Wildlife experts say bounty programs fail
By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- It's official: coyotes are universally hated by everyone.
At least, that was the consensus taken from a meeting last week where local farmers and hunters gathered at Peter Muhlenberg Middle School to learn about coyote management strategies.
Speakers at lecture included Dr. James Parkhurst, Virginia Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist, Stacey Coggins, U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist, Extension agent Corey Childs, and Mike Fies with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Parkhurst began the meeting by speaking about the history of the coyote's introduction to Virginia in the 1950s and how it has now spread to every county. He said he guesses there are between 0.5 and 2.5 coyotes per square mile in this area.
Because coyotes kill and eat livestock, domestic pets and game animals and can carry rabies, they're considered a nuisance species.
One topic that received reaction from the crowd at Thursday's gathering were the bounty programs that have fallen out of favor with many counties, but are still in use by Warren County.
Parkhurst said 150 years of removal efforts by bounty programs have failed.
"There is no evidence in any attempt that we have record of that a bounty program has successfully reduced coyote numbers in an area for a significant period of time," he said. "That does not mean that a bounty program cannot have a regional temporary effect."
Childs spoke about the different guard animals that livestock farms can use to keep coyotes away. He said donkeys, guard dogs, llamas and calves can reduce damage by coyotes. He added that it's important for farmers to let the guard animals bond with livestock and not treat them as pets.
"Treat them as part of your management team," he said.
Fies outlined the project that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is conducting. Two researchers at the department are studying coyotes and bears to gain a better understanding of their diets. He said it would help them learn the effects of coyotes on other wildlife such as deer, turkeys and red foxes.
Coggins shared the different traps that farmers can use to catch coyotes. He displayed the leg snares typically used as well as traps only permitted for USDA use, which release a cyanide capsule when a coyote bites down on its bait.
"This animal is here and it is here to stay," Parkhurst said earlier in the discussion. "It ain't going nowhere. We're never going to get rid of it."
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org