Animal group: Use coyotes to solve deer problem

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. - October 19, 2010

An animal rights group has this idea: let coyotes, not sharpshooters, take care of the over-population.

About 1,300 deer inhabit the Valley Forge National Park, and there is a plan to bring in sharpshooters to reduce the population by 500.

"The habitat for almost every other bird and animal is being eaten by the deer," said Barbara Pollarine, the Acting Superintendent of the park.

Barring a court injunction, the shoots could start as early as November.

Matt McLaughlin is the director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of 'Friends of Animals.' He favors using coyotes to naturally check the deer herd.

It's an idea that's part of a lawsuit designed to stop the deer hunt.

Two or three coyotes are spotted in Valley Forge each year. McLaughlin says, if coyotes aren't hunted elsewhere in Pennsylvania, their numbers would increase and they'd prey on deer.

McLaughlin adds: the coyotes aren't a danger to people.

"They are naturally timid animals. In Chicago, which was the site of the largest coyote study ever done, there were no attacks on human beings by coyotes," McLaughlin said.

An animal expert says coyotes favor small game like rabbits and rodents, not deer.

Meanwhile, some people fear that allowing the coyote population to grow will just substitute one problem for another.

"We don't know that they would be active in reducing the herd or choose them as their prey," said Pollarine.

Most people agree something needs to be done to reduce the deer population in Valley Forge, and there is no shortage of suggestions.

"Trap the deer and bring them up to the Poconos, because I hunt in the Poconos," said John Wisienski of Limerick, Pa. "I think there is a very large decline in the deer in the Poconos."

Another expert who spoke to Action News said the coyote suggestion may just be a stall tactic to delay the sharpshooters from taking aim at the deer.

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