Eastern Nevada rancher Don Adair is not happy with Utah hunters he says travel across the state line to kill coyotes and then return to the Beehive State to claim what has been a $20 bounty that will soon increase to $50.
He said hunters from Davis County come to Nevada because there is nowhere in their area where they can shoot coyotes.
"We've raised hundreds of chickens, ducks, rabbits, turkeys and cats since 1998, and we've never had one problem with coyotes," said Adair. "Not one. It even came to the point where I put a dead turkey carcass out and they never ate it."
The rancher has several concerns about Utah predator hunters.
First, he said that they are killing too many coyotes and ruining the ecosystem. Coyotes tend to feed on kangaroo rats. With coyote numbers down, rats, ground squirrels and other small rodents overrun his ranch, eating grasses that can feed livestock and creating a health problem. Adair said he has counted as many as 1,500 kangaroo rats in his yard at one time. He worries about them spreading diseases such as the plague.
Second, there is a safety issue. The rancher has seen or heard reports of coyote hunters shooting across Interstate-80, stealing animals out of traps, abusing all-terrain vehicles and using high-powered rifles where a stray bullet could easily reach a home.
Finally, there is the matter of fraud. If Utah's coyote new bounty program, which increases the price for each coyote, is designed to help its mule deer population, it doesn't help much if hunters kill animals in another state and then return them to Utah to claim a bounty.
Division of Wildlife Resources director Jim Karpowitz said these issues will be taken into account as his agency prepares to use $500,000 provided by the recent legislature for an "incentive" program and another $600,000 generated by a $5 increase on big game permits to be used by Wildlife Services on coyotes.
The basics of the new program will encourage hunters to kill coyotes in deer areas and not in places such as the West Desert where there are few deer. Hunters must certify where and when the coyotes were killed and could be subject to prosecution should they misrepresent that information.
"We want coyotes killed in specific areas and during a specific season," said Karpowitz. "It doesn't do much good to kill coyotes in late summer and early fall. It's more of a fall, winter and early-spring season."
Wildlife Services, professional predator killers who work for the government, will also target coyotes in certain areas at specific times of year in an effort to increase mule deer populations.
The wildlife director said the jury is still out as to whether the new programs will actually accomplish that goal.
"There has never been this type of effort on a statewide basis with this much incentive to see if we can't accelerate the harvest of coyote and help deer," he said.
Wildlife Service professionals will concentrate most of their efforts in southern Utah, where biologists think coyotes may be having the biggest negative effect on deer.
"Coyotes can be a problem for deer anywhere, including Davis County," said Karpowitz. "Our efforts are targeted at units that have low fawn-doe ratios and drier units. The bounty is in effect statewide. In the first year, we will learn a lot about how hunters and trappers distribute themselves and whether there is enough of an incentive to get hunters to take coyotes where and when we want them."
That said, count me as among the many skeptics who think this program is a major waste of money, ecologically questionable, can cause some of the problems Adair is experiencing at his Nevada ranch and may only help deer in a few areas.
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