Coyote Bounties: It’s All political

In a recent post, I referenced a story out of Nova Scotia where the Natural Resources Minister talked of bringing in a bounty on coyotes (later revised to “considering a bounty” when he took some heat on the plan).

In the process, I discovered that Saskatchewan had actually put in place a similar bounty on coyotes this past winter.

The Saskatchewan scheme provides a $20 bounty for each verified coyote killed in the province, exactly the same as the proposal from Nova Scotia.

However, the Saskatchewan program differs in that any resident of the province can participate (with a limit of $50,000 for any single individual – which is one hell of a lot of coyotes). The program is (was) also time limited, announced on November 10th, 2009 and ending on March 31st 2010.

The reason for the bounty being put in place was to reduce predation on farm land in the province. Again, as in Nova Scotia, the rationale was for political reasons and the bounty program was used to show that the government was attuned to the needs of its constituents. In this case the very strong agricultural lobby in the province.

The bounty was actually only a part of the complete package to accommodate the farming industry. There was also a fencing assistance provision (up to $10,000) and assistance in acquiring a guard dog (up to $100). The government was also trainingĀ  Conservation Officers in the use of the 1080 poison. (It surprises me that in this day and age that the Ministry of Environment would be tasked with using a poison such as 1080, which is not target specific).

As of February 2010 there had been 18,000 coyotes killed under the program. It was also noted that there had been 18,000 coyotes killed for fur the previous year with average kill of 21,000 in most years. Which would appear that the government has so far subsidized the normal winter kill with a $20 subsidy, which comes to $360,000 for coyotes that apparently would have been killed anyway. It will be interesting to find out what the total kill was when the program ended on March 31st and what the cost to the taxpayers was.

Regardless, I would suggest that this is simply another political and ill-conceived program that once again leaves the perception that something is being done to solve a perceived problem while not really accomplishing a lot. The one good thing about the program is that it was set up for a specified and limited time frame.

The problem with this kind of program is that it applies a scatter-gun approach to the problem.The coyotes being killed will not necessarily be taken from the areas where there is a predation problem, so although you may kill a bunch of coyotes you won’t necessarily be targeting those that are causing the problems.

If there is a serious predation problem on agricultural lands it would be far more effective to target coyotes in those specific areas. But to do that wouldn’t require a bounty system and wouldn’t enable the politicians to issue press releases and announce their intent to solve the problem by throwing money at it. It would also require some manpower and actual planning and execution.

Another question that comes to mind is, if farmers and ranchers are having some problems with coyotes on their land, why aren’t they solving the problem on their own. Why are taxpayer’s dollars needed to encourage them to go out and reduce the coyote population in their area? And don’t for a moment think that many of those very same individuals who have complained to the government about predation problems weren’t out there this winter shooting coyotes and collecting their $20 per animal from the bounty program.

I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that the old bounty systems had been proven to be inefficient, ineffective and ultimately corrupt many years ago. But obviously when political considerations come into play the experiences of years past mean nothing.

To go back to Nova Scotia for a moment, some of the discussion has gone past bounties to extermination.

Nova Scotia should completely “exterminate” its coyote population, some Colchester County councillors believe.
“Bounties don’t work,” Coun. Mike Cooper said, during this week’s council session. “You might as well get rid of them. They’re hunting in packs now.”

I’m sure that was a well thought out rationale, non-political opinion.

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