Since Chris Bence became a Greene County game warden in February of last year, he
said he's seen coyotes across the county, but not a large number of them. Others in the county claim to have seen or heard them, as well.
Bence claims he averages about two calls a month from county residents reporting a
coyote encounter. Surprisingly he's only heard a couple of reports of coyotes killing livestock.
"When I get a call, I go out and let people know I'll do as much as possible for them and explain the hunting and trapping laws," he said. "Because coyotes are considered a nuisance, they can be hunted day or night any time of the year by someone with a valid hunting license or adult fur taking license."
According to the Agriculture Department website "to receive reimbursement, a person must file a written, signed complaint within five business days of the discovery of the damage with the state dog warden. The complaint must include the time, place and manner of the damage, the number and type of domestic animals damaged, and the amount of damage."
According to Shannon Powers, Agriculture Dept. press secretary, there were 64 coyote attacks on livestock across the state in 2019. Of these, 3 were injuries, the rest fatal. Livestock covered in this statistic include any equine animal or bovine animal, sheep, goat, pig, poultry, bird, fowl, confined hares, rabbits and mink, or any wild or semiwild animal maintained in captivity.
Walt Bumgarner, livestock educator for Penn State Extension, claims there are coyotes
all over Greene County and that they are hard to control, although some growers keep
guard animals like donkeys, large dogs and even llamas to help keep them at bay.
"Over the years, a number of sheep growers have been inundated by coyotes, he said.
"Today, it's a worse problem than it was 15 or 20 years ago. Greene County has the type of rolling terrain that gives them plenty of places to hide. I've heard of some producers who've had 2 or 3 lambs killed at a time."
When told of the number of reported coyote animal attacks across the state, Bumgarner said he'd peg that number much higher than 64 because a lot of growers don't report the attacks or confirm that the attack was made by a coyote.
In Sycamore, Lou Crouse, who keeps a herd of 125 sheep, has been rather fortunate
when it comes to coyote kills. He said he's been raising sheep on his 200 acre farm for
at least 45 years and hasn't experienced a single loss to a coyote.
"I've seen them and heard them all the time,"Crouse said. "Although I have deer hunters come through and some of them said they shot a coyote, there's an old saying that if the coyotes don't kill your sheep, don't kill them because they'll be replaced by coyotes who do. Over the years, I've seen many sheep raisers who've had losses, some so severe they've gone out of business."
A call to Chris Bailey, clerk for the Greene County Sheriff's office, confirmed that she doesn't normally get calls about coyotes.
"If I would, I'd report them to the Game Commission," she said.
In Brave, sheep, hog, cattle and chicken farmer, Ralph Adamson, has a different story to tell. Involved in raising sheep his entire life, Adamson lives on the 560-acre farm that
was his boyhood home. At one time the family raised as many as 1,000 head of sheep,
but the number today has dropped to around 250 ewes and lambs.
"We first started having problems with coyotes in the late 1980s," Adamson said. "Over
the years, I've lost quite a few sheep. One year, I lost ten, but then had a couple years
without a loss. This year, I lost 3 ewes."
To try to cut down on his losses, he's had hunters come in at night to try and shoot coyotes. He's also had trappers try to catch them and tried putting three Great Pyrenees dogs and two donkeys in the fields to protect his livestock. He's also changed his fencing to keep coyotes out but said that "nothing is 100 percent effective."
"Coyotes are cunning and sly, and have a typical way of killing by biting the sheep on
the throat and choking them," Adamson said. "They also leave teeth marks on the throat."
As to his other animals, Adamson said his chickens are protected because they're enclosed at night and his hogs, which weigh as much as 500 to 800 pounds, are too large a prey for a coyote attack.
Adamson said typically coyotes like to eat the softer parts of their kill like the liver, heart, lungs and entrails, which they'll often take to their den and regurgitate for their pups to eat. Later they'll return to the kill and eat the tougher parts of their prey.
If there's a livestock kill, indemnity for the owner's loss falls under the Pennsylvania
Department of Agriculture. The determination as to whether or not the injury or death was inflicted by a coyote is made by the dog warden during an investigation. The cap for an individual claim is $10,000 or 90% of the animal’s appraised value. Claims will not be reimbursed by the state if the claimant's insurance carrier is reimbursing them, and there is a $20,000 per year cap on claims tied to coyote attacks.
Adamson has filed claims for his losses, but said if he doesn't find a dead carcass 24
hours after a kill, it's too late.
"The buzzards swoop done and start eating the carcass," he said, which makes the cause of death impossible to determine.
If the dead animal is spotted in time, the dog warden has to come in, take photos, estimate the size and weight of the animal, then send in a claim.
"A lot of farmers around here believe coyotes were introduced to Greene County by the Game Commission," he said.
In Lippencott, Philip Galing, co-owner of Lippencott Alpacas, said he hears coyotes in the woods around his home all the time, starting at dusk. Two weeks ago, he even saw one who lingered in the middle of his field for an hour.
Over the last several years, Galing, who also raises cattle, reports losing three of his calves to coyotes.
"You can tell they were coyotes by the way the calves were chewed up," he said.
To guard his livestock, Galing placed some Great Pyrenees dogs in the fields. He also tried bringing in a hunter to shoot the coyotes, but when the hunter called the coyotes, the dogs made such a racket he had to pick up and leave.
As to human safety, Bence said he's never had a report of a coyote attacking a person.
"Coyotes are one of the most skittish of predators," he said. "If they see, hear or smell
something [suspicious] they will stay away from the source. Occasionally, you'll see a
coyote dead along the road, but like the coyote in the cartoon they are wily, extremely
agile and very intelligent."
But what about the question of coyotes carrying or being infected with rabies? Bence said he hasn't had a single case of a rabies-infected coyote in the county, nor has he heard of one anywhere in the state.
"There's a common misconception that, if you see a coyote in the day time, it must have rabies, which is usually not the case," he said. "And contrary to popular opinion, coyotes are not pack animals but are basically solitary. Sometimes family packs of up to six can be seen, but they break up whenever the pups grow up and go off looking for mates."
There is help for those who might want to rid their property of coyotes. Bence said he
has a list of predator hunters in Greene County and that if anyone would like a referral to phone 724-238-9523.