newscoyote damage control program making a difference
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Coyote damage control program making a difference

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newspaperIn the past 18 months, Virginia has seen a drop in the number of livestock animals killed by coyotes on Virginia farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division.

Between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, the state saw a 24 percent decrease in the recorded number of sheep killed by coyotes, as well as a 26 percent drop in the number of calves taken by the predators.

“This is tremendous news for our farmers, who suffer economic losses as well as disappointment whenever they find a fresh carcass from a coyote kill,” said Wilmer Stoneman, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation associate director of governmental relations. “It also shows how effective the cooperative control program can be when given enough financial resources. The budget for the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control program was expanded with up to five new part-time employees, and it clearly made a difference.”

The report listed 218 sheep, 60 calves and 24 goats as verified coyote kills on 191 Virginia farms in fiscal year 2015. The average number of sheep killed per farm was 3.3. The numbers might have been worse if the cooperative program hadn’t implemented preventive measures as well as actual removal of coyotes on 81 livestock farms. Wildlife Services reported 512 coyotes removed from farms with extreme predation problems.

“Maintaining or increasing funding for this coyote program is a critical issue for Farm Bureau members as we head into the 2016 General Assembly budget battle,” Stoneman said. “We were fortunate to have more money to spend on this problem in the past year, and we need to keep that funding available.”

It’s been a quarter of a century since the cooperative control program began between the USDA and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The program emphasizes prevention before removal. Methods for preventing coyote kills include improved husbandry practices, predator-resistant fencing, predator frightening devices and livestock guardian animals. Only when those methods are exhausted are coyotes actually removed from farms, Stoneman said.

Funding for the program totaled $390,000 in FY 2015, thanks to matching funds from state and federal governments and an additional $5,000 from the Virginia Sheep Industry Board.

Highland and Wythe counties are the state’s biggest problem areas for coyote kills, with more than 50 losses in the report period. Livestock producers in most other counties along the Interstate 81 corridor also suffered from coyote losses, as did farmers in several Southside counties and Loudoun County.

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