By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Pulaski County Board of Supervisors decided to pass on implementation of coyote bounties after learning such programs are “ineffective” in controlling the animals.
According to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), a U.S. Department of Agriculture Coyote Damage Control Program is a more effective means of reducing livestock losses resulting from the predators. That program was created in 1990 to help farmers deal with livestock losses by instituting targeted control efforts around farms experiencing problems.
County Administrator Pete Huber said it was his initial understanding VDGIF now supports bounties, but he has since learned that is not the case. He referenced a letter to him from Michael L. Fies, furbearer project leader for VDGIF.
“Although popular with local landowners, hunters, trappers, and some livestock producers, these bounty programs never achieve their desired objectives,” Fies states. Although such bounties have been tried nationwide for over 150 years, he points out, “There is not a single documented instance of a bounty program temporarily or permanently reducing coyote populations of livestock depredation problems.”
Fies says bounties don’t work because there aren’t enough coyotes killed to impact the population. He said research shows more than 60 percent of the population must be killed to prevent recovery in a single year.
Fraud can also become a problem as coyotes killed in other counties are turned in for payment or are checked in multiple times. The county had considered allocating $5,000 to be used for paying bounties at the rate of $35 for each female coyote and $10 for each male.
Fies also noted that such bounties could have unintended effects such as resulting in the shooting or trapping of domestic dogs mistaken for coyotes.
Draper District Supervisor Dean Pratt pointed out that he expected farmers to be in favor of coyote bounties when the county considered approving a program in the past. However, he found that most agreed it wasn’t effective in controlling the population or livestock losses.
Fies also pointed out in his letter that while coyotes are not native to Virginia, they are becoming “well established in all counties.”