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News about or concerning Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

How do we fix Utah’s Mule deer herd? Big Dollars for Predator Control in Utah

By Ryan Benson

Two bills before Utah’s legislature aim to use sportsmen and public/private partnerships to address challenges in mule deer fawn survival. Under these bills, sportsmen will once again be the key to fixing Utah’s Mule Deer herd. These bills would place over $1 million dollars in bounties and other incentives for private coyote removal. The bill S.B. 87 is entitled, “Predator Control Funding” and is sponsored by Senator Hinkins. S.B. 87 places a $5 dollar surcharge on big game tags to raise money for coyote removal by trappers and hunters. It is estimated that this S.B. 87 surcharge will raise an additional $500-600,000 for predator control.

The other bill, S.B. 245, is entitled “Mule Deer Protection Act” and is sponsored by Senator Okerlund. This bill provides a $750,000 state general fund match to the sportsmen’s dollars provided by S.B. 87. $500,000 of the S.B. 245 dollars will go to DWR and $250,000 will go to Wildlife Services to help fund a new helicopter for predator control work aimed at fixing Utah’s Mule Deer herds. These bills are yet another illustration of how the state of Utah and hunters cooperatively are contributing dollars for mule deer restoration.  Collectively, these two bills provide $1-$1.1 million dollars of ongoing funding to fix mule deer populations in Utah.  Funding will also be directed to USDA Wildlife Services to augment existing removal efforts in mule deer fawning grounds.

Bounties in Utah

Currently 12 of 29 Utah counties provide bounties to private individuals for coyote removal.  These bounties are typically $20 or $25 dollars per coyote and are administered in various ways in the different counties.  We suggest that coyote bounties be increased to $50 dollars and be implemented statewide in a consistent fashion to incentivize greater efforts by hunters and trappers to take more coyotes. Let’s make sure these dollars are being spent on Utah coyotes. It will be the responsibility of concerned sportsmen to not only make sure these dollars are utilized, but to ensure that these dollars are used to fix Utah’s mule deer problem.

Federal Removal Efforts

Currently, USDA Wildlife Services removes approximately 4,500 coyotes statewide.  This important program targets coyotes impacting agriculture and mule deer fawns.  This program is administered in cooperation with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Utah DWR using almost $950,000 in private and state funds.  At an estimated cost of up to $600 per coyote on mule deer areas, due to the cost of these control efforts, consistent removal is not provided annually in most problem areas.  By providing funding for a second helicopter, existing control efforts can be increased and mule deer and agriculture control work can be performed on the same days in different areas.

The Value of Private Removal

Hunters and trappers remove 8,000 coyotes annually from Utah landscapes in addition to coyotes removed by USDA Wildlife Services. At a cost of $20-25 per coyote (or in many cases at no cost), sportsmen actually remove more coyotes in this state than by any other program. If greater incentive dollars are provided to cover costs associated with private removal work, our goal is that this greater funding for private efforts will allow sportsmen to spend more time and effort on coyote removal, especially in mule deer fawning areas. Let’s make it our goal to remove approximately 20,000 coyotes annually.  Just as importantly, these bills recognize key role of sportsmen in maintaining predator/prey balances and provide economic help and incentives provide more consistent private efforts.  With targeted efforts in mule deer impact areas, dramatic increases in fawn survival and reductions in overall mule deer mortality are aimed at growing Utah’s mule deer herd.

Predator Control Coordination

Utah DWR is also exploring the possibility of employing two full-time coyote removal specialists to help administer these programs and dollars for maximum impact for mule deer. These individuals would be tasked with focusing full-time on finding ways to use predator control to increase mule deer fawn survival and overall population growth.  Additionally, the specialists would be tasked with helping direct the effort of sportsmen to provide the greatest value to mule deer recovery. These specialists would also work to ensure that trouble areas are being targeted every year and to minimize overlap with the efforts of federal wildlife services. It should be noted that in some instances, collaborative efforts with federal wildlife services may prove to provide the most dramatic increases in fawn survival.

Conclusion

We are not ready to give up on Utah’s mule deer.  It is time to once again have over 400,000 mule deer in the state of Utah. Not only is this a sustainable minimum population goal, but 400,000 mule deer will allow for more real hunting opportunity for families and more big bucks, even in general season areas. We owe it to Utah’s mule deer. We owe it to our kids, grandkids and future of wildlife conservation in Utah.

Link to Hinkens S.B. 87

Link to Okerlund S.B. 245

Utah DWR Predator Control Fact Sheet

 

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