Pulse: Affairs: Wile E. Insurers

In their zeal for profits, could auto insurance companies have resorted to ... coyotes?

Are Pennsylvania car insurance companies, hurt by claims from deer collisions, trucking in out-of-state coyotes — those fearsome Bambi predators — and letting them loose to chow down on our oversize herds? It’s a solution that’s beautiful in its simplicity, but it has the state’s 800,000 deer hunters frothing. Jerry Feaser of the state game commission reports that outraged hunters are dialing up their car insurers and canceling policies. He also says there’s absolutely no truth to the coyote tale: “It’s just one of those urban myths. Or a rural myth, I guess.”

Feaser traces the rumor to southwestern PA, where one farmer’s livestock were being savaged by coyotes. Game officers caught, ear-tagged and trace-collared a sample on the farm so they could track it to its den. But the collar — they’re breakaway, and biodegradable — got lost. When a hunter shot the coyote and found only the mysterious tag, the whispers began.

Feaser says hunters should know the story’s bogus, seeing as there are more than a million deer in the state, and 30,000 coyotes. “You’d have to introduce a heck of a lot more for them to have an impact,” he says. He notes that coyotes don’t go for trophy bucks, preferring to pick off sick or injured deer: “It’s like they say — you don’t have to outrun the bear; you only have to outrun your friend.”

And why, asks Feaser, would an insurance company risk breaking multiple state laws to truck in coyotes? “They don’t need coyotes. They just raise their rates. That’s what they always do.”