On Wednesday the Pennsylvania House of Representatives gave its approval to a bill that would allow the state Game Commission to set bounties on coyotes. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration after a vote of 111-78 in the House. If signed into law, it would be the first Pennsylvania bounty on any wild animal in over 50 years.
Eastern coyotes first appeared in the state during the late 1940s, and their origins remain largely a mystery even to biologists. Experts with the Game Commission say they are not certain if the species migrated from another state, or had always existed in Pennsylvania. Over the last 30 years, coyote population growth in the state has far outpaced that of black bears, bobcats, and otters. Hunters are able to hunt the small predators year-round with minimal limits. The proposed bounty will award any hunter or furtaker $25 for each coyote legally harvested.
The Associated Press reported that 40,000 coyotes were taken by sportsmen in the state last year, nearly double the amount of animals harvested a decade ago. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Michael Peifer (R-Pike County), hopes that the bounty would give some hunters an extra incentive to hunt coyotes.
The Game Commission has not taken a position on the bill. In the past, the Game Commission stated that traditional bounties rarely have an effect on coyote populations. Biologists say that like many other species, coyotes will increase their litter size when under the pressure of a population decline. Despite this, the Game Commission is working towards getting more hunters to add coyotes to their game list. That may not be as easy as it sounds, as hunters say that coyotes are elusive animals that require a measure of planning before success can be found. Coyotes are opportunistic predators that are wary of humans and quick to flee at a moment’s notice.
The bill will be considered by the Senate when it reconvenes early next month.