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
"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
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.