In the face of growing public pressure on the government to do something about coyotes, Nova Scotia's Natural Resources Minister is considering a bounty even though his own department says it won't work.
John MacDonell is expected to announce measures on Thursday to reduce the risk of coyote attacks, which have become a local media cause célèbre since several killed singer Taylor Mitchell last fall in Cape Breton. One option he has mentioned is offering incentives to reduce the population.
But that would put politics ahead of science: His department's own website states that such an approach doesn't work and that bounties in the 1980s had "no impact" on the population.
Wildlife biologist Bob Bancroft, who used to work for government, said that's because females compensate with bigger litters.
"If you kill a bunch of them they just have more babies," he said.
A decision from the minister, who was not available Wednesday, was expected last week but was postponed so he could meet with more stakeholders. Coming on the heels of three threatening incidents reported this month, the delay sparked cries for action.
"I'm afraid to go for a walk," said Ruth Hubley, who regularly sees coyotes near her house in South Maitland, west of Truro. "It's a scary thing, especially for kids. There's got to be something done."
But it's not clear whether there are more incidents lately involving coyotes or whether they are simply getting more attention in the wake of Ms. Mitchell's death.
"I feel sorry for the minister, I do feel he's been put in a difficult spot." Mr. Bancroft said.
"I think that nothing suddenly flipped that coyotes are acting different than before. It just wasn't getting media attention. If some dog grabs your calf it doesn't end up on the front page, but if a coyote grabs your calf it's on the front page of the local paper."
Others argue, though, that the province is facing a real problem of coyotes no longer being wary of humans.
"I was raising the alarm last fall on this, before the media ever picked up on it," said Liberal MLA Kelly Regan, who said that pets in her Halifax-area riding have been falling prey.
"When you have coyotes … behaving in ways that are uncharacteristically aggressive - they're usually afraid of humans, they're not afraid of humans any more - then you're seeing a change and you need to take action."
But what to do is the difficult question facing Mr. MacDonell. The public debate has been passionate and at times ugly. An innkeeper in Cape Breton found a bloody coyote carcass strung up on her property after writing a letter to her local paper in support of the animals.
"This is wild country," Earlene Busch, proprietor of the Chanterelle Country Inn near Baddeck, said in an interview. "To make this area perfectly safe we'd have to cut down all the trees and pave it."
Options available to Mr. MacDonell include targeted elimination of nuisance populations, incentives to trappers to kill large numbers of the animals and better education of the public. The solution may lie in a combination of approaches and some argue that humans simply will have to learn to live with coyotes.
"We keep building our homes in wildlife habitat and then wonder what wildlife is doing there," said Tony Rodgers, president of the provincial Federation of Anglers and Hunters.Report Typo/Error