Last winter, Barbara Sherman noticed she was losing farm cats by the dozens.

The Hopewell Township woman kept the animals on her Plank Road farm to help keep rodents at bay, but as the colder months crept over the county, Sherman noticed several cats were missing, and a couple were injured.

She couldn't figure out what might be causing her cats to disappear.

Until she saw a coyote.

The animal, about the size of a dog, was wandering along the border of her property several weeks ago, she said.

It confirmed the fears she had suspected after several friends and neighbors said they also had spotted the animals at different times.

"I want (the coyotes) dead," Sherman said through tears Thursday. "Anyone who has pets knows how important they are. I can't imagine how they suffered."

Sherman called Officer Shawn Musser with the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Southcentral Regional Office.

"I wasn't surprised when I heard she had coyotes on her property," Musser said.

The animals are in every county throughout Pennsylvania, he said.

Because the coyotes are a nuisance to Sherman, Musser said he allowed a nuisance wildlife trapper to trap for the animals, but it hasn't been successful.

The trapper, Wayne Gemmill, of Stewartstown, said he set the traps on June 9, and removed them nine days later.

"Nothing bothered them," he said. "That tells me the coyote hasn't been in that area."

Gemmill, 57, who said he's been trapping animals for years for their fur and as population control, said he trapped several coyotes at a farm near Sherman's about two years ago.

He figures there's a den maybe two or three miles away, possibly in a field, because coyotes like to be able to see all around them.

Gemmill said his traps do not harm coyotes, they simply detain them. The traps are buried in the ground and a lure -- usually bits of rotten animal -- is applied to draw them in. He factors in the animals' travel routes and wind directions in deciding where to place the traps.

Sherman said the traps were taken down until the fall, when the coyotes are more likely to return.

"I told her I'd come back the first week of November and see how it goes then," he said.

The fact that no coyotes were caught didn't surprise Musser; the animals are transient by nature.

"Coyotes don't always stay in one area," Musser said.

In fact, a coyote's home range spans about 20 to 25 miles, and it might take weeks until they return to the area, he said.

Musser said he hasn't been out to Sherman's property to check for evidence of coyotes. He also hasn't heard of any other problems in the area.

Sherman said she was told the kitty litter she throws in her fields probably attracted the animals.

"I spend more than $2,000 a year on cat food alone," she said. "The last thing I want is to lose my animals. Other people should know they need to protect their pets."

About eastern coyotes

The coyote population is about 20,000 in Pennsylvania.

Eastern coyotes average 30 to 50 pounds, with males being larger than females.

Although population varies, coyotes are considered abundant and becoming less wary of people.

They eat mostly deer, rabbits and small mammals.

Legal trapping of coyotes is between October and February.

--Source: Pennsylvania Game Commission Bureau of Information and Education