill the predatory animals, wildlife officials say.

“Learn to live with the coyotes [because] they’re here to stay,” said J. Mike Harris, of Tazewell County, which has paid hunters and trappers $8,000 in bounties since July 1. “Bounties have never worked.”

In 1999, the General Assembly authorized counties to pay bounties for coyote carcasses. At least 15 counties pay bounties ranging from $25 to $100, and they typically spend $2,500 to $10,000 a year.

However, coyotes continue to thrive across the state, wildlife specialists say. The animals can be found from the western tip of Lee County to Northampton County on the Eastern Shore.

“It’s pretty much common knowledge that bounties don’t work,” said John Donaldson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mr. Donaldson helps farmers limit coyote depredation in Alleghany, Augusta, Bath and Highland counties.

State wildlife research biologist Mike Fies advised Augusta County officials last year not to impose a bounty, telling them it would do nothing to help the county’s burgeoning coyote problem.

They ignored his recommendation and imposed a bounty of $75 a coyote from January through April and a $50 bounty during the rest of the year. Since the bounty took effect Jan. 1, the county has spent $10,000. Officials expect to spend $20,000 next year.

County Administrator Patrick Coffield defended the bounty, saying opponents may have some “valid arguments,” but killing coyotes that prey on sheep and calves teaches the surviving ones to stay away from the livestock.

Coyotes in Virginia number in the thousands, and specialists have said they are increasing at a rate of 20 percent a year. During the 2004-05 hunting season, hunters killed about 6,000, according to state statistics.

Trappers with the Agriculture Department killed 322 in Virginia in fiscal 2005, Mr. Fies said. Hundreds more are killed each year in the counties with bounties, and farmers kill untold others.

“If you kill less than 70 percent of a population, they can recover within a single year,” Mr. Fies told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Bounties reduce local populations by no more than 1 percent, he said.

Mr. Fies and federal officials recommend fencing and guard dogs to keep coyotes away from flocks. Putting donkeys and llamas in the fields also helps, as do scarecrows, siren alarms and automated strobe lights.

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