Posted on Thu, Feb. 10, 2005

State, county officials disagree on whether coyote bounty works

Associated Press

Chuck Haus says a bounty hunt for coyotes in southeastern North Dakota has been a success after just two weeks. State officials say the long-term outlook, based on years of study, shows differently.

Haus and his group, the Richland County Wildlife Club, recently said they exhausted a $2,100 bounty fund in two weeks when hunters turned in 84 coyotes and collected $25 for each.

"We had an overwhelming response," said Haus, of rural Hankinson. "It sounds like other clubs around the state are thinking about doing the same thing."

Bounties once were a popular tool for states to control predator populations. In North Dakota, the state paid $2.2 million in bounties between 1898 and 1961 for coyotes, wolves and red fox.

The bounties were discontinued when the state determined they had no impact on predator numbers, said Randy Kreil, the wildlife division chief for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

"Bounties are a great way to spend a lot of money and not reduce the predator population," Kreil said.

Haus said Richland County sportsmen felt a bounty was necessary because the coyote population has grown in recent years and the predators are raising havoc with the area's deer and pheasants.

"We felt like we had to do something to make it an issue, that this is a problem," Haus said. "We've had calls from all over the state wondering what we're doing. Some people have actually driven here to hunt them."

The Richland County Wildlife Club is planning to offer a bounty on coyotes again next year, Haus said.

"We know bounties don't work," Kreil said. "That's why the state hasn't supported bounties in decades."

Kreil lists a number of biological reasons why bounties fail to reduce coyote numbers. Topping the list is the fact that female coyotes will have larger litters if there is a significant decrease in the population, he said.

Kreil said the Game and Fish Department once looked into reducing the coyote population in the North Dakota's Badlands in hopes of increasing the lambing success of bighorn sheep. The study found the state would have to reduce the coyote population by two-thirds a year, every year, to make an impact.

"Once you stopped, you'd lose everything you'd gained," Kreil said. "It wasn't realistic."

Kreil said that if there are fewer deer in the southeastern part of the state, the reason would likely be the significant increase in the number of deer licenses issued by the Game and Fish Department over the past several years to try to reduce the deer herd.

Minnesota legislators are considering a bill that would allow counties to offer coyote bounties. As in North Dakota, the animal is considered a furbearer and hunting season is open year-around.

Coyotes have multiplied in western Minnesota after an increase in grasslands as well as a rise in the population of mice, voles and other prey species, said Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager Dave Soehren of Appleton. Commissioners in Swift County have asked for a statewide bounty.

Echoing Kreil, Soehren said there is a reason coyote bounties have been obsolete in Minnesota since 1965.

"They are an outmoded system for dealing with predators," Soehren said. "They do nothing to affect the population."


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