Wednesday, February 27, 2013
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Franklin County investment broker/adviser finds peace stalking coyotes (with photo gallery)

Andrew Schenker offers his services as a coyote hunter, stalking the animals that menace livestock, pets and native species.

Andrew Schenker waits during a recent coyote hunt in Franklin County.

Photos by Kyle Green | The Roanoke Times

Andrew Schenker waits during a recent coyote hunt in Franklin County.

Andrew Schenker, who offers his coyote hunting services on Craigslist, has been averaging two to three calls per week since placing ads on Craigslist in early January.

Andrew Schenker, who offers his coyote hunting services on Craigslist, has been averaging two to three calls per week since placing ads on Craigslist in early January.

Andrew Schenker waits during a recent coyote hunt on 50 acres of land in Franklin County. Schenker is an investment adviser who offers his coyote hunting services on Craigslist.

Andrew Schenker waits during a recent coyote hunt on 50 acres of land in Franklin County. Schenker is an investment adviser who offers his coyote hunting services on Craigslist.

Photo gallery

One call mimicked the cry of an aggrieved cottontail.

Another sounded like a coyote pup in distress.

And a third barked a challenge to any "Canis latrans" rivals nearby.

Across private property of about 50 acres in Franklin County, coyote tracks mixed with deer and turkey tracks on makeshift roads recently turned from dirt to mud and then frozen hard enough to crunch underfoot. Hair and bits of bone dominated a scat.

Andrew Schenker, 27, rested the barrel of his .22-250 rifle in a shooting stick and attempted for about 90 minutes to coax a coyote within range of a clear shot. One appeared for a fraction of a second before zipping back into the scrub.

There are reasons people call coyotes wily.

The animal's adept survival skills helped lure Schenker out Feb. 18 on a frigid morning during what was a holiday for the investment adviser.

"The waterfowl hunting is tough, and deer can be a challenge, but this offers a whole different dimension," he said.

Including more opportunities to be in the meadows and woods.

"The cellphone isn't ringing. No one is knocking on your door," Schenker said. "It's just peace and quiet."

In Virginia, coyotes are considered a nuisance species. They can be hunted year round and on every day but Sunday. Some localities, including Franklin County, pay a bounty for a dead one.

Franklin County pays $25 per carcass. For the current fiscal year, the board of supervisors appropriated $2,500 to fund the program.

Leland Mitchell, Snow Creek District supervisor, said he believes the bounty is a good idea. Mitchell raises beef cattle, and he said evidence suggests that coyotes have killed at least three of his calves through the years.

He said a friend who hunts coyotes recently killed three in the vicinity of his farm. And Mitchell said he and a nephew have killed a total of four in shots from his home's deck. He said he has not turned in carcasses for bounties.

Mitchell said he knows that hunting the eminently adaptable coyotes will not eliminate them altogether. A fact sheet from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries suggests that hunting or trapping coyotes has little effect: "Unlike most wildlife populations, the reproductive potential of coyotes is such that harvesting coyotes for recreation or fur pelts or other economic incentive will not generally have any impact on limiting or even reducing the abundance of the coyote population."

Yet Schenker has learned that people worried about small pets or livestock can be eager to have coyotes hunted on their property. The fact sheet about coyotes, a non-native species in Virginia, warns that it "poses a real risk to small, free-roaming dogs and cats."

Mike Fies, a DGIF wildlife research biologist, said there is no way to accurately tally coyote numbers in Virginia. He said he has cited a conservative estimate of about 50,000 animals statewide. The population continues to grow, he said, especially in the state's eastern reaches.

Fies said it is difficult to quantify whether coyotes are having a significant effect on other wildlife species in Virginia.

"Coyotes certainly do eat deer," he said. "They eat fawns."

He said the animals might be pushing red foxes out of their habitat into more urban areas. Coyotes might actually benefit wild turkey populations, he said, by preying on raccoons, possums and other nest raiders.

In January, Schenker posted on Craigslist that he "will hunt and clear out any coyotes that are causing problems for free." He said he fielded two or three calls a week for a while after the notice ran. Most callers were worried about the safety of pets, he said, though the people who contacted him included two farmers.

Schenker and his wife, Dana, live near Boones Mill. The land he hunted Feb. 18 belongs to his father-in-law and uncle-in-law. He recently received a landowner's permission to hunt about 65 additional acres in the county.

Schenker was born in New Jersey, where his grandfather Thomas Cherry taught him to hunt. Schenker's family moved to Franklin County when he was 7 years old. For a time, his mother, Ellen, and father, Ron, owned and operated the Seasons Home Accessories store in Westlake Corner.

But on Nov. 2, 2001, a Franklin County man released from jail that day after serving time for driving under the influence slammed his pickup truck head-on into Ellen's car. She died of her injuries. Ron was left to raise Andrew and his two younger brothers, Bryan and Tommy.

Andrew graduated from Franklin County High School and James Madison University. Bryan and Tommy live now in the region of Lake Tahoe. Schenker said he misses his brothers. He frequently hunts now with friend Timmy Martin of Franklin County.

Schenker said he has hunted coyotes for about two years and has killed a total of 14 or 15. He has turned in carcasses for the bounty but said money has not motivated his hunting.

He said he enjoys the challenge and believes thinning the animal's numbers could benefit landowners.

On Feb. 18, clad in camouflage, crouched waiting on frozen ground and lit by a feeble sun, he spoke in a low voice.

"My wife thinks I'm crazy," he said, smiling.

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