ns-coyote-bounty

The Nova Scotia government will introduce a coyote pelt incentive next fall in an effort to reduce the number of coyotes in the province. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia government is going to pay trappers $20 per coyote pelt starting next fall, but the natural resources minister said it is not a "traditional bounty." 

"We weren't looking for that [a bounty]. That was kind of a population control thing that didn't seem to work and that's what the comments have been — bounties don't work to control the population," John MacDonell said Thursday at the legislature.

"The pelt incentive plan is not a traditional bounty that simply provides money for dead animals, but rather it is a way to change coyote behaviour and reduces a problem wildlife population. Our wildlife biologists indicate that this trapping incentive program should help discourage over familiarity and boldness of coyotes towards humans."

The plan is to live trap animals by the using a non-lethal snare in populated areas, he said, and trappers would then kill the coyotes.

It's an attempt to avoid having family pets caught in traps.

The province will also put 15 trappers on call to deal with complaints about aggressive coyotes. Starting next week, coyotes found near communities will be captured and killed.

The pelt incentive program, which will begin with the trapping season Oct. 15, is available to licensed trappers only.

MacDonell said as many as 4,000 coyotes could  be killed by next spring. It's estimated there are about 8,000 coyotes in Nova Scotia.

"I don't care what it's reduced by to be honest. I'm more concerned about getting rid of the animals that might be a problem," he said. "If it turns out that it's reduced by half, if you're saying are you willing to accept that? I'll say yes."

Provincial biologist Mike O'Brien said reducing the coyote population should scare others back into the wild.

Trappers welcome move

"When you remove animals from a population and they're a social animal, other animals do increase their wariness. It's a deterrent to becoming too familiar with humans," O'Brien said.

Gary Fisher, president of the Trappers' Association of Nova Scotia, said the guaranteed price for a coyote pelt will make it worthwhile for trappers to go after coyotes.

Last year the price for pelts was as low as $13, he said.

Fisher said thinning the population in the wild will drive coyotes that are now living close to communities back to their natural habitat.

"You know, I think you'll find that as trappers make voids in more remote areas the coyotes that are around the more urban areas, when it comes time for natural dispersal, will disperse into the areas that we're creating the voids in," he said. "And so they'll have a less tendency perhaps to be around the more urban areas."

Trappers who were no longer in the business are going to be tempted to come back now that they are guaranteed a price for their coyote pelts, he said.

The province will soon hire a wildlife biology specialist to develop a program to more fully address human-wildlife conflict in Nova Scotia, develop and enhance community education programs and conduct research on the conflict and dealing with aggressive wildlife.

Mounting pressure

The province will also undertake to better educate Nova Scotians about coyotes. The Department of Natural Resources will offer to speak with organizations around the province and provide print and web-based information.

There has been mounting pressure on the province to put a bounty on coyotes because the animals have become increasingly aggressive.

At least four schools in the province have warned parents about coyotes spotted close to school property and many others have experienced close encounters with the animals.

Last October, a Toronto woman was killed as she hiked in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Taylor Mitchell, 19, was on the Skyline Trail near Cheticamp when she was attacked by two coyotes. Both animals involved in the attack have since been killed.

Eastern coyotes are larger than those found in Western Canada, likely because of past interbreeding with wolves, the Natural Resources Department website says.