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Amendment would facilitate control of coyote population

Coyotes are converging on Virginia and the Westmoreland Supervisors are eager to enact new measures they hope will control the local population of predators.

The coyote population is on the rise throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. When the Westmoreland Supervisors met last Monday, the Board directed County Attorney Tom Bondurant to draft an ordinance amendment that would allow the 35-to-40 pound mammals to be shot with rifles. The county’s current regulations only allow shotguns to be used to kill the unwanted predators.

Coyote sightings were officially acknowledged during Board of Supervisors proceedings in January 2011,

when Supervisor Russ Culver noted that coyotes have been sighted and subsequently killed in Cabin Point and Glebe Harbor subdivisions and Coles Point. Additional sightings were noted in other areas of Westmoreland County.

During last week’s discussion the focus shifted from past sightings of single coyotes to discovery of at least one large pack in the Stratford Hall area.

The supervisor from the Town of Colonial Beach, Larry Roberson, introduced the topic on Jan. 9.
“We have coyotes in the county. I have seen one,” Roberson commented. “We need to ask the game commission and hunt clubs for some guidance,” Supervisor Woody Hynson replied.

“Right now,” Hynson related, “our ordinance only allows rifles to be used for killing groundhogs. We need to change the county ordinance in order to make it legal to shoot a coyote with a rifle.”

County Administrator Norm Risavi agreed that an ordinance amendment would be required. “Coyotes are difficult to get close to with a shotgun,” he explained.

Risavi had already looked into the matter and was aware of other Northern Neck jurisdictions that have amended their hunting regulations in order to better control coyote populations.

Due to habitat changes over a 150-year period, coyotes native to the northern plains and the southwestern desert have converged in Virginia. The coyotes that entered from the north had bred with wolves along the way, according to research done by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics.

During last week’s discussion, Hynson shared the story told to him by a group of local hunters. The hunting party had shot a deer not far from Stratford Hall but the animal did not drop immediately. The hunters tracked the wounded deer and found it in a matter of minutes. The rest of the story is almost too terrible to repeat.

Hynson explained that what the hunting party discovered was a pack of coyotes devouring the flesh of a living deer before it died from its shotgun wound.

Deer populations are reportedly down in many parts of Virginia as a result of coyote predation. Hynson addressed that subject, too. “A doe cannot protect her fawn from a coyote,” he related. “They also love eating people’s cats and dogs.

“We need to do something,” Hynson continued. “Coyotes have five to ten pups in a litter. That’s why they can become such a problem overnight. Hunters need to have the ability to use rifles to kill coyotes.”

Roberson and Hynson told Board colleagues they knew of one Virginia jurisdiction that had put a $50 bounty on any coyote that was killed. The Board did not rule out the possibility of instituting such a measure at the earliest opportunity.

At the conclusion of the discussion, it was understood that amended ordinance language would be drafted post haste and adopted at the earliest opportunity. Risavi warned that there may be some controversy to a measure liberalizing the use of rifles, but all parties concurred that shotguns are only effective at close range and it may not be either possible or desirable to get that close to a coyote.

During the public comment segment of the meeting, Kennon Morris weighed in with encouragement.
“You are right about needing to do something about the coyotes,”

Morris commented. “Last week a hunt club spotted and killed two or three coyotes in Bushfield. They’ve been getting turkeys on the Rappahannock, too.”

 

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