Bounty in Warren aims to limit coyotes

Warren County, one of the few counties in Virginia that has a program to pay residents for killing coyotes, a non-native species classified as a nuisance animal. Courtesy photo

Warren County, one of the few counties in Virginia that has a program to pay residents for killing coyotes, has spent several thousand dollars in bounties for coyotes over the last 15 years.

Between 2000 and 2012, County Administrator Doug Stanley said the county paid over 250 bounties — or over $12,500 at $50 per coyote. According to Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting agendas from 2014, there were 64 bounties collected by 52 residents that year for a total of $3,200.

In 2013, meeting agendas reported 69 bounties collected for a total of $3,450.

Coyotes are a non-native species classified as a nuisance animal and therefore have no official season and do not require a hunting license.

Sgt. Junior Darr, head of animal control at the Warren County Sheriff’s department, noted that residents “don’t have to have a hunting license … on their own property.”

Mike Fies, a wildlife biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said that coyote bounty programs are ineffective for many reasons.

One, Fies said, is because “most coyotes are killed opportunistically.”

“Maybe there was 100 [coyotes] turned in for Warren County, maybe 95 of those would have been killed anyway,” Fies said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Traczyk said he is “not a staunch proponent” of the bounty, but he understands why it exists.

“The whole idea behind that program was to limit the amount of coyotes in the area,” Traczyk said.

According to Darr, residents who have killed a coyote must prove that it was killed on their property or provide written evidence of permission from the landowner to hunt that property.

Alongside presenting this evidence, Darr explained they must physically see the coyote and will mark it by “cutting the ears off” — or with a permanent marker if the person wants to mount the animal.

Darr said that it is tough to confirm that a given kill occurred within the county’s borders.

Bounty programs, such as one featured in Utah, are susceptible to cases of fraud, as noted in a May 6, 2013 story published on the KSL News website http://tinyurl.com/kaxzoo6.

Darr said he has seen a few cases of misrepresentation a year and that some people “will back away when I start to ask too many questions.”

Misrepresentation of a coyote being shot in Warren is a Class 1 misdemeanor, according to Darr. Guilt in that case would mean “a $2,500 fine or 12 months in jail.”

Darr explained that the majority of the cases Animal Control sees are property owners “from all over the county.”

According to Traczyk, there has been talk in the past of removing the bounty, but it did not amount to much.

“The idea is that, if we remove it, there are fears that [coyotes] will proliferate and take the county over again,” Traczyk said.

Darr said he does not think the bounty is impacting the coyote population.

“They are here. The area is really good for their population … they have a food source [that] is unlimited,” Darr said.

However, Darr noted that compared to the early years of the program, Animal Control is seeing fewer calls from residents about livestock attacked by coyotes.

In that regard, Darr said, “The program is worth having, especially for the farmers.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com