BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick believes he has the solution to West Virginia’s coyote problem.
Helmick is looking at establishing a bounty to encourage hunters to kill the critters.
He said coyotes are the state’s biggest predator problem. They are in all 55 counties and pose a threat to both farm animals and domestic pets.
“More of them are being born than we’re removing. They’re winning the battle,” Helmick told The Register-Herald.
“We spend a significant amount of money on predator control. About half a million dollars. The feds helped us out a few years ago but aren’t doing anything at all now. We’ve lost the federal support.”
Under Helmick’s plan, coyotes would be trapped and their ears would be marked with an identifying number. They would then be released in a different area. Hunters who kill a coyote marked with a number would receive a bounty.
“Hunters will be out there all the time, looking for this type of opportunity, and will probably kill another 25 trying to get to that one, or maybe even kill 100 of them,” he said.
Details of the plan, such as the bounty amount, are still being worked out.
Helmick wants to expand the state’s sheep industry. But he said that will be difficult unless the coyote population is reduced.
“I know we have a problem with the sheep industry,” he said.
“And the coyote is not all the problem, but it’s a significant part. For the rebirth or growth of the sheep industry, it would be almost impossible with the amount of coyotes we now have on the loose.”
A personal anecdote shared by Helmick shows that a coyote is a cagy foe.
He said his son, Brian, had rigged bells at his home in Charleston that the family’s cat could ring when he wanted to go outside or come inside. A coyote pounced on the cat one night as soon as he rang the bell and stepped outside.
“That coyote had figured out the bell,” Helmick said.
“He knew that sooner or later, that cat was going out. He had watched before when the bell rang.”