September 24, 2020

Do Bounty Programs For Coyote Work?

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There are many areas of the United States that are overrun with coyote. Coyote predation on livestock alone costs millions of dollars in losses. Many big game hunters loathe the coyote because they blame them for species reduction due to predation. In Maine for example, we know that coyote will kill fawns in the spring and will prey on deer in winter deer yards. The debate involves how much of an impact this has. Some believe coyotes are responsible for the reduction of deer numbers in northern Maine more than Maine’s wildlife biologists do.

Of course we have to look at the entire picture to get a grasp on what affect the coyote population has on deer numbers for example. This is the general tendency by biologists in dealing with coyote and attempting to work out a management plan. But like with any management plan, there are always exceptions that are local and regional and makes skeptics out of those having a hard time believing a plan is working.

For those looking at ways of reducing the coyote population, what are your options? Not many really and depending on who you talk to, anything you might do is going to have little if any affect on the varmints. Unless all out war is declared bringing in ample numbers of coyote hunters and trappers over a long period of time, I think I might tend to agree with that assessment.

One aspect discussed over many cups of coffee is a bounty program. Keeping in mind what I just talked about as far as what would have an affect on the host of varmints, we need to ask a couple of questions. Who is going to fund a bounty program and where will the money come from and how big a bounty is big enough that will entice enough hunters and trappers to make it an effective program?

I don’t pretend to have the answers and can probably only create more questions. Funding would be dependent upon who and how many people are affected by coyotes. In other words, if enough livestock owners, landowners, pet owners and those who fear coyotes may attack them (not that unusual), then some kind of general public funding could take place. One thing you can be sure of, hunters are not willing to pay more money in license fees to contribute to a bounty program, especially for a coyote.

How much is a big enough bounty? In Virginia, Augusta County began a bounty program in an attempt to do something about an overgrown coyote population.

More than 100 people participated in the county’s first full year of its coyote control program, collecting a total of $16,425 in bounties.

Augusta County initiated the bounty in the fall of 2005. Hunters and landowners are paid $75 for each dead coyote from January until April 1 and $50 the rest of the year.

This resulted in the killing of 256 varmints but there are always the skeptics.

While county officials are pleased with the response, biologists are not convinced of the effectiveness of the program.

Bounty programs typically kill off about 1 percent of the population each year, far less then the 60 to 70 percent required to keep numbers down significantly, said Mike Fies, wildlife research biologist at the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Verona. Virginia has an estimated 25,000 coyotes.

Unless the price anyone can get from the sale of the pelts shoots through the roof and a return of more effective ways to trap coyotes, I think we are all going to have to put up with the things. If populations get to the point where the animals get hungry and diseased, you’ll hear more outcries from the general public. Then perhaps some very attractive bounty programs could be enacted funded by tax dollars or by some other creative means.

Tom Remington

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