Warren County’s coyote bounty program stays even though experts say it doesn’t work to cut the animal’s population.
The Board of Supervisor voted down a measure that would have ended the program that pays people $50 for each coyote they kill. Chairwoman Cheryl L. Cullers, Vice Chairman Archie A. Fox and Supervisors Tony F. Carter, Walter J. Mabe and Delores R. Oates voted in favor of the motion to not repeal the county code that establishes the program. Supervisors took action after holding a public hearing on the proposed change to the code.
However, the motion also calls for the county to look into other programs that might help reduce the coyote population while the bounties remain in place.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office asked the Board of Supervisors to repeal the code section and eliminate the bounty program. Sgt. Laura Gomez, a deputy in the animal control division, told supervisors that her research indicated that bounties do not reduce coyote populations.
The county put its program in place in 2000 after Virginia enacted the enabling legislation. Coyotes are known to attack livestock and other animals but rarely attack people. The county awards a $50 bounty to anyone who kills a coyote within a certain criteria. The code section capped the amount of total compensation within a fiscal year. The amount awarded each fiscal year since 2010 often surpassed the annual cap, according to information presented to the board. Supervisors amended the code section in July 2019 to increase the amount from $2,000 to $3,000 per year.
Interim County Administrator Edine Daley said Thursday that the county paid out $2,650 in bounties for 53 coyotes killed in fiscal 2020, which ended June 30. The county has paid out $1,250 in bounties for 25 coyotes killed so far this fiscal year that began on July 1.
Michael Fees, with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, echoed Gomez. Of the 17 counties in Virginia that have programs, only 10 allocate funding for bounties. Programs, he said, are meant to reduce coyote populations in a given area and to prevent conflicts between the animals and livestock.
“Despite having been around for a very long time, there is currently no evidence anywhere in the United States that bounty programs have temporarily or permanently reduced coyote populations or livestock depredation problems,” Fees said. “Damage is not reduced because bounties do not target the problem animals.
“Basically, they’re ineffective primarily because you don’t kill enough animals with a bounty program to really impact the population,” he said.
Coyote populations not reduced by at least 60% in one year can recover the next year, Fees said.
The county’s $3,000 cap covers bounties for 60 coyotes in a given fiscal year – far less than the 60% needed on an annual basis to have an impact on the populations, Fees said. Hunters usually kill coyotes incidentally so those animals likely would die with or without a bounty, he added.
“There’s virtually nothing you can do to control the coyote population at the landscape level,” Fees said.
Warren County has an estimated 426 coyotes, and 60 coyotes would make up 14%, Fees said.
Gomez said she has responded to two calls in roughly 13 years with the county Sheriff’s Office from farmers who reported attacks on their livestock but did not know if coyotes or domesticated dogs did the attacking. Gomez said the Sheriff’s Office did respond to an incident in which a resident shot and injured a dog he mistook for a coyote in his garbage, Gomez said. The officer said there likely are many occurrences where a person kills a coyote and doesn’t seek the bounty.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a free service to farmers to help remove coyotes, Fees said.
Warren County farm owner Amos Mitchell spoke during the public hearing and asked supervisors to keep the program in place. Mitchell said the program gives people an incentive to kill coyotes and receive a small compensation.
Also at the meeting, supervisors voted to:
• Amend county code sections pertaining to restrictions on allowing dogs to run at large. The amendments would bring the county restrictions in line with changes to the state code. Deputies in the Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Division requested that the board make changes to prohibit dogs running at large countywide, not just in residential areas. The code had applied only to about 30 subdivisions. No one spoke at the public hearing on the changes.
• Approve a conditional-use permit requested by David and Nina Sudlow for a church, specifically to turn a detached garage into a chapel. The board also approved the Sudlows’ request for a conditional-use permit that would allow them to renovate a horse barn into a guesthouse. No one spoke during public hearings held for each permit request.