Do public bounties on wolves and coyotes really work?

Public bounty programs are supposed to reduce the number of predators around ranches and farms. But wildlife management expert Gilbert Proulx argues bounty hunters in Alberta have actually had the opposite effect.
Gilbert Proux says efforts to get rid of predators, like coyotes, by offering bounties don't actually work. (Maureen Murray)

Public bounty programs that offer cash for dead wolves and coyotes are supposed to reduced the number of predators around ranches and farms. 

Some Alberta municipalities have revived a bounty system in recent years, where hunters are paid as much as $500 for every wolf they kill. 

But wildlife management expert Gilbert Proulx says bounty hunters in Alberta have not reduced the wolf packs that attack livestock and have actually had the opposite effect. He's the Director of Science at Alpha Wildlife Research & Management Ltd

The full interview is available in the audio player above. The following portions have been edited for clarity and length.

What's wrong with allowing municipalities and private landowners to put bounties on animals like wolves and coyotes?

Wildlife management is a science and people who get involved in the management of populations should know about the complexities of the population dynamics. In this particular case, bounties have always been found ineffective simply because, first of all, the animals that get shot are being replaced by animals that come from somewhere else. Those that survive will increase their reproduction to compensate for their fatalities and, from year to year, the municipalities must pay a large amount of money without solving the problem.

So they don't actually reduce the population of predators?

They reduce it for the season that they are shooting the animals, but the canids have the capability of replenishing in their area really fast. The problem, as well, is that when you have a couple of wolves or coyotes that cause a problem, we don't need to shoot all the animals inhabiting an area in order to solve the problem. Many of those wolves and coyotes manage their land and forbid other animals from other areas to come in. And when you shoot these animals, it becomes a free-for-all for invaders and some not-leading animals will start to reproduce and we'll end up with more coyotes and more wolves than we used to have when the population was stable. Those farmers that shoot badgers, coyotes, wolves then complain that they have too many gophers on their land, so if you remove predators, you are causing major consequences.

If bounty programs aren't leading to a substantial reduction in predators, why do they still exist? What makes them so attractive to farmers and ranchers? 

The story of bounties has been a political story; they have been put in place to please the voters. Coyotes and wolves do not vote, but farmers do and in a rural area, if you can give the impression that you are doing something, that's enough to get a vote. It would be much better to properly educate the people involved in such practices. There are better practices that you can do on the land: you can remove the dead carcasses to not attract animals to feed on this; you can focus on the animals that are really the culprits and an issue, rather than killing everything that moves around the land. This is where we need a strong wildlife department with an experienced professional to get involved and work with the citizens. We shouldn't leave the management to municipalities and politicians. Municipalities don't tell us how to solve cancer or how to deal with judicial issues at the law level; we have professionals to work with that and it's the same in wildlife biology.

Click the blue button above to listen to the full interview.

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