Virginians urged to tolerate coyotes, but not welcome them

AFP Correspondent

(July 21, 2015) All of Virginia’s counties, on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay, are now home to coyotes, Lee Walker, outreach director for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, reported in a recent telephone interview.
“People have to adapt to the coyote,” Walker said. He said the wolf-like animal is considered a nuisance species which means there is a continuous open season on them so they can be hunted year-round.
Coyote, a Spanish language word meaning “little wolf,” is an animal folks, in the eastern United States began learning, is something more serious than a cartoon character in the final decade of the 20th Century as the varmints began moving east where the food sources help them meet their number one need.
Walker said the coyote’s main concern is “where is my next meal coming from?”
As their numbers have increased, coyotes have answered this question many times in Virginia farmers’ fields as the coyotes have become a menace to livestock, especially calves and lambs. Efforts are ongoing to outwit the coyote and decrease their attacks on livestock. Walker said the nocturnal coyote is a very good survivor.
As they spread eastward, coyotes showed up in more urban areas as well.  Walker said some of the characteristics of the coyote and cited some human behaviors that can be changed to discourage them.
Walker said it helps to think like a coyote. Since they want their next meal, do not provide it for them.  If there is no food they will go somewhere else or die off.
Walker said to keep all pet food indoors.  If pets are fed outside, bring any food they do not eat, indoors. Keep trash cans locked or indoors. Avoid composting food that attracts coyotes. This includes some foods people don’t usually consider a temptation to coyotes like apples, grapes and other fruits and vegetables.
One of Walker’s concerns is bird feeders. Even though they are hanging well above the ground, the bird feeders can be an open invitation to a coyote to have a snack.
Bird seed and grain fall to the ground under the feeder, field mice, a coyote favorite, find a good food source and coyotes turn the mice into fast food. He suggests bringing birdfeeders in at night and keeping the ground under the feeders free of grain and seed to deal with this problem.
Virginia farmers are waging a different kind of battle, according to the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
The VFBF prevailed in getting a proposed budget amendment to restore $190,000 to the state budget to control this predator that is costing farmers money. It will help support the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control Program
“The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services have funded a cost-share program to protect sheep, goats and cattle from coyote predation since 1990,” VFBF reported in January. “It provides technical assistance, direct control and education.”
The program is managed by USDA Wildlife Services, and provided direct control services to 195 livestock farms in 53 Virginia counties in fiscal year 2014. During that time, 285 sheep, 81 calves, and 32 goats were verified killed by coyotes on those farms. That represents a 39 percent increase in reported sheep predation and a 69 percent increase in reported calf predation from fiscal year 2013.”
The agencies expect the need for livestock to be protected will be a continuing and growing one.
“Virginia is rare; there are few eastern states that have livestock protection programs like this with livestock professionals that can come out and help farmers with these types of issues,” Scott Barras, state director for USDA Wildlife Services, said. “This is a real benefit for farmers. It’s bad enough to lose livestock to predation, especially now when livestock prices are what they are and farmers are really feeling the impact.”