STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A state lawmaker is proposing a $25 bounty on coyotes to deal with what he calls an infestation in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Rep. Mike Peifer, a Republican serving Monroe and Pike counties, has introduced legislation to allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to offer the bounty, The Pocono Record reported.
State law already allows year-round coyote hunting, and Peifer says he wants to give hunters an incentive to bag the animals, which he said are preying on everything from house cats to deer.
The measure wouldn't require the commission to implement the bounty but would allow it to do so where the animals are a problem, he said.
Because of the increase in predators, deer herds have taken refuge in rural developments, and a cull might allow residents to reduce the number of deer in their communities, he said.
"We no longer have deer herds in the big woods," Peifer said. "Instead, they're living by our swimming pools, under our decks and in our gardens, and that is attracting predators like coyotes into our communities, as well."
Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau said that there were an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 coyotes in the state a decade ago, but that last year more than twice as many, 40,000, were killed by hunters.
Mark Rutkowski, an enforcement officer with the commission, said that the image of a coyote pack hunting deer is a bit overblown, but that coyotes are still intelligent hunters who typically hunt in pairs.
"They're pretty smart predators," Rutkowski said. "Especially in a development with a lot of feral cats. They'll target an area like that. It's a food source."
The game commission, however, questions how effective such a bounty would be, saying decades-long coyote bounties in Western states had little effect. Officials say on the commission website that about 70 percent of the coyote population had to be removed each year to reduce the population, and even then the species has shown the ability to react by increasing litter size.
"A bounty system has never successfully eliminated or significantly reduced coyote populations anywhere in North America," the commission said. "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."
That experience was in accord with the Pennsylvania Game Commission's own predator bounties in the 1900s, which "truly were a waste of money," the commission said.
Pine Ridge resident Lucy Paolucci said 21 cats disappeared from the subdivision in a few weeks last summer, but she's skeptical that coyotes were responsible and fears that a bounty would lead to overhunting.
"I certainly don't want them to kill any other animals," she said. "If he pays $25 each, these people are so desperate that there won't be any more coyotes."
Information from: Pocono Record, www.poconorecord.com