Coyotes a growing concern for officials and residents

The Nye County Commissioners addressed the issue of aggressive coyotes in the community during their board meeting April 21 as complaints from area residents are on the rise.

The coyotes have been spotted in all areas of the community as they forage for food and water.

Commissioners discussed whether to enter into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Wildlife Services with the hopes of trapping, and ultimately exterminating the animals.

Cost for the service would have amounted to $7,500, but no action was taken by commissioners as some on the board wanted to find an alternative option to deal with the issue.

If passed, the money would have come from the Town of Pahrump’s general fund.

During discussions, Town Finance Director Michael Sullivan appeared troubled with the amount of money needed to address the coyote problem.

“Twenty percent of the contract is overhead so now we’re down to about five or six thousand dollars,” he said. “I think this is a very expensive solution looking for a need. I don’t see the need. It’s really a population control issue that you are not going to do for six thousand dollars.”

Additional alternatives were the use of bounty hunters who could get paid by the amount of coyotes culled.

Coyotes are an unprotected species in Nevada, where they can be hunted by both residents and non-residents without a hunting license, but special regulations may exist by county, regarding the use of firearms to kill the animals.

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said local residents may only use a firearm if a coyote is perceived to be an immediate threat at the time.

“If your property is being threatened, you have the right to protect that property from the animal, whether it’s a dog, coyote, bobcat or mountain lion,” she said. “You can’t just arbitrarily go out and shoot something because it’s on the other side of your fence. It actually has to be causing a problem.”

One resident who’s had recent encounters with coyotes is Nye County Animal Control Officer Susan Ryhall, who told county commissioners the menacing encounter occurred when she was off-duty at home.

“I had five coyotes trying to attack my horse,” Ryhall said. “They killed all of my chickens and three of the coyotes proceeded to try to take a chicken that I had in my arms.” Of course I had to fight these animals and they were not afraid of me. It was only when I hit one of them hard enough to hurt it, did they actually leave.”

Ryhall also spoke about the aggressiveness the coyotes displayed during the recent confrontation.

“I picked up the only chicken that was left alive and I tried to get them to leave my horse alone,” she said. “When they left the horse, they turned their attention on me. My dogs are penned separately from my livestock, so they were of no use, other than letting me know something was going on outside my home.”

County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen authored the agenda item after hearing the concerns of local residents about the coyotes roaming through neighborhoods.

Schinhofen also said he too has had negative encounters with coyotes right in his neighborhood on the south end of town.

“Down where I’m at on Homestead, there’s quite a few,” he said. “Every night around midnight I can hear them outside howling. I wait for my grandchildren’s school bus at a corner and one afternoon, just five minutes before the school bus got there, a coyote was wandering in that field. I think something needs to be done.”

The commissioner said he’s also heard from local residents who say they don’t believe the coyotes pose a threat to them, but rather perform a valuable role within the desert ecosystem.

“I had a few people telling me that this is ridiculous and there’s no problem,” he said. “Who is going to keep the rabbits down? My answer to that is, rabbits don’t take down horses or threaten children. I’ll deal with the rabbits.”

Nye County Emergency Services Director Vance Payne said aside from the normal volume of day-to-day calls each month, as of late, his office too, is receiving more coyote-related calls than usual.

“Animal control receives about 5,000 calls a month, and we generally receive five or more calls a week over coyote issues,” Payne said. “The interface between the desert and the town is on a lot of different levels, so there’s going to be a lot of interaction.”

Local resident Eddie Jim, during public comment, appeared to strike a sympathetic tone regarding the coyotes in the valley.

“I’ve been here over 50 years and never really had a coyote problem in this community,” he said. “But once the streams dry out, they come here looking for water. To pick on the coyote is uncalled for. You have to put up the appropriate fence if you don’t want them. It’s a part of life out here. You didn’t have to move here if you didn’t like coyotes.”

Payne said pets and other domesticated animals are far more likely to fall prey to coyotes than a people.

“To date, I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody physically bitten by a coyote,” he said. “However, that being said, it is not abnormal at all for small pets in particular being victimized by the coyotes either by killing them and leaving them, or more frequently, killing them and taking them away.”

We live in the desert and the desert is all around us and we’re going to have this.” he said.

Commissioners ultimately decided to take up the issue again at an upcoming commission meeting.