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Coyote control seen as vital to sheep, cattle industries in Va.
By JANE W. GRAHAM
PULASKI, Va. (May 17, 2016) — Chad J. Fox and Cecil King walked along the pasture fence on King’s Colonial Farms to a place where it does not completely touch the ground and coyotes would likely enter King’s pasture.
Fox, western district supervisor in the Virginia office of USDA’s Wildlife Damage Management program, and team leader of the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control program, placed a wire snare in this crawl space as one of the tools the team uses to catch the predators.
King’s pasture is hard to keep coyotes away as board fencing surrounds it on several sides where it joins a residential area and is fronted by U.S. Route 11. This calls for extra vigilance, he said. Over the years, he has experienced numerous losses to coyotes.
The night before team members caught a coyote near where the men talked. In the last years of the 20th century, coyotes became a predator in Virginia pastures, causing losses of livestock, especially sheep and calves.
Highland and Wythe counties are the state’s biggest problem areas for coyote kills with more than 50 losses in the report period. Livestock producers in most other counties along the Interstate 81 corridor also suffered from coyote losses as did farmers in several Southside counties and Loudoun County.
USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services recently released its report for the federal fiscal year of 2015 showing a 24 percent decrease in verified kills of sheep by coyotes in the state and a 26-percent decrease in calf predation in 2014 between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015. According to the report, his team provided direct control services to 191 livestock farms in 47 Virginia counties in 2015. These included the verified kills of 218 sheep, 60 calves and 24 goats.
“This is tremendous news for our farmers, who suffer economic losses as well as disappointment whenever they find a fresh carcass from a coyote kill,” said Wilmer Stoneman, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation associate director of governmental relations, in a news release. “It also shows how effective the cooperative control program can be when given enough financial resources.
The budget for the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control program was expanded with up to five new part-time employees, and it clearly made a difference.”
But Fox said this shouldn’t be interpreted as a permanent decrease in kills as the numbers vary from year.
Fox, a wildlife biologist said his team does not target the general coyote population but rather targets specific farms at risk. He said they do not have an impact on the overall population.
King said producers need people with expertise to have various avenues to try to reduce the coyotes and losses. He agreed the approach is to deal with the predators causing the trouble.
“Chad and his staff are prompt to help people,” King said. “They even work at night. It’s one place where the government does respond to the needs of farmers in agriculture.”
In its report, Wildlife Service reviewed the history of the program saying it has been a cooperative effort for a quarter century.
“The program continues to be an integral part of livestock damage management by working directly on farms or providing valuable information to groups and individuals concerned about livestock predation,” the report said.
“We anticipate that demand for livestock protection services will continue to increase due to the development of statewide program availability.”
In 2015, the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control program was able to fund part-time positions in six counties spread across the state, Fox said. With teams based in Augusta, Franklin, Highland, Montgomery, Russell and Prince Edward counties, the agency was able to provide help in most of the state.
Funding for the program totaled $390,000 in FY 2015, thanks to matching funds from state and federal governments and an additional $5,000 from the Virginia Sheep Industry Board.
Fox said the best way to contact the team is to call the local Extension office to make contact with the closest team member.