Contrary to the opinions of members of the Virginia Department of Inland Fisheries and Game that bounty programs don’t work and comments from 14 community animal control departments who wouldn’t support the program, Franklin County Board of Supervisors voted 4-3 to implement a $25.00 per coyote bounty program.

The Roanoke Times reports that Public Safety Director Darryl Hatcher says a bounty program will not be effective.

“If what we’re trying to do is lower the population of coyotes in the county, I don’t think a bounty’s going to do it,” said Hatcher, a former game warden.

The Department of Agriculture estimates the Virginia coyote population at 42,000 and according to Hatcher, there were only 8 filed complaints last year.

But others counter that removing some is better than doing nothing.

Mitchell, a beef cattle farmer who first proposed the bounty program last month, said he’d heard considerable support from his neighbors for a bounty program.

“If we can take 10 out, that’s 10 that we didn’t have,” he said, acknowledging that it may be impossible to eradicate coyotes completely. “One lady said one got her cat, but she told me she was real happy because when he came back they got him.”

Supervisor David Hurt from the Boone District, one of the three who voted against the bounty proposal, said there’s absolutely no way a bounty program will work.

“We have to look at the science and we have to look at the facts,” he said. “There’s absolutely no chance a bounty program can work whatsoever.”

Is this true? If we do take a look at science and we do look at the facts, is there really “absolutely” no chance a bounty program can work, “whatsoever”?

In the June 2004 edition of The Outdoorsman, Bulletin Number 4, George Dovel, longtime wildlife biologist from Idaho says that bounty programs can be very effective.

Bounties Cheaper-More Efficient

ln 1943-44IDFG compared the relatively high cost of state and cooperative federal trappers with the lower cost of bounty predator control in other states and Canada. It was paying three times as much per coyote killed so it began a two-year experiment.

ln 1945 IDFG paid salaried trappers $ 14,000 to kill 802 coyotes and paid bounty trappers $19, 713 to kill 4,243 coyotes. The salaried trappers’ coyotes cost IDFG $17.46 each but the bountied coyotes cost only $4.65 each.

In 1946 IDFG established the coyote bounty at $3.00 and bounty trappers turned in 7,293 coyotes. Cost of the 600 coyotes taken by salaried trappers averaged $30 per coyote – ten times as much.

It was rumored, but never verified, that a few pelts had been turned in from neighboring states but, if true, the amount was negligible and the practice preventable.

Both the coyote bounty and salaried trappers were replaced in the next biennium due to the federal 1080 program. That poison, manufactured in Pocatello, was the most effective coyote killer ever used but its use was soon limited and finally banned for predator control on federal lands by presidential order.

Although bounty systems are rarely selective enough to target individual predators, including those that are especially trap-wise or gun-shy, they accomplish the goal of temporarily reducing excessive predator numbers to allow an unhealthy prey population to restore itself.

Coyote bounties provide an extra incentive for sport hunters and trappers to get outdoors and help restore healthy game populations, and give professional trappers a $20 or so subsidy to overcome low pelt prices. There are countless examples of the successful use of bounties to reduce populations of other predators ranging from wolves to pikeminnows (formerly squawfish).

One cannot make a blanket statement that there is absolutely no way a bounty program can work, no more than I can in one bold statement claim that any bounty program will work. There are many variables that have to be considered. What bothers me about those opposed to a bounty is more the attitude than trying to address facts and science as Mr. Hurt says must be done.

A friend of mine who owns a small restaurant in my home town used to say all the time at his moments of frustration, “Nuttin from nuttin leaves nuttin!” Comical and simplistic, it is still true. All too often many of us take on the attitude that if we can’t find something that cures the problem in one big effort, then why bother.

A more accurate description of the resulting efforts of a bounty program would be a reduction in the growth of coyotes rather than an overall population reduction. Does this mean Franklin County officials should sit back and say we can’t reduce the numbers so let’s not do anything? Isn’t this a defeatist’s attitude?

Coyotes have proven to be a crafty critter that is difficult to trap and hunt. They learn the tactics of the hunter and trapper quite quickly making the trapper and hunter often come away scratching their heads. But that doesn’t mean communities shouldn’t do what they can to encourage others to hunt and trap them in order to assist in finding the right balance.

If a bounty of $25 per coyote were to yield a couple hundred coyotes for Franklin county, then that is a couple hundred fewer varmints left around. Will it eradicate them? Of course not and that is not the goal. It may not even reduce the population but no matter how you want to spin it, there are still 200 less coyotes for residents including farmers, to deal with.

Tom Remington

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