At the Yellow Medicine County Board meeting on July 26, a notification was passed around that the 87th Minnesota state legislative session had finally passed a bill allowing town and county boards to offer a bounty for the taking of coyotes.
Coyotes, canis latrans, are members of the dog tribe, related to both dogs and wolves. Since wolves were largely eliminated in the Midwest, coyotes have thrived and actually expanded their natural range. They have even colonized some suburbs, where they become dangerous to pets.
The bounty bill was long in coming, but now that it's here, nobody seems interested.
Minnesota has not allowed coyote bounties since Gov. Karl Rolvaag vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature in 1965. In 2005 members of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved a bounty bill, but the current bill was not introduced in the Legislature until February 2010.
"Minnesota discontinued bounties for wolves and coyotes a long time ago. It's not economically feasible. To really have an effect on the population you'd have to pay more than anyone is willing," said Bob Meyer, area wildlife manager at the Marshall office of the state Department of Natural Resources.
Meyer said coyotes in the southwest region of the state are largely dangerous to sheep. As a varmint predator they can be hunted year-round. In wintertime, if there is good snow cover, coyotes are easier to see and find. Since the last few winters have had heavy snows, coyote numbers have been kept low by hunters.
"Three years ago this would have been a good idea," Yellow Medicine County Administrator Ryan Krosch said.
One problem with towns and counties offering bounties for coyotes is it's hard to tell where a coyote comes from. Local boards are often reluctant to offer bounties because they fear hunters and trappers will just bring their coyotes to the town or county that offers the largest bounty.
According to Oscar Waller Jr., owner of Waller Fur Company north of Marshall, coyote pelts have commercial value, but it depends on the quality of the pelt.
"The good ones have commercial value," Waller said. "The finer fur, grey with a white belly can fetch $20 to $25 for the carcass, or $30 finished, stretched and dried."
Waller said most of the furs are sold to China where they are used as trim on coats.
At the end of the meeting the Yellow Medicine County Board took no action. Representatives of Lyon and Lincoln counties have confirmed the subject of coyote bounties has not been discussed by the county boards, nor is it on anyone's agenda.