Farmers seek extension of coyote hunting Animals-rights groups oppose move, argue for better protection

March 29, 1998|By Chris Gosier | Chris Gosier,CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

No one knows how many coyotes have come to Maryland in recent decades, but Lee McDaniel is afraid they're here to stay.

"There's a considerable group of them around" his Harford County farm, where, he said, coyotes have killed at least two sheep and chased a steer to exhaustion.

"We've had people that were raising sheep but stopped raising them because there were too many losses," he said.

Farmers across the state are urging Maryland lawmakers to extend a 1995 law, set to expire this year, that allows hunting of coyotes.

But animal rights groups argue that coyotes have a place in Maryland's ecosystem.

People complain that there are too many deer in the state "and yet they want to do away with the only predator of deer other than man," said Diane Nixon, director of Maryland Legislation for Animal Welfare.

"I don't think there are enough coyotes," she said.

Robert Colona, furbearer project manager for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, said the department only wants to manage the population. He noted that coyotes have survived worse onslaughts than recreational hunting.

"They're a very resilient species," he said. "Since the colonization of the West, people have tried to exterminate them. Coyotes have expanded their range eastward" as a result, he said.

Department spokeswoman Liz Kalinowski said no one knows how many coyotes are in the state, but they could cause trouble for other animals.

"We have native species that occupy habitats now in our state fTC that are similar to those that are occupied by coyotes," she said, such as the red fox, a less-fierce predator that hunts smaller animals.

"In other states where this has occurred [coyotes] run them out," she said.

"The bottom line is that the coyotes are here now. We accept that they will be a part of our fauna," she said.

The state in 1995 allowed coyotes to be hunted and trapped for three years. Bills moving through the House and Senate would extend the hunting of coyotes for several more years, and farmers across the state have lined up in support.

"An abundance of sheep have been killed by coyotes," said Del. James Harkins, a Harford Republican and sponsor of a bill that would extend the hunting deadline until 2001.

The Senate version of the bill would extend coyote-hunting until 2000 and require that the department report annually on the number and range of coyote populations in the state.

Nixon said state law already lets farmers kill any animal that attacks livestock, so the bill is "an incentive for people to go out and kill coyotes."

McDaniel, the Harford farmer, would not object much to that.

"Livestock is our product," he said. "If we lose a calf from a coyote, that cow only produces one calf per year, so you lose your whole product for a year's work."

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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