2019-02-09 / Outdoors

Wolf Tracks

Outdoor Columnist
Dave Wolf

All three of the region’s coyote hunts – Sinnemahoning, Mosquito Creek and St. Marys – are on tap for the Feb. 15-17 weekend.

Pennsylvania’s coyote population has been growing for decades. Game managers believe the species’ numbers reach into the hundreds of thousands. The organized hunts do not put even a tiny dent in the population.

Despite an open season (including Sundays and night hunting, year-round), hunters and trappers take about 40,000 coyotes annually, according to the Pa. Game Commission. The agency concedes that hunting and trapping cannot arrest the continual rise in this predator’s population.

The Quality Deer Management Association reinforces the point: “Research shows that you need to remove 75 percent of the coyote population annually. Because of the high reproduction rate, there are few areas in the state where this can be done.”


Next weekend’s three organized coyote hunts will have little impact on the species’ population. There are hundreds of thousands of coyotes in Pennsylvania. Hunters and trappers take about 40,000 annually. Dave Wolf photos Next weekend’s three organized coyote hunts will have little impact on the species’ population. There are hundreds of thousands of coyotes in Pennsylvania. Hunters and trappers take about 40,000 annually. Dave Wolf photos QDMA has a right to be concerned. Coyotes kill a large number of fawns, and even adult deer. They also prey on cottontails, pheasants, grouse and turkey.

Pressure is growing on the Game Commission to take aggressive steps in an effort to reverse the population explosion. It’s a dilemma that seems to defy any solution.

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Another area of concern that carries into 2019 for the Game Commission is the chronic wasting disease (CWD) that is threatening deer and elk populations.

PGC has teamed with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture-Wildlife Services to study the impact of CWD in Blair and Bedford counties. Researchers are capturing deer and placing radio collars on their necks to gather movement and survival data.

A plan that was initially approved at the commission’s January meeting was quickly shelved. It called for systematically reducing deer populations in a section of the two counties through “targeted removal,” or sharpshooters, this winter into early spring.

On Tuesday, PGC announced that it had not received enough support from landowners to move forward.

“It’s hoped that, by next year, increased awareness about the threat posed by CWD will bring about the necessary support,” the agency reported in a news release.

CWD is an always-fatal, incurable disease affecting deer and elk. More information is available on the website, pgc. pa.gov.

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Last week’s announcement that the Game Commission is proposing a Saturday start to the firearms deer season is being debated in taverns, restaurants and workplaces across the Pennsylvania Wilds.

It’s far from a done deal. A final vote is planned at the commission’s April meeting.

Among opponents of a Monday opener are many folks who cherish the “camp life” experience on the weekend before hunting season. Complaints are also coming from hunters who travel long distances to their destination.

This is a topic that will continue to be debated. The Game Commission is sure to get an earful between now and April.

(Dave Wolf can be reached by email at wolfang418@msn.com.)

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