Some states have been calling for a ban of coyote hunting contests, but legislators elsewhere are headed in the opposite direction. The coyote population in states such as West Virginia and Utah has grown so out of control, it is now threatening farm animals, pets and wild game alike. In an effort to stop coyote depredation, agriculture and wildlife agencies in some states have issued “bounties” for hunting the animals.
In West Virginia, Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick and his department is thinking up new ways to motivate local hunters. According to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, the population of the state’s coyotes has grown far beyond what government agencies can handle.
“We spend a significant amount of money on predator control,” Helmick said. “About half-a-million dollars. The feds helped us out a few years ago but aren’t doing anything at all now. We’ve lost the federal support.”
Helmick and West Virginia Divions of Natural Resources is turning to hunters to help solve the problem, but not without an incentive. A number of coyotes have been trapped by conservation officers and released with an identifying number on their ears. The hunters who can bring in one of these animals can expect a monetary prize of anywhere from $100 to $1000. Without knowing which coyotes are tagged and which aren’t, Helmick is hoping participants will bring in multiple animals and help keep the population at a manageable level.
Although the bounty has not been approved yet, state officials are hammering out the specifics of the incentive. The commissioner says the project came about as a result of concerns for the state’s sheep industry.
“For the rebirth or growth of the sheep industry, it would be almost impossible with the amount of coyotes we now have on the loose,” he said.
Utah is on the same page, but with broader and simpler rules for its coyote hunt. According to ksl.com, the state will reward hunters $50 for every coyote taken, all a participant has to do is fill out an online form and provide proper documentation for the hunt. Funds for Utah’s Predator Control Program will be paid out of the Mule Deer Protection Act, which was passed in 2012. Coyote are known to prey on young deer and have been causing a decrease in the mule deer population.
These programs have garnered wide support from both hunters and ranchers, but are opposed by coyote protection groups such as Project Coyote. Protection groups believe that management hunts are devastating the species while not visibly benefiting other wildlife.
The increased attention has also caused coyotes to be more aware of the danger.
“The coyotes are a lot smarter this year,” said hunter Scott Foulger. “They’re getting a lot of pressure from trappers and hunters. They’re harder to hunt.”
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service