SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Predator Control Program is an incentive-based initiative intended to eliminate coyotes that prey on young deer. Basically, if you follow the directions offered on the Division of Wildlife Resource’s official website, you can qualify for $50 for each coyote you kill in Utah. Many local hunters have embraced the controversial program, though critics claim it’s misguided and ineffective.
What many people don’t realize is that the bounty program also contains funding for more than a dozen hunting contracts of up to $10,000. These contracts are set aside for coyote hunters who have proved their proficiency in certain areas of the state. The current batch of contracts will be expiring soon, so I reached out to John Shivik, mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, to learn more about the bounty program and how hunters can apply for the contracts.
How do you feel about the level of participation in the program so far?
The program is very successful in terms of participation. That is, the Mule Deer Protection Act allocates $500,000 for payments each year. This current year is up 6-7% from last year and is on track to have all the funds distributed almost exactly at the end of the current fiscal year.
How successful do you feel the program has been?
In terms of participation and distributing funds very efficiently, it has been very successful. Biologically, it is difficult to prove that deer populations have increased statewide. It will be important to examine the data we have been collecting and to look at deer populations and coyote take at the unit level over a few years. When we have that, we'll be able to better rate the success of the program.
How do you respond to those who say that the program doesn't help deer herds?
I would say that a general bounty type of program is not the most efficient way to target coyotes where deer are most vulnerable. Also, most research indicates that coyotes have some effect on deer fawn survival during their first few months, but in the west, weather and precipitation and quality habitat availability are the primary factors that influence deer populations.
This is a new program, however, that hasn't been tried at this scale before. That is why it is so important for us to collect data on deer populations and coyote removal. In a few years, we will have enough data to be able to make a good assessment of the effectiveness of the program for helping deer herds.
Do you still offer contracts for certain hunters in the program?
There are currently 13 contracts in effect. They end in the spring.
How do these contracts work?
We identify a list of units where fawn:doe ratios are lower than desired and then call for people to submit applications for a contract on them. To qualify for a contract, a person has to have submitted more than 25 coyotes to the general program. Then, we match experienced trappers with areas they are familiar with and set up contracts that require fieldwork and a fair amount of reporting and documentation too. Contractors must supply all of their own vehicles, firearms, supplies and materials. Contracts run from December and into June. They require 200 hours of work and may be for up to $10,000.
Where can you get an application?
Applications will be closed until the fall. People should watch the website in September and October.
How many of these contracts are available?
Currently, there are 13 contracts. We will evaluate the program and probably have a similar number next year.
Grant Olsen joined the KSL.com team in 2012. He covers outdoor adventures, travel, product reviews and other interesting things. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.