Minnesotans could hunt coyotes from aircraft and snowmobiles as part of a new proposal designed to curb animal populations.
“The coyote population seems to be exploding,” said state Rep. Torrey Westrom, a sponsor of the bill. “This would be just one more way to continue the intrigue and enjoyment many people get out of hunting as well as a creative way to help control the coyote population.”
The proposal would require the state to grant hunters free aerial coyote hunting permits. It also allows hunters to shoot a coyote from a stationary snowmobile.
Critics said the proposal is fraught with potential dangers for hunters and could leave scores of wounded animals suffering around the state.
“It’s nutty,” said state Rep. Jean Wagenius, a Minneapolis DFLer who serves on the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee.
Minnesota would join a handful of other states that allow aerial hunting to control everything from nuisance wolves, coyotes to wild hogs. Typically, a hunter and a pilot use a small, highly maneuverable aircraft that allows them to make the shot when an animal is in the clear.
Federal law has prohibited aerial hunting for decades, but a loophole allows states to permit hunting from aircraft to control animals threatening livestock, wildlife or crops.
Westrom said people have been telling him for years how much fun they had hunting wolves from aircraft in the 1960s and 1970s.
“I want to bring back something that younger generations have never had the chance to experience,” said Westrom, from Elbow Lake.
Col. Jim Konrad, enforcement director with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said aerial hunting can be dangerous.
Pilots generally have to fly very low and slow, making it difficult to fly safely and shoot accurately, he said. That makes it more likely animals will be wounded and difficult to track down.
Konrad said he is more concerned about hunting from snowmobiles. He said there is a troubling history of people using snowmobiles to run down animals, like foxes and deer.
“They run them until they can’t move anymore and then kill them,” he said.
Coyotes are so wily that hunters would likely not be successful unless they chased them down first, Konrad said.
The bill does not yet have a companion in the Senate, but it does have at least one Demoratic supporter in the House.
Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, called aerial coyote hunting “a great idea.”
“Farmers are having tons of trouble of them,” Dill said. “Trying to keep the coyotes away from sheep and other livestock is very difficult.”