HARRISBURG - The state House on Wednesday passed a bill authorizing the Pennsylvania Game Commission to set a bounty on coyotes.

The bill, approved by a vote of 111-78, would establish a "coyote incentive program" by offering $25 for coyotes killed in the commonwealth. It's the first such bounty offered on a wild animal in 50 years.

Bill sponsor Rep. Michael Peifer (R., Pike), said anecdotal evidence in Northeastern Pennsylvania suggests a rise in population and nuisance complaints. There is already an open season on coyotes with more than 41,000 killed by hunters last year, an increase of 15 percent over the previous decade.

The Game Commission, which did not take a position on the bill, said coyotes live in all 67 counties.

As coyotes have moved into suburban and even urban areas, complaints and confirmed cases of pets and livestock killed by coyotes has fluctuated. Statewide, complaints ranged from a low of 304 in 2001 to a high of 603 in 2004. Most of the complaints are related to a general fear of the animals, not because of a particular threat, the Game Commission reported.

The number of confirmed cases of pets and livestock killed by coyotes in the last decade went from a low of 114 in 2001 to a high of 247 in 2008, according to Game Commission statistics. There were 213 recorded cases of coyotes killing pets and livestock in 2012. Most were poultry.

Opponent of the measure say mass killings could cause numbers to spike as the animals would breed younger and produce larger litters to fill the void and that the bounty would pose an increased risk to unleashed dogs and outdoor cats that could be mistaken for coyotes.

The bill goes to the Senate for consideration.

- Amy Worden