In a scene all too reminiscent of something out of the movie, Mississippi Burning, a rural sheriff is urging his hate-filled, violence-prone constituents to defy federal law enforcement officers and continue their attacks on the objects of their redneck derision. This time, instead of the Deep South, the setting is extreme Northeastern California, and rather than the Civil Rights Amendment, the federal law being defied is the Endangered Species Act. The potential victim warranting protection is a wolf known as OR7, who could be caught in the crossfire of a depraved tradition know as a “contest hunt” targeting coyotes with the savage glee of an angry lynch mob.
The above analogy highlights how far we’ve come in terms of civil rights since the early ‘60s—and just how far we have to go before the country embraces the mere concept of animal rights. Try to suggest relegating any group of people to the back of the bus these days and see how many friends you make. But any asshole with an evil will (and maybe an extra shotgun or semi-automatic rifle or two to offer as grand prize for the highest body count) can legally propose a contest to kill as many intelligent, highly social—yet woefully unprotected—canines as state “game” laws allow. (And most western state game departments don’t even set a “bag limit” on coyotes.) Sadly, non-humans still have a ways to go before any but the most endangered are granted even the right to their very lives.
From Project Coyote:
For Immediate Release, February 8, 2013
Modoc County Sheriff Goes Rogue, Vows to Defy Federal Laws During Coyote Hunt
Hunt Continues Despite Public Opposition, Concerns over California’s Lone Wolf
SAN FRANCISCO — The Animal Welfare Institute, Project Coyote and Center for Biological Diversity are seeking an immediate investigation of Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter for his decision to defy federal laws and advocate the violation of those laws during this weekend’s Coyote Drive 13, a coyote-killing contest in and near Modoc County.
A letter to the editor of the Modoc County Recorder on Feb. 7 by Sheriff Poindexter said he won’t “tolerate any restriction of legal hunting on our public lands” despite federal laws prohibiting or regulating coyote hunting on federal lands in and near Modoc County. He also recommended that any hunt participant who is questioned or detained by federal enforcement officials for illegally hunting on federal lands to “cooperate but stand their ground and call the Sheriff’s Office” and that sheriff deputies “absolutely will not tolerate any infringement upon your liberties pertaining to accessing or legally hunting on your public lands.”
“Despite claiming to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Sheriff Poindexter has decided he will not enforce and is encouraging others to flout those federal laws which he opposes,” said D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. “This is a blatant breach of his duty as a law enforcement officer and a violation of the Law Enforcement Code of ethics.”
The groups have contacted the district attorney for Modoc County, the California Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California and a number of state and federal agencies advising them of Sheriff Poindexter’s comments and asking for urgent intervention.
“These laws are on the books to protect our public lands and the wildlife that live there. Not only does this coyote hunt put OR-7 and other wolves at risk, but now it’s also shaping up to be some kind of Wild West misadventure where the sheriff is thumbing his nose at federal laws,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Poindexter’s statement comes in the wake of public outcry that generated more than 20,000 letters, emails, and petition signatures into the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission calling for an end to Coyote Drive 2013 and a top-to-bottom evaluation of the state’s approach to managing predators in California.
“Given the serious potential for violations of state and federal laws barring predator hunting on public lands, the threat this hunt poses to OR-7 and any un-collared wolves in the area, and the public’s clear opposition to this killing contest, the state should take immediate action to call off Coyote Drive 2013 now,” said Camilla Fox, Project Coyote executive director and a wildlife consultant to the Animal Welfare Institute.
Project Coyote promotes educated coexistence between people and coyotes by championing progressive management policies that reduce human-coyote conflict, supporting innovative scientific research, and by fostering respect for and understanding of America’s native wild “song dog.” http://www.projectcoyote.org/
The Animal Welfare Institute is dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere — in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. http://awionline.org
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 450,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places. http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/
You can find the Stop the Coyote Contest Hunt Petition at Change.org: