Coyotes are found throughout Virginia, including in urban and suburban areas. Highly intelligent, strong and effective predators, the coyote population in the state is growing at an explosive rate. In fact, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources stated “Coyote populations have exploded and completely spread across the entire state over the past two decades.”
How Many Coyotes are in Virginia?
It is difficult to accurately estimate the population, particularly as they are a nocturnal species. However, a recent study on the coyote population by Virginia Tech utilizing harvest numbers, which are a significant part of estimating wildlife populations, estimated the populations to be a minimum of 50,000 coyotes in Virginia.
Too many of any species - particularly predators - can wreck the entire ecosystem. Sound scientific wildlife management is critical to conservation and sustainability of a species. In a brief on wildlife sustainability, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies explained, “When well-regulated, the use of abundant wildlife is sustainable and ecologically sound. Using wildlife sustainably not only ensures that future generations will continue to benefit from these resources, but also that wildlife populations will remain in balance with the environment.”
Depredations, or attacks, on other wildlife such as deer have increased dramatically over the last two decades in Virginia and hunters are seeing it first-hand. A 2015 survey by the Virginia Deer Hunters Association showed 86% of Virginia deer hunters believed the ever-increasing number of coyotes had made a significant and negative impact on deer herds.
Are Coyote Hunts Really Necessary?
The short answer is yes. Coyotes have high reproductive rates, so high in fact that a population can recover from high mortality rates in one season. As a result, management of coyotes is not only necessary but an on-going effort in order to ensure the population does not increase so much that coyotes are literally living among us - not just in rural areas of the state.
If that sounds extreme, it’s not. Coyotes are some of the most adaptable wildlife in Virginia. According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, coyotes “can live in any environment in Virginia, including some of the most densely populated urban areas in the United States. This includes living among the 1.1 million human residents of Fairfax County. Not only do they survive, they thrive.”
Wildlife management is a serious issue that must be done lawfully in order to ensure all species can thrive. Coyote competitions aren’t a game for the sake of it, they are an important part of responsible wildlife management in Virginia.