Utah recently announced changes to its coyote bounty program. The changes are a result of multiple fraudulent kills that concluded in thousands of dollars in payouts for coyote kills that did not occur in the state. While misleading authorities with deceptive kills is one issue—including one couple who turned in 237 coyote scalps and collected $50 per scalp, according to The Salt Lake Tribune—the other major concern is that false coyote kill tallies undermine the point of the program: to keep tabs on the number of coyotes within the state and to determine if the bounty program is actually working.
Starting in July, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) “will no longer accept scalps covered in maggots; taken from a coyote killed by someone else, including roadkills; and that are more than a year old, or are so decomposed or damaged that officials cannot confirm it came from a coyote,” The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Bounty hunters must turn in a scalp complete with the ears still attached and a full lower jaw to collect their reward.
Due to increased mule deer fawn predation, the coyote bounty program began in 2012 in an effort to boost mule deer populations. Since then, thousands of coyote scalps have been turned in. Last year’s turn-in totaled a record 11,505 scalps, which meant that UDWR had to pay out more than the $500,000 put aside by state legislature for the program.
“We have consistently had more coyotes turned in every year and with that there is a potential to exhaust our entire budget and if that happens we [would] have to halt the program until there is more money to spend,” UDWR Predator Control Program Manager Xaela Walden told The Salt Lake Tribune.
If record turn-ins continue, Walden says that the bounty payments will be decreased by $5 for the next year.
Another new requirement is providing UDWR with accurate GPS locations of where the coyote kill happened. To do this, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, bounty hunters will have to carry smartphones with a special app; hunters will be required to “take a picture, enter the mode of execution and its gender, and press ‘upload’” so the app then “relays a geocoded image” to UDWR’s database. The technological requirement could be a barrier to hunters who may not be tech-savvy or others who may not want to give up their honey holes; however, many hunters support the changes to the program to ensure that the bounty program isn’t exploited.
“Killing coyotes is controversial,” Miles Moretti of the Mule Deer Foundation told the Utah Wildlife Board. “We definitely need to eliminate the fraud and abuse in the program because that gives all of us a black eye.”