Southampton board favors using rifles to hunt coyotes

Published 11:54 am Friday, May 25, 2012

COURTLAND—A majority of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors favors allowing the use of higher-caliber rifles to hunt coyotes.

“If the farmer needs to get rid of them, and if it takes a rifle, that’s what they need to do,” said Supervisor Chairman Dallas Jones, who represents the Drewryville District. “I don’t have any problem with it.”

Supervisors at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, will hold a public hearing on the matter at the County Government Center in Courtland.

Capron District Supervisor Bruce Phillips, Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronnie West and Jerusalem District Supervisor Dr. Alan Edwards told The Tidewater News they favor using rifles to hunt coyotes. Faison could not be reached, but he introduced the proposal in March along with Phillips.

Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike and Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter are undecided.

The county code makes it illegal to hunt anything with a rifle larger than a .22 caliber, except for groundhogs between March 1 and Aug. 31. The county code also prohibits muzzleloader rifles or muzzleloader shotguns loaded with slugs. Shotguns are allowed.

Phillips and Faison have indicated that residents who hunt coyotes have asked about using larger-caliber rifles. They claim the coyotes are becoming more of a problem and shooters being limited to a .22 caliber make the animals tougher to hunt.

They suggested the county law be changed to allow for rifles for groundhogs and coyotes outside the general firearms deer season. They believe this will give landowners control over a nuisance while keeping rifles out of the woods when people are deer hunting.

Southampton County is among six Virginia localities that do not allow hunting with rifles. Others are Isle of Wight, Goochland, New Kent and Prince William counties and Virginia Beach.

Edwards believes the proposal is reasonable.

“The code is very ambiguous and it’s a reasonable solution,” he said. “I think the code is very old.”

Phillips is waiting to hear from the public, yet favors the change. If approved, it would not go into effect until 2013 because the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also would need to OK it during its annual meeting in May, he said.

West supports hunting coyotes with rifles because “they are at the top of the predator system.”

“They really pose a threat to out livestock, lambs, sheep and small dogs,” he said. “The threat is there and I want to see it go away.”

Porter and Updike said they have been consumed in preparing the county budget, which will be voted on the same night as the hearing.

“I’m still working that out,” Porter said. “The last week my mind has been focused on the budget.”

He said he understands the problem with coyotes and realizes there are people who have problems with high-caliber rifles.

“I think we owe it to listen to the public,” Porter said.

Updike’s concern is for safety and economics.

“They can destroy livestock, dogs, puppies and cats,” he said.

“I gotta do some digging and review the safety issues.”