Support sought for funding to restore coyote control program

newspaperA budget amendment is on the table that would restore the commonwealth’s portion of the state and federal program that helps Virginia livestock producers suffering from coyote depredation.

Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, and Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, have proposed a $190,000 budget amendment that would help support the Virginia Cooperative Coyote Damage Control Program.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services have funded a cost-share program to protect sheep, goats and cattle from coyote predation since 1990. It provides technical assistance, direct control and education.

“If the commonwealth’s portion of these funds is not realized, Virginia’s livestock farmers will lose support from USDA wildlife specialists,” said Martha Moore, vice president of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau is a supporter of the program, and Moore said its loss “would have a detrimental economic impact on these farmers.”

The demand for livestock protection services is expected to increase due to the development of statewide program availability and observed increases in coyote population and predation. During fiscal year 2014, 76 farms in 26 additional counties requested assistance.

Increases in coyote harvest have been documented in hunter and pelt harvest surveys by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The coyote harvest has increased from 1,295 in the 1993-1994 hunting season to 24,449 in the 2008-2009 hunting season. In 2012, the Virginia General Assembly recognized that trend and expanded the program to cover more counties in the eastern part of the state.

USDA Wildlife Services, which runs the program, provided direct control services to 195 livestock farms in 53 Virginia counties in fiscal year 2014. During that time, 285 sheep, 81 calves and 32 goats were verified killed by coyotes on those farms. That represents a 39 percent increase in reported sheep predation and a 69 percent increase in reported calf predation from fiscal year 2013.

During fiscal year 2014, the program offered 24 educational events focusing on coyote ecology and damage management. More than 1,200 people attended.

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