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Coyote pilot program clears final hurdle, becomes law

SALISBURY — For farmers and recreational hunters, coyotes can be a pesky problem, but one of Rowan County’s state senators may have a solution.

A pilot coyote bounty program created by legislation drafted by Sen. Tom McInnis cleared its final hurdle last week and became law Monday. The program applies only to Richmond County, but McInnis says he originally hoped to implement the pilot program across the state. McInnis said he would pursue a statewide coyote bounty initiative depending on the results of the Richmond County program.

His bill was filed on March 14, passed the N.C. Senate on April 26 and passed the N.C. House on Thursday. Because it’s a local bill, it does not require Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature.

McInnis’ idea will permit Richmond County to develop a coyote bounty program that captures, tags and releases as many as 10 coyotes. The animals would be spayed or neutered. After release, a bounty of at least $500 would be offered for the tagged coyotes.

McInnis says the goal of the program is to reduce the coyote population. He said coyotes in Richmond County have affected the quality of hunting on land leased to recreational hunters, and he used deer hunting as an example. McInnis says he personally owns land that he leases to recreational hunters.

“Some people travel long distances for hunting. They’ll hunt and bring their campers,” McInnis said. “Of course, it’s a big industry.”

But hunting is not the only industry that could benefit from the program, he said. McInnis said farmers have complained to him about coyotes killing or attacking livestock.

Rowan County Extension Agent Morgan Watts said the effect coyotes have on livestock depends on the location. Watts said farmers with sheep, goats and poultry are more likely to be affected than those raising cows.

To prevent coyote attacks, dogs, donkeys or llamas are occasionally intermingled with animals such as sheet or goats, Watts said.

McInnis says there are still details to be decided about the Richmond County pilot program, such as who will pay the $500 reward for killing a tagged coyote. County government and hunting clubs are examples he mentioned. Another undecided detail is to whom hunters would bring the killed and tagged coyotes to receive the reward.

McInnis said it’s possible that someone could kill dozens of coyotes before killing one that’s tagged.

He said the pilot program will run for a couple of years before he reconsiders pushing for a statewide program. He said the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission approves of a local pilot program but has said more research is needed before adopting a statewide program.

“To do something in 100 counties would just be a major policy initiative,” McInnis said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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