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Friday, April 9, 2010

Coyotes Spotted in Chesterfield County

What was once a species confined to the western part of the nation has now been spotted in Chesterfield County. The Chesterfield Observer published this story earlier this week that states coyotes are now in every county of the Commonwealth.

According to Mike Fies, wildlife research biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF), people reported sightings of coyotes in Virginia as early as the 1950s. Those initial sightings were probably animals that were transported into the state as pets.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the population of coyotes expanded northward from the southeastern states and became established in Southwest Virginia. Then in the early 1980s, a population from the northern tier states and Canada ventured southward and arrived in Northern Virginia.

“They are found in every county in the state,” says Fies.

A friend in rural Amelia County told me a couple of years ago that coyotes had moved into the area and it was thought that the reduced fawn sitings that year were directly attributed to the presence of coyotes.

Predators that have no natural enemies (other than man) in the area can wreak havoc on wildlife populations like whitetail deer.

An absence of large predators was like a welcome mat for coyotes.

“A niche was left for them. The wolf was extirpated and the same for the mountain lion,” says Fies. “There’s no top predator, and the habitat here in Virginia is good for them. There’s plenty of food, and they are extremely adaptable animals that can tolerate humans well, and there’s nothing really to stop them.”
There is a continuous open season on coyotes on private land. Coyote hunting in National Forest Lands and Game Department Lands is permitted from September 1-March 10 and during the spring turkey season and spring squirrel season on certain areas (see area listings for spring squirrel season). Counties have the option of establishing their own coyote bounty system but Coyote bounties are not administered by DGIF. For more information, hunters and trappers should contact their County Administrator or County Board of Supervisors.

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