The Pennsylvania Coyote Conspiracy
by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, Warren, PA., October 15, 2005.)
"Insurance companies transplanted coyotes so that they'd kill off the deer to save money on claims for deer collisions." "The timber industry stocked coyotes to prey on deer and boost timber regeneration by keeping them from eating tree seedlings." "The Pennsylvania Game Commission was bought and paid for by insurance companies and timber companies to stock coyotes, and for as long as it could the PGC even denied the existence of coyotes in Pennsylvania."
Why did the Pennsylvania Game Commission
deny the existence of coyotes in Pennsylvania?
It didn't. The Commission actually publicized
their presence -- several times since 1940.
These are the allegations. They were based initially on one coyote with a tag in its ear and an assumption that it had been stocked. A deer hunter in Greene County in southwestern Pennsylvania shot it in the late 1980's. Since then, hearsay tells of people seeing coyotes being released in the middle of the night from a truck with a license plate from Wyoming or some other western state. The witness is always someone's cousin's wife's co-worker's brother-in-law, or some such unidentifiable person.
Although it is true that a tagged coyote was killed in Green County, the big problem with claims that coyotes were stocked is that there is no evidence of it. Those who believe and spread these rumors will say it's all about money.
But the rumors aren't true, because it would have been a colossal waste of money. If anyone spent money to bring coyotes to Pennsylvania, they would have been spending money to do something that didn't need done. Coyotes were already here.
A decade before the Greene County incident, coyotes were showing up in Warren County, in Akeley. One farmer I know had an episode involving two coyotes and a calf, and a friend killed one while deer hunting. So, if a tagged coyote in southwestern Pennsylvania is evidence that they were stocked in the late 80's, how did they get in northwestern Pennsylvania in the late 70's?
In 1976, a 42-pound coyote was killed by a vehicle on Route 119 in Westmoreland County. It was photographed with a Wildlife Conservation Officer holding it, then analyzed at Penn State and determined to be an eastern coyote.
In 1963, the Pennsylvania Game News carried a story titled "Coyotes at the Edge of Philadelphia," written by Joseph Lippincott of the J. B. Lippincott Publishing Company. Lippincott was well experienced with western coyotes, and saw his first Pennsylvania coyote in the winter of 1960.
In March 1941, the Pennsylvania Game News published pictures of coyotes killed in Venango County in January of that year.
Why did the Pennsylvania Game Commission deny the existence of coyotes in Pennsylvania? It didn't. If any individual PCG employee did, it might have been merely an expression of doubt. Or he may not have been well informed. But obviously, the Commission itself actually publicized their presence -- several times. How could it deny something it publicized repeatedly over the course of almost 50 years leading up to the tagged Green County coyote? Why would it secretly conspire to plant coyotes in the state in the 1980's, when they had been here at least from the 1940's?
"What about that tagged coyote?" you might ask. It is a giant leap to assume an ear tag is evidence of stocking. What it shows is only that the PGC is studying wildlife populations, because one of the principle tools in studying animals is to trap and mark individuals after recording age, weight, health, and other data.
Conspiracies are fun, and they thrive wherever mystery lurks. But the evidence plainly shows that coyotes were here long before anyone came up with a conspiracy theory about stocking coyotes, or anyone claimed to have seen a truck with western plates letting a bunch of coyotes loose under cover of darkness. If insurance companies, timber companies, the PGC, or anyone else spent even one dollar to stock coyotes in Pennsylvania, it was a wasted dollar.
So, if anyone tells you that there was a conspiracy, you can tell them coyotes didn't need anyone's help to establish themselves here in Penn's Woods. They have been here for a long time. I have a pretty good idea how they got here, but that is the subject for another column.