Starting Wednesday, Chippewa County will pay $10 for every coyote killed in the county.
It's the first time in 45 years a bounty will be offered on the animals in Minnesota. But county officials say it's necessary to curb a population that's grown out of control.
It's difficult to estimate the number of coyotes in Minnesota, because the state doesn't track coyotes. Wildlife officials estimate they number in the tens of thousands. They're pretty smart animals. And in the Western part of the state, they don't have any natural predators, which is part of the reason their numbers are on the rise.
"Oh, in the winter months, you know, again when the wind is in the right direction, you sound like you're out in the Wild West when you hear all the coyotes howling at night," said Jon Clauson, auditor for Chippewa County.
The state dropped the bounty on coyotes in 1965, but for the last several years the county lobbied the state to legislate allowing local governments to offer a bounty on the animals.
Lawmakers passed it during the last session. Clauson said some farmers in the area complain they've been overrun by coyotes, putting their cattle and sheep at risk, which in some cases, are turning up dead.
John Moon, state chairman of the Minnesota Beef Council, raises cattle on 350-acres along the Minnesota River and guesses coyotes are on his property just about every night.
"We haven't had a lot of trouble with them. I suppose we've lost a couple of calves over the years. My wife use to raise chickens and that got to be a hopeless case," Moon said.
The bounty would work better if more money was offered, he said.
"I don't think anybody's going to go out and shoot a coyote for an extra 10 bucks."
About 20 miles away, Dave Soehren raises a few cattle and chickens on 80 acres in neighboring Lac Qui Parle County, where the bounty is under consideration.
Soehren hunts and traps coyotes all winter.
In a large shed that smells like dead animals, he picks up a coyote pelt that's been stretched out to dry on the wall and holds it into the light.
"This is the freshest, the newest of the two coyotes I've taken. This is a large female. Typical of a Minnesota coyote, a little on the brown side," Soehren said.
The bounty won't work and sends the wrong message, he said.
"I'm not a coyote protector by any stretch of the imagination. But by putting a bounty on them it gives them the status of unwanted vermin, if you will, and promotes a lot of bad behavior in taking them," Soehren said. "There's enough ethical problems with hunters and predators nowadays. "
The Department of Natural Resources agrees that bounties aren't a good wildlife management strategy.
"Historically they really weren't effective from a wildlife management and depredation control perspective," Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist with the DNR.
Stark said it's better to eliminate specific problem coyotes that may be attacking livestock.
And in the past, there were also concerns about fraud, he said.
"Counties that may have been paying bounties were paying for animals that were being taken in other counties."
Chippewa County officials said they hope to minimize fraud by having hunters vouch for where they killed their coyotes and by notching pelts. They would also like to get surrounding counties to also offer bounties in hopes of further reducing the risk of fraud.
At any rate, problems with earlier bounty programs shouldn't prevent from dealing with today's nuisance, Clauson said.
"I guess my off the cuff response is that if a hundred coyotes are killed, that's a hundred less to be preying on the sheep and the small calves in the county," he said.
The county doesn't have money set aside for the bounty, so this year they will be paid out of reserves. The coyote bounty runs through the end of March.