Harrisburg — Last month, the House Game and Fisheries Committee approved a piece of legislation to place a bounty on coyotes taken by properly licensed hunters and furtakers.
If passed by the full House and Senate, and signed by the governor, HB 1534 would authorize the Pennsylvania Game Commission to pay $25 for each coyote harvested.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Peifer, R-Monroe, passed out of committee by a 21-3 vote and now goes to the full House for consideration.
Rep. Peifer said he came up with the idea because he thinks the coyote population needs to be better controlled.
“There are certain areas in the state that are infested with coyotes,” he said.
His concerns about the coyote population relate to public safety, he explained. He noted that pets are being attacked or eaten as coyotes are drawn into close proximity of where humans live.
“My district, we seem to be infested with them. We geographically have a rugged territory and a large deer population,” Rep. Peifer said.
He said he believes that the deer are drawing coyotes into communities, being a food source for them.
“They [deer] are living closer to human communities and developments,” he said.
Peifer noted that fawns are in turn being dropped or born near porches, swimming pools and mailboxes, drawing in predators such as coyotes and bears.
“There is an area called Blue Ridge, where people are hearing the coyotes every night,” he said. “Coyotes are coming into their yards, and they [residents] are losing their cats,” he said.
Peifer also believes fewer licensed hunters are killing coyotes, for a few reasons.
Since a larger caliber rifle needs to be used, he said, such as a .306, the pelt of the coyote is often destroyed and becomes ruined or worthless.
“We have a lot of people hunting spring gobblers and don’t want to shoot them because it’s not a prime time to shoot them [for the pelt] and they don’t want to use a shotgun to do it,” Peifer said. “Plus they don’t want to give up their hunting location.”
Peifer said he hopes the bounty will give hunters a reason to shoot coyotes, in turn controlling their population.
After the news of the bounty bill broke, many online hunting message boards went live with debate. Some hunters are all for it, while others don’t believe it will make much of a difference.
Some are questioning how coyote killing for bounties will be regulated, while some contend it will be a waste of money.
Trappers, such as Kevin Leasure, of Rauchtown, said prices for coyote pelts fluctuate from year to year. So offering a bounty may not make a difference.
“Coyotes are a crap shoot on price – some years are good, some years you have to beg buyers to take them,” said Leasure, who runs traplines with his father, an experienced trapper in Clinton and Lycoming counties.
Leasure believes the bounty really won’t offset any costs to hunters. “It’s not enough money to motivate people,” he said. “It costs way too much to kill one for just $25 (in return).
“As a trapper and hunter, I will sell the fur before I will claim a bounty unless I can double dip.”
In the two weeks leading up to this issue, in the last 13 days the two have trapped nine coyotes, one weighing a hefty 60 pounds.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission cautiously weighed in on the bill.
“Given that this bill has just cleared committee, it would seem to have a long road ahead of it,” said agency spokesman Travis Lau.
“W will get into the process of discussing the proposal in more detail. That said, the bill in its current form is discretionary rather than a mandate.”
Lau pointed out that the wording of the legislation states, “the commission may adopt…” So should the bill be approved as currently proposed, Game Commission staff will take a hard look at the issue.
“They will decide if it is within the fulfillment of our mission to adopt regulations in accordance with the framework set forth in the bill,” Lau said. “We appreciate the bill’s sponsor allowing for our input and decision-making here.
“How that would play out would be determined.”
He added that wildlife populations in a certain local area might or might not be representative of the population statewide.
But Lau conceded that an increase in the coyote population has been evident to commission officials in recent years.
“We’ve been seeing a growing coyote population, as evidenced by annual increases in harvest numbers, which topped 30,000 last year,” Lau said.
Peifer said he would like to see more organized coyote hunts held in the state.
“They have created a real enthusiasm, a buzz. I think we need to build off that,” he said.
The proposed bounty will come from the Game Commission's game fund, Peifer said.