Coyote bounty likely behind carcass dump

Conservationists say offering a bounty on animals inevitably leads to mass killings of the kind that resulted in the death of 37 coyotes whose carcasses were found in an Alberta park last week.
The bodies of 37 coyotes, which were shot and had their paws chopped off, were found in southeastern Alberta last week. ((Alberta Fish and Wildlife))

Conservationists say offering a bounty on animals inevitably leads to mass killings of the kind that resulted in the death of 37 coyotes whose carcasses were found in an Alberta park last week.

The carcasses were found with their paws cut off near Cypress Hills Provincial Park, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and is about 80 kilometres southeast of Medicine Hat, Alta.

Alberta wildlife officials say the paws were likely taken to Saskatchewan, which had been offering a $20 bounty for every coyote killed to control the population and its livestock prey. Authorities suspect the culprits tried to pass the paws off as having come from coyotes killed in Saskatchewan.

"That's inexcusable to us. That's not what wildlife are here for," said Nigel Douglas, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association.

Douglas says mass killings are bound to happen when bounties are offered.

"It's easy to point the fingers at wolves or coyotes or whatever for all of your problems, but when it comes down to it, it seems some people just like killing," he said.

More than 18,000 coyotes have been killed in Saskatchewan between November 2009, when the provincial government announced the bounty, and the last update in February. The program ended on March 31.

Saskatchewan's agriculture minister defended the bounty as an effective way to protect sheep and cattle, which were increasingly being preyed upon by coyotes.

"We're hoping we've made somewhat of a dent in the numbers out there and maybe also brought a little respect back into the coyotes for coming right into the farmyards and killing animals right in the yards," said Bob Bjornerud on Monday.

The bodies of the 37 coyotes, which had been shot, were found dumped by the side of a road.

"They were complete carcasses with the full pelts on them, and so this is not something that we would normally see from somebody who had a trapping licence," said Dave Ealey, a spokesman with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

Investigations are underway in Alberta and Saskatchewan. If caught, the person or people responsible for dumping the coyote carcasses would face a littering charge for improperly disposing of the animals' bodies.