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by Walter Brasch

A week before the opening of the Olympics, 759 Pennsylvanians paid $25 each to participate in a sport that would never be a part of any international competition.

These Pennsylvanians carried shotguns, whistles, and electronic calls; most also used dogs to search out their prey.  

The prey was coyotes. A “reward” of $100 was paid for each coyote killed; whoever killed the biggest coyote in each of the three-day hunt received $250. Most of the coyotes killed weighed 30–40 pounds, about the size of a Brittany Spaniel; the largest weighed 51 pounds.
This hunt was organized by District 9 Pennsylvania Trappers Association, which covers seven counties in the north-central part of the state. Other hunts are organized by community organizations and volunteer fire companies in several states. January and February, the months when most organized hunts take place, is when the coyotes breed; gestation period is about two months.

Decades ago, hunters killed off the wolf population. Ever resourceful, coyotes filled the void. In Pennsylvania, as in most states that have coyotes, every day is open season. Last year, more than 40,000 coyotes were killed in Pennsylvania, about half of all coyotes killed throughout the country. However, eliminating coyotes is impossible. When threatened by predators, including humans, coyotes will breed and overproduce. When not threatened, they maintain the size of their packs.

In literature, the coyote is the trickster, not unlike Br’er Rabbit who could out-think (and scam) any other animal. Among Native Americans in the southwest, the coyote was revered as “God’s Dog.”

Those who trap rather than shoot coyotes use leg-hold traps and neck snares, which causes severe injuries, pain, and suffering,” according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Another problem with traps is they often capture domestic animals. But there is even a greater problem than the traps.

“Because coyotes are nocturnal animals, and look like dogs at night, people hunting coyotes will kill domestic pets,” says Sarah Speed of the HSUS. She says there are “thousands of cases” of what is dismissed as “mistaken identity.”

Coyotes pose no threat to humans, and will avoid human contact when possible.  Contrary to hunter claims, coyotes usually avoid killing deer and elk, except in extreme winter when food is scarce. To the coyotes, size does matter, and scoring dinner of mice and berries is far easier than taking down an eight-point buck.

Those who kill coyotes claim coyotes, one of the most intelligent and resourceful of all animals, kill fawns, causing severe stress to the deer families. So, like the true humanitarians they are, these citizens of a state founded by a man opposed to killing, spin the fiction they are not only preventing an overpopulation of coyotes, but are also saving fawns, cottontails, mice and, apparently, fruits and berries, coyote favorites in the summer, from the coyote population. The Pennsylvania Game Commission says there is no evidence coyotes have any significant impact upon the deer population.

Farmers say they don’t like coyotes because they kill hens, which produce eggs and then are slaughtered. Coyotes deprive not only Colonel Sanders from income but also sports fans from the thrill of slobbering barbeque sauce over their hands and mouths during “Wing Nite Mondays.”

Most hunters who kill deer say they do so to provide their families with meat; they say the skin provides for warmth. They don’t say why they have a testosterone-fueled need to stuff a buck’s head, complete with antlers, and display it like a trophy. Nevertheless, coyotes have no meat value. Although their fur can yield a maximum of $40 a pelt, women aren’t salivating for a Valentine’s Day gift of a coyote stole.

Hunters whose intelligence and ability to survive in the woods aren’t as good as a coyote’s can still kill them. Several game farms offer special hunts. For $399 a day, pretend-hunters can sign up with Kansas Predator Hunts for “guided and all-inclusive” hunts that includes lodging, food, and a guide to do everything except to take the actual shot.

Many hunters refuse to kill coyotes. Mark Giesen of Northumberland, Pa., a hunter for 40 years, refuses to hunt coyotes or anything that does not have meat value. He says he believes incentivized killing, where people are paid to kill animals, “whether it’s coyotes or pigeons, is wrong and very unsportsmanlike.”

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives, composed of part-timers who earn a minimum of $82,026 a year plus as much as $159 a day when they are actually in Harrisburg, passed a bill, 111-78 in December, which would pay a $25 bounty for every coyote killed. The Senate has not yet voted on the legislation. Because there is open season on coyotes, more than 40,000 a year are killed, and numerous wildlife officers are on record as saying that bounties are not effective in controlling the coyote population, the bill appears to be little more than a special welfare program to benefit hunters and trappers. The cost to the state, which is already in financial distress, will be up to $700,000 a year for the bounties, plus additional administrative costs to process a program that adds another layer of bureaucracy and still not solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Camilla Fox of Project Coyote told The Wildlife News that “Killing coyotes and wolves for fun and prizes is ethically repugnant, morally bankrupt, and ecologically indefensible. Such contests demean the immense ecological and economic value of predators, perpetuating a culture of violence and sending a message to children that life has little value.”

For whatever reason people say they kill coyotes, it has nothing to do with sport or ecological necessity, and everything to do with the sheer joy of killing.

[Dr. Brasch has been an award-winning journalist for four decades. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation into the effects of the shale gas industry upon economics, health, and environment.]

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Comment Preferences

  •  coyotes, like all wild animals breed to the food (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Remembering Jello

    source...if there's food  (your cat or dog or hens ) then they increase in numbers.  they increase until there's no more food then the population crashes.....just like all animals.

    Coyote's are not some mythical "God's Dog", they are wild canids who have adapted to thrive off of the edges of human society.

    More than one kid has been chewed up out west here by coyotes and you know what an indoor outdoor cat here is called?.....dinner......

    My house, they get shot if they cross the fence line, I've lost too many animals to them to allow any more.  Like feral dogs, control by hunting is the only resort left as we have wiped out the other apex predators.  Just lost a nice little hen on eggs way early, skunk this time though, only her head was missing....well and her organs and eggs.....

    We made the choice a century ago to wipe out apex predators in contact with "civilization"  now we have no choice but to continue unless you want to move a wolf pack in down the block....just like we need to hunt the deer or they overproduce till the environment is stripped and they die off from disease or starvation....

    Modern scientific game management works pretty well.

    Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
    I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
    Emiliano Zapata

    by buddabelly on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 05:18:09 AM PST

    •  Wouldn't it be simpler and more cost effective (0+ / 0-)

      in the long run just to build secure housing for your poultry?

      You can't kill every coyote, and you can't kill every critter that preys on chickens. Pretty much everything that eats meat does.

  •  Coyotes have been spotted in our (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, SuWho

    urban Dallas neighborhood, including on the corner of the street where we live, two doors down. We haven't seen them in our neighborhood yet, but we did see one at the lake park nearby. It was thrilling!

    We keep chickens, but they live in a properly designed, secure coop and run, so they are not in danger from coyotes...or anything else other than humans with a reciprocating saw or heavy duty wire cutters.

    Coyotes have been known to kill free roaming cats and small dogs, but you aren't supposed to let your dog or cat roam free in the first place.

    In an urban environment, coyotes help to keep down the rat population. In my opinion, that's beneficial.

    •  There was one hit by a car only a block or so away (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, elmo

      a few years back in our town.  We don't have particularly high fences around the back yard, so we became a lot more careful about watching our beagles when we let them out, especially at night.

    •  Wait till they start coming in your fenced yard (0+ / 0-)

      to eat your dog, my neighbor lost their bull mastiff to coyotes when I was a kid and the average yote has become less afraid of humans than ever.  I've lost more chickens and geese than anything but they did get 2 of my dogs through the years, both in their own fenced yard.

      Your coop isn't as safe as you think it is, they will go over, under, through, I've seen chickens missing whatever they were dumb enough to stick out of their pen and coops made from all types of material that they have pried open.  At least the yote's usually don't kill all the chickens like dogs do. The last that dug in met my rottweiler on the way out...Maddie wasn't happy with it.  It paid for that chicken.

      And they do occasionally attack people, usually children.  Any you see that aren't afraid of you are a potential threat, and the threat is getting worse every year.

      Unfortunately people feed them and don't secure their garbage which attracts more and more.  As their population keeps increasing, the food gets strained and they get more and more bold about taking what they need.  We learned this out in L.A. a long time ago but it's taken time for their numbers and range to grow to what it is today, soon the east will know the joys of life with midsized urban predators.

      Vaya con Dios Don Alejo
      I want to die a slave to principles. Not to men.
      Emiliano Zapata

      by buddabelly on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:00:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  We have a shed size coop with 1/2" thick plywood (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly

        walls, windows that are covered with 17 gauge welded wire with 1/2" by 1/2" openings. The attached run is covered sides and top by 19 gauge welded wire with 1/2" by 1/2" openings, with an apron of welding wire fastened down to the ground and extending out two feet to deter dig ins.

        Nothing is sticking out through that wire, and I sincerely doubt that a coyote is going to be able to break in, either. I know they can get into our yard by digging under the 8 foot tall board fence. I don't let our little dog have access to the back yard until well after dawn and well before nightfall, and we don't let him have access while we're not at home, either. He's at more risk, I think, than are our chickens.

  •  Ecological niches WILL be filled. (3+ / 0-)

    Kill off the wolfs, the coyote populations will explode.

    Kill off the coyotes, and packs of feral dogs will probably take over.

    •  I doubt we're in any danger of that... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SuWho, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, unfangus

      since the chances of actually killing off a consummate survivor species like coyotes is pretty slim. It's been tried it for quite a long time out West, and it certainly hasn't succeeded, despite humans using every trick in the animal-killing book to try (hunting, traps, poison baits, etc. ad nauseum.)

      The real tragedy here is not just that people are allowed to hunt coyotes (which might be necessary under limited circumstances for population control or disease outbreaks), but more that it's completely unregulated here in PA and has nothing to do with any legitimate goal of either game management or hunting. I have to agree (as someone who's hunted most of my life) that if you're not eating what you kill then you shouldn't be doing it. I've never taken a trophy of any kind and never will and I'm not as unusual in that regard as many people might think. I also try to use (or provide to other to use) as much of an animal as possible; not just the meat, but parts like skin, antlers, and hooves as well. If you're going to kill an animal for consumption, you should do so as humanely as possible and use it as completely as possible. That means no traps or poisons and a quick, clean kill to minimize the animals suffering. As other have pointed out, we are now the apex predator in places like PA and nothing else is going to control animal populations that are not self-controlling (which generally does not include coyotes, who are self-controlling under most circumstances.) But what's allowed to go on here in PA is something that even a fair number of hunters like myself find disgusting and wrong.

      Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

      by Stwriley on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 07:19:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stwriley, unfangus

        I support people who want to keep coyotes away from their properties by killing them if they got near their properties.
        I'm not supportive of people who go way outside their property and hunt coyotes.
        The former at least have a possible advantage that overtime, it teaches coyotes to avoid your property (as intended).

        •  It would be a more effective strategy (0+ / 0-)

          to restrict the food sources for coyotes on your property. You can't kill all the coyotes; when you kill one, another one just moves in.

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