PUNXSUTAWNEY — A descendent from a long line of family hunters and former Punxsutawney resident, Richard "Dick" Lingenfelter of Haines City, Fla., has found coyotes to be an unending public annoyance.
For Lingenfelter, hunting was a lifestyle as well as a family tradition.
His late grandfather, Hillis Lingenfelter, was a former fur buyer. However, after his grandfather passed away, the family business of fur trade was conveyed to his uncle, Frank Lingenfelter, who continued buying furs, as well as becoming a bounty hunter.
That meant that he not only could continue to hunt predatory wild animals, but he could collect a bounty for the animals that he killed.
"I have never seen a coyote in Pennsylvania," Richard Lingenfelter said. "I have heard that they are there, but I personally have never seen one."
However, after living in Florida for 25 years, he has found that the coyote population in the South is not just plentiful, but proves to be a tremendous nuisance.
The coyote, a member of the dog family, is non-native to Florida but was discovered in the northwest part of the Sunshine State in the 1970s. Today, coyotes are overpopulating the entire state.
Florida coyotes can weigh anywhere from 24 to 37 pounds, although Lingenfelter said he previously bagged a 44-pound coyote. He said coyotes are much bigger in Florida than out West, due to the over-abundance of food they can find.
Lingenfelter said in the Western states when hunting the species, many calls — usually a sound depicting a squealing rabbit — are used to bring the coyote into range. However, in Florida, coyote calls are mostly obsolete, since the animal is never scrounging for food.
To help with the overpopulation of coyotes in Florida, hunting for this species is never out of season.
"If they (coyotes) are on your property at any time, they belong to you and you can kill them," Lingenfelter said.
However, indiscriminate killing of coyotes is unlikely, as they can withstand 70 percent of the annual kill.
"Coyotes are survivors," Lingenfelter said.
Being a citrus farmer, and owner of Lingenfelter Groves, Lingenfelter knows first-hand that coyotes are a threat to crops, and will eat the fruit right off the tree.
"They will eat anything," he said.
Further, as the coyote species are a threat to crops, they are also a major threat to farm animals, as well as household pets.
"I can't keep a cat around my house due to the coyotes killing them, and my lab dog has scratches, scars and holes on its face due to coyotes trying to kill it," Lingenfelter said.
The coyote is even malicious to a domestic dog, as it will kill the males and breed the females.
To add to the aggravation, many hunters in Florida who enjoy wild hog hunting are in constant worry when hunting with their pit bulls, as many times coyotes often kill the dogs while hunting. In addition, coyotes do not endanger people.
Considering that Lingenfelter lives in the middle of his grove, he is in constant protection of his oranges, and he always carries a rifle. Nonetheless, the coyote is a nocturnal animal, mostly spotted at night.
"Coyotes are much smarter than deer and turkeys, so you have to be careful at night with the light if you want to shoot one, because they often run when shined, as a deer would just stand and stare," he said.
Lingenfelter said he has bagged 33 coyotes, including two extremely rare black ones.
"The only two black ones that I have seen, I have got," he said.
The game commission suggests building fences to trap coyotes, but Lingenfelter said this idea won't work, as the coyote is too smart.
"A buddy of mine tried to trap a coyote by putting a live chicken in the trap,” he said. "I told him that if that worked, I would eat it. I have not had to eat one yet."