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Free Lance-Star reporter Chelyen Davis covers Virginia government.

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No coyote hunting on Sundays, says Va Senate

The state Senate has shot down a bill that would have let people hunt coyotes — and only coyotes — on Sunday.

Originally Sen. Tom Garrett’s bill covered a variety of “nuisance” species — crows, feral swine, grackles, etc.

But those other animals had been spared from Sunday predation by a committee amendment last week, leaving coyotes as the lone target — as it were — of the bill.

Garrett, R-Louisa, said he brought the bill because coyotes have become an expensive nuisance — farmers lose sheep, people lose pets, and at least eighteen localities have paid out coyote bounties of up to $75 per animal.

Allowing more time to hunt coyotes, he said, would help control a predator that’s not even native to Virginia.

“This bill is not a Sunday hunting bill, this bill is not a foot in the door, this bill is not a camel’s nose under the tent,” Garrett said.

But other rural lawmakers said it was all of those things, and if there’s one thing senators from rural regions don’t like, it’s Sunday hunting.

“This is a Sunday hunting bill. The bill would specifically authorize the hunting and killing of coyotes on Sunday,” said Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta.

He said it’s usually urban lawmakers proposing opening up hunting on Sundays.

“By and large it’s the rural folks … who want to reserve Sunday as a day they don’t have to be concerned about arms being handled, bullets flying around, when they’re living there doing things on Sunday,” Hanger said.

Hanger said he has never actually killed a coyote, despite them being “all around my house” and having once attempted to run one over with his car.

Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, said the coyote is not native to Virginia — the first one was spotted in 1980 in Burke’s Garden in Tazewell County.

But they’re such “prolific breeders,” Deeds said, that to effectively control their population you’d have to kill half of them each year.

The bill, Deeds said, “is absolutely unnecessary, unless you’re interested in opening the window to Sunday hunting in Virginia.”

Like Hanger, Deeds said a vote against the bill was a vote for rural peace and quiet once a week.

“We want to reserve Sundays to do other things,” Deeds said. “We want to be able to go outside to do things without worrying about getting shot.”

Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Stafford, said coyotes are nocturnal animals that should be hunted at night, making it pointless to allow hunting them on Sunday.

“This is a terrible imposition on rural Virginia,” Stuart said.

Garrett defended his own rural bonafides, pointing out that he hails from the Bumpass area.

But his bill failed on a 13-26 vote.

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