The Department of Game and Fish will discontinue coyote removal activities this spring except in situations where the program can demonstrate positive cost benefits. The State Game Commmission provided that directive to the Department after hearing an update on the program, which indicated deer populations had not significantly improved in those areas subject to coyote control.
"The Department spent a total of $292,000 on contracts with trappers, who removed 1,334 coyotes - that's about $219 per coyote," said Luis Rios, Division of Wildlife chief. "The contracts were written for trappers to spend 160 hours a month in the field, there was no minimum number of coyotes."
The program was implemented in Game Management Units 5B, 10, 17, 23, 37 and 56, chosen for their potential to provide good habitat for improving deer herds. However, the trapping program showed no appreciable increase in deer populations in those areas.
"Recent data shows deer going into the winter in poor condition," said Commissioner David Henderson. "The habitat is not providing for their needs. To grow more deer, we must provide better habitat. Predator control is a tool but habitat is the key."
John Boretski, who represented the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides, referred to the success of the Double H Ranch and the Pipe Ranch improving deer populations with aggressive coyote control measures. Henderson cautioned that those ranches were contained areas controlled by one entity, while the Department of Game and Fish has the entire state to contend with.
Rios said there is still $82,000 in the budget, to be allocated to coyote control or other contract work. The Commission advised not to get rid of the coyote control program but to develop a program that makes good sense overall in managing deer.