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North Dakota coyote numbers up, hunters happy, hunting allowed year-round, no $100-a-head bounty

Courtesy Photo from North Dakota Game and Fish A coyote looks outward into a winter evening in this undated photo.

The number of coyotes roaming North Dakota is up from last year, which might be exciting for hunters, but bad for livestock producers.

After a legislative bill failed, hunters won't receive $100 for a coyote kill, but can still hunt all year.

It is nearly impossible to track each individual animal, so information on the furbearers is collected using trend data, North Dakota Game and Fish Furbearer Biologist Stephanie Tucker said.

Data is collected annually by surveying rural mail carriers, hunters with furbearer licenses and reports from people buying furs.

Tucker said the numbers are above the 10-year average in all four regions that are surveyed.

The greatest difference was in the "drift prairie" region in the central eastern part of the state, which had about 22 coyotes for every 1,000 miles traveled by carriers, compared to only about 10 for the 10-year average.

West of the Missouri River there were about 10 coyotes seen every 1,000 miles compared to about eight animals in the 10-year average. The population trend was up 38 percent from the previous year.

Phil Mastrangelo, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services division in North Dakota, said he has noticed a slight increase in the number of calls to his office for coyotes killing livestock.

Wildlife Services responds to requests about livestock predation in an effort to reduce loss. Wildlife specialists are trained to make sure the it is coyotes causing the damage and then remove the animals from the property and adjacent properties.

"With the way livestock prices are, the best analogy is, if you have a calf killed or sheep killed, it is like having someone pull $500, or more, out of your wallet," he said. "It can be an economic impact."

The increasing population of coyotes prompted senators to propose a bill that would establish a $100 bounty for each coyote harvested until 2,000 were taken. And that's just a drop in the bucket compared to the yearly average number of coyote kills, which is about 40,000, according to Tucker. The bill failed, but Sen. Bill Bowman from Bowman said it was good to raise awareness.

Bowman said he received multiple calls about attacks on livestock and witnessed five coyotes in one afternoon while helping put up hay near


"When people go out and see a lot of coyotes who are healthy, you know the population is growing," he said.

Tucker said other animal populations have declined in the past few years because of the harsh winters, but coyotes have been able to thrive.

"They are able to feed and scavenge on the animals that are killed by the weather," she said.

Tucker said the intentions of the bill were good, but they were not practical. It might inspire more hunting of coyotes, but it wouldn't reduce the damage complaints because hunters wouldn't be required to remove the livestock-damaging animals, she said.

Mastrangelo expects coyote numbers to remain consistent in following years.

"The general sense is that coyotes have been pretty healthy," he said.