The price of a movie ticket or six gallons of premium gasoline is now the going rate for a pair of coyote ears in two southeastern Colorado counties. Baca County now pays $7.50 per coyote, the first bounty in Colorado in almost 30 years. Since January, the bounty has brought in 412 pairs of ears. Neighboring Prowers County followed suit in March and reports 77 kills.


Each county appropriated $7,500 and established programs which will run through May 1, when newborn calves and lambs are no longer easy meals for coyotes. According to Baca County Commissioner Charlie Wait, the program is working well.


"We're not trying to eradicate coyotes, just control the bad ones. It's only when they get to running together six or seven to a pack that they start to do some damage," he says. "There's still a world of coyotes in Baca County."


But state wildlife officials and environmental activists say ranchers who kill coyotes may be shooting themselves in the foot. "If you disrupt a pack that's learned to live around livestock without causing damage, then you open the niche up to new coyotes who may be more of a threat," says Mike Smith of the Sierra Club's Rocky Mountain chapter. Smith believes the "19th century body-count mentality" stems from a misguided need for visible, measurable results. He suggests more effective methods of controlling livestock predation such as using guard dogs and getting rid of livestock carcasses that attract predators.


Smith says the environmental community in Colorado is considering taking the issue to voters in the form of a ballot initiative that would remove predator control from the counties and restore it to the state Division of Wildlife.


*Adam Burke