Predator hunters are a step closer to being able to stalk at night on public lands after a bill that would allow it passed the Wyoming Senate by a hefty margin Monday.
House Bill 104 passed the Wyoming House late last month and the Senate approved it 27-4 Monday.
“No” votes came from Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander; Minority Whip Sen. Mike Gierau, D- Jackson; Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie; and Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper.
The measure would allow hunters to use artificial light, infrared equipment and night vision scopes to find and kill coyotes and other predatory animals on public lands. Those predator hunting practices are now allowed only on private land, with express permission from the landowner.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland, and other proponents have argued that it’s needed to help bring coyotes under control.
The wily canines frequently attack livestock and have also made a dent in Wyoming’s big game population by killing calf elk and deer fawns, they claim. Coyotes can be extremely elusive, so allowing them to be shot at night will give hunters a needed edge.
However, some predator advocates have argued against the random killing of coyotes. They say that killing dominant coyotes near farms and ranches can cause lesser animals to rush in and start attacking stock. It’s also been argued that indiscriminate killing just prompts female coyotes to have bigger litters.
That’s the gist of claims made by researchers such as Robert Crabtree, a research associate at the University of Montana.
During committee testimony over HB 104, detractors said that turning hunters loose with night vision on public land could also cause safety concerns. Even with night vision equipment, hunters might not be able to see what’s behind their targets.
But proponents of the bill said that numerous other states, including all those bordering Wyoming, currently allow night vision predator hunting, and there haven’t been any accidental shootings, property damage or other problems because of it.
Anything But Cheap
Night vision hunting has been widely used for pest control in other areas. It’s a favored method for culling destructive feral hogs in Texas and other states. Chances seem slim that Wyoming hunters will ever get the chance to go infrared on rogue pigs here, although feral swine have started showing up in neighboring states.
Meanwhile, anybody wishing to try nighttime coyote hunting, should HB 104 be signed into law, might want to make an appointment with their favorite loan officer.
Even lower-end night vision scopes can cost thousands of dollars, some who testified on the bill said. Avid Wyoming coyote hunter said he spent roughly $15,000 outfitting himself for night hunting on parcels of private land where he has permission to do so.