PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Associated Press is reporting… At the 17th annual Sullivan County Coyote Hunt in LaPorte, the weekend-long contest saw 27 coyotes killed, the prize winner coming in at 44 pounds. January and February are prime coyote-hunting months in Pennsylvania, when most of the state’s two dozen contests, like Sullivan County and the larger Mosquito Creek Coyote Hunt, in Clearfield County, take place. Although proponents say the coyote population needs to be controlled, many opponents of these killing contest-style hunts say they’re barbaric and disrupt the natural balance, taking out a “keystone predator” that controls rodent and pest populations and keeps feral cats, raccoons, and skunks in check as well.
“The coyote is by far the most persecuted predator in North America,” said Camilla H. Fox, founder of Project Coyote, a California-based nonprofit that has aimed to stop the contests. “There’s a half-million alone killed each year.” AP reports, The Pennsylvania Game Commission describes Eastern coyotes as “immigrants,” however, descendants of animals that moved in from the West and established themselves here in the 1940s and ’50s, and some consider them a distinct species, generally bigger than coyote cousins out west. The state was already home to native species that actively hunt rodents, including fishers, foxes, bobcats, weasels, and a host of predatory birds, said Aaron Facka, furbearer specialist for the state commission.
“In short, if coyotes vanished from PA tomorrow, I would not expect a sudden population boom in rodent species,” Facka said. Hunters and trappers take 30,000-plus per year and say they’re the only thing keeping coyote numbers in check. “All the hunts in the state don’t put a dent in the population,” Dan Morrison, LaPorte’s fire chief, said at last year’s hunt. “They’re very smart.”