A coyote control program announced in Saskatchewan last week is drawing praise and criticism.
Some rural residents say the $20 per coyote bounty will encourage more farmers and hunters to kill the animals and protect their livestock.
Others say coyotes play an important role in controlling gophers and other small pests.
Agriculture minister Bob Bjornerud, who announced the program during the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities mid-term convention in Regina, said the coyote population seems high and something had to be done.
“Just gauging by the calls we’ve had in my office from sheep producers, cattle producers, the numbers are larger now than we’ve maybe had for many years,” he said.
Some RMs already have bounties in place. Hunters in the RM of Montmartre receive $10 for every coyote tail they present to the RM office.
“In my area I’ve already had six of them,” said councillor Edwin Martel, adding the program has been in place for just two months.
He said coyotes in the area are running in packs of six and are like wild dogs.
“Who wants a coyote in their yard?” he said. “You never know what could happen.”
Other councillors and a provincial conservation association said a bounty is not the right way to approach the problem.
Lorne Scott, president of Nature Saskatchewan and reeve of the RM of Indian Head, said studies show bounties are ineffective.
Aggressive, properly funded control programs work where depredation is a problem, he added.
“The focus should be on eliminating problem animals, not a province-wide bounty.”
He said there is little sense in advocating poison for gophers while eliminating one of their main predators.
The program is a province-wide pilot that will run until March 31.
Hunters and trappers can apply to receive $20 after presenting all four paws as evidence of a kill. RM offices will be co-ordinating verification and will have to properly dispose of the paws, likely by burying them.
Bjornerud said the agriculture ministry will monitor the program to see how effective it is and whether it should be extended or cut.
Producers do not require licences to hunt coyotes.
“You’re allowed to protect your animals, whether it’s cattle or sheep or goats, if a predator is out there trying to kill one of your animals,” he said.
His ministry is also working with the environment ministry to train people to use a poison called sodium monofluoroacetate, or compound 1080, to control coyotes.
The ministry will also provide extra funding for sheep producers to build better fences.