The eastern coyote’s origin has been a topic of debate for some time. Some folks actually believe the agency has stocked coyotes in recent years to reduce deer numbers. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Coyotes have been documented in Pennsylvania since the late 1930s and ’40s. How they got here, or whether they were here all along, is the missing link to the coyote story. Some biologists believe coyotes have always been a part of Pennsylvania’s wildlife community. Others believe western coyotes migrated north into Canada, bred with gray wolves and the resulting hybrid moved south into New England and New York and, eventually, Pennsylvania. Another possibility is that coyotes held in captivity escaped or were set free.
Game Commission stocking stories began in the late ’80s after a coyote pup ear-tagged by a wildlife conservation officer was shot by a deer hunter. The pup, which was fitted with a telemetry collar and bobcat ear tag (#0026), was trapped on a Greene County farm where coyotes were killing sheep. It was hoped the pup would lead the officer to its den. Within days, however, the young coyote couldn’t be located with radio gear; it apparently had shaken its telemetry collar. The coyote, minus its collar, was shot a few months later. Stories began to spread that it bore a ear tag from a western state, and that at least 25 other coyotes had been released, given the tag’s number.
The rumors continue. The Game Commission has never released out-of-state coyotes, or trapped and transferred coyotes, and won’t in the future.
We have, however, trapped, tagged and released Pennsylvania coyotes for research purposes in recent years. We’ve also liberalized hunting seasons. Coyotes can be hunted year-round with few exceptions and there are no bag limits. Our coyote population can handle this pressure because it’s underutilized and very resilient.