State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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A bounty on their heads

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Dec 13, 2013 11:07 AM

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Hunters could collect a bounty for coyotes under a measure passed by the state House.

The legislation would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to turn hunters and fur-takers loose on the coyote population and collect $25 for every carcass they bring in.

The measure wouldn’t give the commission any additional funding. Instead, the agency could take as much as $700,000 from its own revenues, most of which come from hunting license fees – a revenue source it has called “relatively fixed.”

The coyote population is described as “likely” increasing, but, more to the point, the animals are encroaching on suburban and urban areas. Hunters have been rewarded for killing coyotes in other states the past, but the Pennsylvania Game Commission has suggested such methods “did lead to any significant population reduction.”

From the commission's website:

The main reason was that about 70 percent of a coyote population has to be removed annually in order to cause a population decline. Even then, coyotes - like many other species - have demonstrated an ability to offset population declines by increasing their litter size. It's spurred by a built-in biological mechanism that responds to population deficits.

A bounty system has never successfully eliminated or significantly reduced coyote populations anywhere in North America. Coyotes have a superior ability to adapt to a changing environment. Attempts to reduce coyote populations in western states using year-round poisoning, hunting and trapping resulted in millions of dollars being spent over many decades with little reduction in coyote numbers. The result of any predator control method is temporary and often very localized. No measurable good ever resulted from the Game Commission's predator bounties in the 1900s. They truly were a waste of money.

The Game Commission has not taken a position on the bill. But Sarah Speed, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania chapter of the Humane Society, said money shouldn’t be diverted from other Game Commission programs to keep coyotes by way of a shoot-on-sight method. She also voiced concerns that the coyote control program could result in reckless firing on pet dogs.

The measure passed without debate in the House, with a vote of 111-78. It now goes to the state Senate.

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