Critics of coyote hunting contest plan protest

http://truro.wickedlocal.com/news/20180209/critics-of-coyote-hunting-contest-plan-protest

Coyotes are back in the news following the promotion of a controversial hunting contest by Powderhorn Outfitters, a gun shop in Hyannis.

Profiled last week in the Cape’s daily newspaper after it caused a stir on social media, the contest offers prizes for the largest coyote killed and for the cumulative weight of each hunter’s harvest through the hunting season, which ends on March 12.

The contest, which is promoted on the store’s Facebook page but not on its website, quickly drew the ire of wildlife advocates such as Eastham’s Louise Kane.

Kane was featured in a report in The Cape Codder last year, when she started a Change.org petition to ban carnivore hunting in the Cape Cod National Seashore; as of this week, it had 6,630 supporters.

On Jan. 28 she posted this comment on Powderhorn’s Facebook page: “Please friends that love animals go to Powderhorn Outfitters facebook page and give them a one star rating and object to the coyote killing contest. Please take a moment for Cape Cod coyotes.”

The same day Dr. Jonathan Way, founder of Eastern Coyote/Coywolf Research, and author of “Suburban Howls: Tracking the Eastern Coyote in Urban Massachusetts,” also had harsh words for the contest, writing in his blog: “Here is the first coyote hunting contest that I am aware of in MA, and here on Cape Cod, MA. This is outrageous. Spread the word about who really gets to ‘manage’ our wildlife. Of course, MA Wildlife and local town laws do nothing to prevent this ‘tragedy of the commons.’” With it came a link to Powderhorn’s facebook page.

Way and Kane are planning an information and protest event this Saturday in Hyannis. (See details below.)

Hunters, or supporters of hunters, had their say on the gun shop’s Facebook page, too. Several decried the “one-star rating” tactic as unfair and some had choice words for “the anti-hunting leftists.”

On the Cape, Way is a leading expert for all things coyote (see easterncoyoteresearch.com). In a local magazine article two years back, he estimated there were between 200 and 250 coyotes – or coywolves, as he identifies them as a species – living on the Cape.

He puts the coywolf DNA profile at roughly 60 percent western coyote, 30 percent wolf and 10 percent dog.

The population, by his account and others, remains mostly stable from year to year, and is found in all areas of the Cape, indeed across the Commonwealth.

Dave Wattles, a biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, said the Commonwealth is “pretty well saturated with coyotes.”

“They started to colonize [here] in the 1950s, and we’re now seeing the far end of that colonization. We now have coyotes in every mainland town in the state, and in relatively high densities. All available habitat is occupied by coyotes.”

Contrary to the popular image of the lone coyote howling at the moon on the open range, coyotes live in small family packs and have become established in urban and residential communities where they have access to even a small wooded area.

While coyote attacks on people are rare, they can prey on pet cats and small dogs.

“Coyotes will see small pets as potential prey items,” noted Wattles.

Gerry Tuoti contributed to this report.

Dr. Way’s advice: Ten do’s and don’ts

Regardless of whether you approve of a coyote hunting contest, the animals are widespread across the Cape and are frequently heard and sometimes seen in all of the towns. Here are some guidelines, provided by Dr. Jonathan Way’s web site (easterncoyoteresearch.com), to bear in mind when dealing with the region’s coyotes:

1. Do chase them away and make noise (bang pots and pans) if you don’t want them in your yard. Of course, if you don’t mind them then watch them from a window quietly as to not scare them away.

2. Do make noise when you are outside especially if coyotes are often in your area. They will often change their course of direction when they hear people. Bring a whistle or horn to scare them away from you.

3. Do not feed coyotes or other animals. Even if you are feeding birds or other animals coyotes will be attracted to your yard just like any other animal looking for an easy handout.

4. Do not feed your pets outside for the same reason as above.

5. Absolutely do not let your cat outside if you are truly concerned with its health. Coyotes are just one of many mortality factors for outdoor cats.

6. Do leash your dogs. Although coyotes may follow a leashed dog out of curiosity (to the concern of the person), it is extremely rare for them to actually get within contact of your pet.

7. Do not let dogs (especially small breeds) outdoors loose without constant supervision. Fences should be at least 5 feet tall and there should not be any places where coyotes can crawl underneath. While a fence does not guarantee total protection, it is a good deterrent to coyotes or humans who would snatch or harm pets left outside alone.

8. Do not leave dogs tied outdoors unsupervised in coyote-prevalent areas.

9. Do not leave dogs and cats outside for any period of time unsupervised, especially at night, even in a fenced enclosure.

10. Do enjoy their presence and the fact that having this wily predator adds to the mystique of your neighborhood.

Learn more

What: A talk by Dr. Jonathan Way When: Saturday, Feb. 10, noon to 1:30 p.m. Where: Hyannis Public Library, 401 Main Street Followed by: A protest of the coyote hunting contest by Powderhorn Outfitters (2 to 4 p.m.), at 210 Barnstable Road, Hyannis. RSVP: louise@kaneproductions.net

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Be of Good Cheer (Revisted)

I get the feeling some people won’t be satisfied until I’ve plumbed the deepest, darkest depths of hunter/trapper depravity. I’ve had people ask me to write blog posts on issues as nauseating to cover as Wyoming’s new bounty on coyotes, and the glib manner in which some Wyomingites brag about cutting off coyotes ears in the parking lot of the “Sportsmen’s” Warehouse to claim their $20.00 bounty (following the same ugly tradition of  their forbearers who claimed cash at the fort for Indian scalps); incidents as horrible as the black bear (pictured here) who got caught in a 217855_388677001217027_1495584697_ntrap that some sick, twisted asshole set for pine marten; or report on how poachers are killing off the last of the world’s big cats; or go into how vacuous bowhunters sound when they praise one another for impaling animals for sport, or the malevolent tone used by wolf hunters or trappers when they get away with murdering beings far superior to them in every way.

The problem is, whenever I go there I get so irate I could end up saying something like, “They should all be lined up and shot, their bodies stacked like cordwood and set ablaze to rid the world of every last speck of their psychopathic evil once and for all.”

Well I’m not going to do that…at least not during the holiday season…

December should be a time for being of good cheer and spreading hopeful news…(I’ll let you know if I hear any…)

KILLING ONE OF THESE ANIMALS WILL GET YOU A LIFETIME SC HUNTING LICENSE

File photo.
File photo. Columbus

http://www.thestate.com/news/state/article191042499.html

DECEMBER 21, 2017 02:05 PM

Coyotes howl to chat with their neighbors

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Coyotes-howl-to-chat-with-their-neighbors-12442786.php

December 19, 2017 Updated: December 19, 2017

A coyote. Photo: Christopher Gallello

A coyote.

Coyotes are more than an icon of the American West. They are probably your neighbors.

More and more people are routinely hearing coyotes yip, bark and howl in their backyards or in other urban and suburban settings. In fact, Canis latrans, the scientific name for coyotes, means “barking dog.”

When you watch coyotes throw their heads back and sing to their heart’s content, they seem to enjoy it. That was Marc’s impression when he and his students studied wild coyotes in the Grand Teton National Park for more than eight years. It’s fun, it feels good, so why not howl?

But what are they saying?

Researchers have identified around a dozen or so coyote vocalizations. Some coyote sounds are used to defend their territory and dens and to tell other coyotes they’re around, but some vocalizations give away much more information.

There’s little evidence that vocalizations are used to coordinate pack hunting. Some research shows the alpha, or high-ranking, males and females and pairs do most of the vocalizing.

Based on extensive and detailed research that involved recording and playing back howls and yips and observing the behavior of captive and free-ranging coyotes, wildlife researcher Philip Lehner 40 years ago placed coyote sounds into three general categories:

Greeting: Sounds include low-frequency whining, wow-oo-wowing (often called a greeting song), and group yip-howling (when reuniting and greeting).

Agonistic: These are vocalizations used during aggressive interactions and when coyotes display submission. They include woofing, growling, huffing (high-intensity threat), barking, bark-howling, yelping (submission and startle), and high-frequency whining (usually given by a subordinate coyote).

Contact: Sounds include lone howling (one of the most common vocalizations), group howling (when reuniting or in response to lone or group howls or yip howls), and group yip-howling (which may announce territory occupancy and may help regulate density of population).

Howling sounds can travel around 1,000 yards and can be used by coyotes to identify who’s calling, their gender and perhaps their mood. Transient coyotes don’t usually vocalize as much as resident animals in order to avoid interactions. Lone howls can also announce the location of an individual separated from their group.

One interesting and useful discovery is that humans aren’t very good at estimating how many coyotes are around by listening to their howls. Indeed, they usually overestimate the number of individuals actually present. So the melodious cacophony and symphony of sounds shouldn’t be used to claim that numerous coyotes are all over the place.

The more we understand all aspects of coyote behavior, the easier it will be to peacefully coexist with them. We should use what we know to protect them. State and local policies should embrace our understanding of coyote behavior.

We’re fortunate to share our homes with coyotes and other animals, and it’s important that we come to appreciate and understand the fascinating animals with whom we share our magnificent planet.

Marc Bekoff is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the author of the forthcoming “Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do” (University of Chicago Press). Camilla Fox is founder and executive director of Project Coyote, a nonprofit organization that promotes compassionate conservation and coexistence of people and wildlife. Bekoff serves on the Project Coyote Science Advisory Board.

Coyotes and bobcats provide hunting “opportunities”

[It’d sound like a joke, if it weren’t so sickening.]

http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/oct/29/coyotes-and-bobcats-provide-hunting-opportunities/

By Keith Sutton

This article was published October 29, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.

Jim Spencer of Calico Rock is shown with a bobcat he killed in Saline County. Hunting these big cats can be a very challenging endeavor.

Jim Spencer of Calico Rock is shown with a bobcat he killed in Saline County. Hunting these big cats can be a very challenging endeavor.

 Among the many game animals available to Arkansas hunters, few are more challenging and exciting to pursue as our big predators, the coyote and bobcat. Seasons for both are open now through the end of February, with a daily limit of two for bobcats and no bag limit on coyotes.

Both species are extremely cautious and have keen senses, facts that make them difficult to hunt successfully. But coyotes and bobcats have a weakness hunters can exploit. When they hear the sounds of an injured rabbit, they often throw caution to the wind and charge in for what they think will be an easy meal.

Whenever a predator catches a rabbit, the normally silent cottontail shrieks in fear and pain. It will do the same if it happens to get caught in a trap, a fence, by a snake or when it is accidentally injured. Coyotes and bobcats know this sound, and a hunter who imitates the rabbit’s pitiful squealing using a predator call can bring his quarry near enough for a killing shot.

Rodents such as mice are also diet staples for predators, so modern call makers have produced short-range rodent-squeak calls, too. However, because a dying rabbit sound is loud, carries very well over a long range and is so well recognized by predators, this is the sound most used. It is effective everywhere.

Many hunters learn to use handheld, mouth-blown calls, which are inexpensive and easy to learn how to use. Others choose electronic predator callers, which play dying rabbit sounds. Both are effective.

To begin your hunt, position yourself strategically in an area known to contain predators. You should sit (not stand) so that you can see well over a broad expanse, but never on the skyline where you are easily spotted. Sit against something, not behind it.

Wear camouflage clothing (jacket, pants, hat, head and face net, gloves), and break up your outline by blending in with a tree, bush or rocky outcropping. Walk to the calling area quietly, and try to follow a direct route so you don’t wander around the area in which you intend to call and frighten your quarry.

The best times of day are around dawn and early-morning hours, and in the late afternoon up until dark. All predators also move and hunt at night. However, in Arkansas, coyotes may only be hunted during daylight hours, and dogs are required to hunt bobcats at night.

Calling is best when there is little or no wind, which is one reason to recommend the first light of day, normally a period of calm. If there is any significant air current, the call carries farthest in the direction, downwind, where you don’t want it to go. Any predator coming into the wind is going to whiff your scent. Commercial cover scents are helpful in masking human odor and should be used, but don’t expect them to be infallible. Your best insurance is to have the prevailing wind at the back of your quarry rather than yours, blowing your scent away from the animal’s keen nose.

If you will hunt on cool, overcast days or during winter months, animals are more likely to be foraging for food, and responses may be had all day long. Predator calling when snow is on the ground and wind is severe is extremely effective. This is a difficult time for the animals to find food, and their caution sometimes diminishes in direct proportion.

The firearm you choose for this kind of hunting depends mostly on your individual preference. Arkansas regulations permit bobcats and coyotes to be taken with archery equipment, firearms of any caliber or shotguns using any size shot. Because most hunters hope to sell the pelts of the animals they kill, however, they opt to hunt with rifles in the .22 class. Choices range from the .22 Hornet and .221 Fireball to the .222, .222 magnum, .223 and the .22-250, all proven fur takers. Single-shot hunting handguns are also chambered in most of these calibers and add a more challenging dimension to the sport.

When you begin calling, don’t let your enthusiasm destroy the reality of the drama you are attempting to create. Calling too loud and too long are no-nos. Call just enough to get the animal’s attention.

When a rabbit is first hurt, it can make a lot of loud noise. But as it tires, its squalling decreases in volume and frequency. Duplicate that sequence. Use a loud volume at first but not very long. From then on, use intervals of low volume, as this makes the animal less wary and more intrigued. Gradually taper your calling in length and intensity.

If you don’t get action within an hour, you should move. If a coyote is nearby, it will generally show in a hurry, within 15 minutes or less. A bobcat is more furtive. Sometimes it takes half an hour or more for one, sneaking and slinking, to make an appearance.

When a predator approaches within sight, remember that this is now a swap-out, because you, the caller, are also vulnerable, and when the animal comes close, many things can go wrong, and something usually does. In most confrontations, the predator emerges as winner.

When you spot an animal approaching, quit calling immediately. Remain motionless and silent until you’re ready to shoot. If the animal starts to move away from you, a short call probably will put him back on course, but time such calls to coincide with the moments when your target can’t see you.

If you’re spotted, be ready to react at once. You can’t shoot a coyote with a varmint call, so keep your gun in a ready position. If you have a hunting partner, all the better. Have him ready while you’re calling. When frightened, a coyote or bobcat moves out a whole lot faster than he moved in.

Predator calling know-how, at least on paper, sounds simple enough. But once in the field, application doesn’t seem so easy. The caller finds himself nagged by self-doubts. Is he calling in the proper way? In the right place? Can he really make it work?

This is the learning process every caller must go through. Experience leads to confidence, and self-confidence is the trail to success.

You can expect the unexpected from predator hunting. It offers its own brand of thrills and is a sport that challenges the outdoor savvy of the most skilled hunters. It teaches patience, tolerance and humility. And it is the only trip afield where the hunter deliberately becomes the hunted.

No, it isn’t easy. But predator hunting is fascinating, challenging and suspenseful. And once you call up a wildcat or a yodel dog, there’s no cure except to go calling every chance you get.

Advocates say hunting coyotes is cruel – and doesn’t control the population

  • An ambassador Eastern coyote checks out its surroundings during a “creatures of the night” presentation at New Hampshire Audubon in Concord on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ » Buy this Image


Monitor staff

Sunday, September 24, 2017

In the past four decades, coyotes have moved into New Hampshire from the west, becoming a routine part of the landscape, and now some advocates think we shouldn’t be hunting them quite as much.

Linda Dionne, who openly speaks against hunting and trapping as part of a Manchester group called Voices for Wildlife, has petitioned the New Hampshire Fish and Game commissioners to change the rules, closing the coyote season from March 31 to Sept. 1, when pups are being raised.

The group argues that allowing hunting while young coyotes are being raised is cruel and increases the chances that a litter could be left to starve. They also say the coyote’s relentless expansion throughout North America has shown that hunting doesn’t work to control a species that is traditionally seen as a nuisance.

Their request was denied in a letter from Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau.

“New Hampshire’s existing firearms season provides landowners and farmers with maximum flexibility in dealing with possible conflicts associated with coyotes,” Normandeau wrote, giving one of five reasons he listed for not opening the rule-making process. “The protection and promotion of agricultural interests and the protection of individual property rights have often been noted by the legislature to be priority interests of the state.”

Coyotes can be hunted during the daytime all year round in New Hampshire, as is the case in most neighboring states, and hunted at night from January through March. Trapping season is limited to winter.

The Voices of Wildlife group said it would continue to raise the issue.

“The firearm’s season is for recreational hunting. Having a closed recreational hunting season would not impact the resolution of possible conflicts associated with coyotes. Nothing would change regarding property owners being allowed to use lethal measures to handle an individual conflict,” the group wrote in response to Normandeau.

“The coyote is here to stay and that is a well-known fact. As one good conservationist in New Hampshire put it, ‘We have been at war with the coyote for about a hundred years now, and the coyote won.’ What we are arguing is that it is cruel to kill coyote parents when they are rearing their young, and that it is unnecessary.”

Coyotes are, in some ways, a great success story for wildlife rehabilitation, returning an alpha predator to many ecosystems. Yet it is a success that has occurred entirely in the face of human opposition.

Coyotes are members of the canine family, along with dogs, foxes and wolves, and are not native to New England. They originated in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S., but have been expanding throughout North America for at least a century, filling an ecological niche left by the elimination of wolves, cougars and other large predators.

The first verified account of a coyote in New Hampshire was in Grafton County in 1944, according to state records, but they only began to spread throughout the state in the 1970s and are now widespread. About 5,000 are thought to live in New Hampshire.

The coyote population can expand relatively quickly because females are willing to travel long distances from where they were born before making dens and having pups, unlike the females of many other carnivore species. This allows a breeding population to get established quickly in new territory.

More importantly, they are generalists that will eat almost anything and can adapt to life in many circumstances, from the deep woods to suburbia to the most urban of areas. Coyotes are now found all along the East Coast from Maine to Florida, even on islands like Nantucket and deep in cities like Boston and New York.

Although details are still being studied, it appears that during their eastward expansion the western coyote interbred with some domesticated dogs and with red wolves, which are larger than coyotes but smaller than gray wolves. As a result, the eastern coyote is larger and distinct from the western coyote, to the point that they are sometimes considered a distinct breed.

Most states allow coyotes to be hunted all year round. Massachusetts allows coyote hunting from October to March, while Vermont and Maine allow it all year round. All states have limits on night hunting and on trapping, if the latter is allowed at all.

Out West, where the coyote’s reputation as a livestock killer persists, many states even allow coyote-hunting contests, which award prizes for the most kills in a short period.

Some biologists argue that, counterintuitively, extensive hunting is one reason that coyotes have spread so quickly throughout North America.

Chris Schadler, a conservation biologist, wildlife advocate and author of a book about coyotes called Becoming Wolf: The Eastern Coyote in New England, argued before the Fish and Game commission that year-round hunting actually increases the number of coyotes.

As she explained it, coyotes are pack animals, living in small groups that are dominated by a matriarch, usually the oldest female, who is the only female that has pups.

These packs can undergo a process known as “responsive reproduction,” in which the number of young produced increases when the pack is pressured. This is particularly true if the matriarch is killed, which indirectly gives all the other females in the pack permission to have their own litters – meaning that a successful hunt might result in a larger pack next year.

The issue of coyote hunting came up at the last legislative session, when a bill was debated that would have extended the nighttime hunting of the animals, beyond the current January-through-March limit. The measure died in committee.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

Lawsuit Challenges California’s Mismanagement of Commercial Trapping Program

September 13, 2017

Contact:

Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 770-3187, jsu@biologicaldiversity.org
Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org

Lawsuit Challenges California’s Mismanagement of Wildlife Trapping Program

Public Agencies Illegally Subsidize Private Profiteering Off
Fox, Coyote, Badger Pelts
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and Project Coyote sued the California Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife today for improperly managing and illegally subsidizing the state’s commercial trapping program.

Thousands of coyotes, foxes, badgers and other fur-bearing animals are trapped each year in California so their pelts can be sold overseas. Today’s lawsuit notes that the two state agencies have illegally diverted as much as half a million dollars since 2013 to subsidize commercial fur trapping in California.

“Commercial trapping is a cruel, destructive practice that shouldn’t be subsidized by California taxpayers,” said attorney Jean Su, the Center’s associate conservation director. “It’s wrong that a handful of trappers slaughter our wildlife for private profit while the state foots the bill. These animals are far more valuable as essential species in California’s web of life than as skinned pelts shipped to Russia and China.”

In 2015, conservationists celebrated the Fish and Game Commission’s decision to ban the commercial trapping of bobcats, whose pelts are some of the most lucrative on the international fur market. But more than a dozen other furbearing animals still experience cruel trapping under the state’s mismanaged trapping program.

California law requires that the states’s costs of managing a commercial trapping program must be fully recovered through trapping license fees. The state spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on wardens, biologists and administrators to oversee and enforce trapping regulations, yet license fees cover only a tiny fraction of the program’s total costs. Taxpayers foot the bill for the shortfall.

Since the fee-recovery mandate became effective in2013, the commission and the fish and wildlife department have illegally diverted upwards of half a million dollars to subsidize commercial fur trapping in California.

“The illegal subsidization of the state’s commercial trapping program violates not just the letter of the law, but the will of the California people,” said Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote. “An overwhelming majority of Californians do not support commercial trapping.”

In the 2015-2016 license year, approximately 200 trappers purchased commercial licenses. Of those, 50 reported killing the nearly 2,000 animals trapped for fur that year, according to a department report. To ensure undamaged pelts, trappers often kill animals through strangulation, gassing and anal electrocution.

If the illegal subsidy of trapping licenses is eliminated, trapping license fees would have to be set at a level that few if any trappers would likely be willing to pay, resulting in a de facto end to commercial fur trapping in California.

“It’s shocking that California still permits the inhumane slaughter of our wildlife for fur,” Su said. “It’s time the state is held accountable for its poor management of a program that benefits only a few.”

Today’s lawsuit targets the California Fish and Game Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife for failing to raise license fees to the levels adequate to recoup the entire commercial trapping program’s costs, as mandated under law. If the illegal subsidy of trapping licenses is eliminated, trapping license fees would have to be set at a level that few, if any, trappers would likely be willing to pay, resulting in a de facto end to commercial fur trapping in California.

Recognizing the ecological importance of carnivores, the Center and Project Coyote use science-based advocacy to defend these magnificent animals from persecution, exploitation and extinction. Find out more about the Center’s Carnivore Conservation campaign here and aboutProject Coyote’s Predator Protection Programs here.

Alberta: Coyote gets stuck in car’s grille after being hit on highway – released…

AIRDRIE, Alta. – An Alberta woman says she was shocked when she found a
coyote she thought she’d struck and killed on the highway stuck in the
grille of her car.

Georgie Knox was driving to work in Calgary from her home in Airdrie last
week when the animal darted in front of her vehicle.

She says she heard a “crunch” and thought she’d run the animal over and
killed it.

But when she stopped at a traffic light near Calgary’s Foothills Hospital, a
construction worker pointed out the young coyote was lodged in her grille
and alive.

Knox called provincial fish and wildlife officers to help.

They managed to remove the animal, found it had only suffered minor injuries
and released it in the foothills west of Calgary.

Knox told CTV she felt bad when she realized the coyote had been embedded in
her grille for almost 35 kilometres at highway speeds.

“I felt horrible when I realized I took him with me all the way from
Airdrie. I thought he must be suffering and was going to die, so I was very
upset.”

She was astounded at the outpouring of concern.

“It was amazing just to see all kinds of people come together to save this
pup’s life. The construction workers, 311 dispatchers, (Calgary Police
Service) and finally the Wildlife Enforcement Department.”

Her story has gone viral on Facebook. It’s been shared tens of thousands of
times.

Knox said her experience has sparked a discussion about whether people
should be stopping to check on a wild animal they have hit on a busy
highway.

http://www.torontosun.com/2017/09/12/coyote-gets-stuck-in-cars-grille-after
being-hit-on-highway

Court Rules Monterey County Federal Animal-killing Contract Violates Law

Decision Likely Halts Program That Kills Coyotes,
Bobcats, Mountain Lions
 

Contacts:

Camilla Fox, Project Coyote, (415) 690-0338, cfox@projectcoyote.org
Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821,cadkins@biologicaldiversity.org
Amey Owen, Animal Welfare Institute, (202) 446-2128, amey@awionline.org
Natalia Lima, Animal Legal Defense Fund, (201) 679-7088, nlima@aldf.org
Kimiko Martinez, Natural Resources Defense Council, (310) 434-2344, kmartinez@nrdc.org

SALINAS, Calif.— The California Superior Court has ruled that Monterey County’s contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program to kill predators and other native wildlife violates state law. The decision responds to a lawsuit filed by animal protection and conservation organizations.

The court concluded that Monterey County violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to analyze the environmental impacts before renewing the controversial program, which has shot, trapped and snared thousands of animals in the county in recent years.

“This is a decisive victory for California’s wildlife and for science as it sends a clear message to USDA Wildlife Services and to entities contracting with them that they must look at the impacts of killing thousands of animals to both target and non-target animals as well as to the environment,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote.

The court’s ruling finds that Monterey County’s contract renewal with Wildlife Services violates CEQA because the county wrongfully claimed an exemption from the Act. The court found “no evidence” to support the county’s claim that its contract for predator control could not result in “significant environmental change,” so the county must now analyze the environmental impacts of the program.

“This decision is a major victory for Monterey County’s coyotes, foxes and other wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All the latest science shows predator control is expensive, ineffective and inhumane. We hope the court’s decision spurs the county to realize that business-as-usual wildlife killing is no longer acceptable.”

Monterey County’s previous contract authorized Wildlife Services to kill hundreds of coyotes, as well as bobcats, mountain lions and other animals every year without fully assessing the ecological damage or considering alternatives. For example, from June 2014 to June 2015, Wildlife Services killed 105 coyotes, three mountain lions and two bobcats in the county. Over the past six years, Wildlife Services has killed more than 3,500 animals in Monterey County using traps, snares and firearms.

“It is appalling that Wildlife Services, a little known federal program, uses taxpayer dollars to slaughter millions of wild animals annually,” explained Tara Zuardo, a wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “We applaud the court in this case for calling out Monterey County for violating state law and recognizing the significant environmental impact of Wildlife Service’s unnecessary and inhumane slaughter of wildlife in the county.”

“We are pleased with the court’s decision and willingness to enforce this important environmental statute,” said Katherine Henderson, the lead attorney representing the conservation organizations.

“Wildlife Services should be under close scrutiny for its track record of indiscriminate killing and subjecting countless animals to painful deaths,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “The individual coyotes, foxes, bobcats and others killed annually by Wildlife Services are integral components of the environment, and the government cannot recklessly kill these species without carefully assessing the potential ecological consequences of their deaths.”

A Monterey County resident joined with Animal Legal Defense Fund, theAnimal Welfare Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense CouncilProject Coyote and the Mountain Lion Foundation to file the lawsuit that led to this victory. The conservationists were represented by Katherine Henderson, Christoher Mays and Mary Procaccio-Flowers of the law firm Wilson Sonsoni Goodrich & Rosati.

Background

Last year, Wildlife Services reported that it killed 1.6 million native animals nationwide, including 3,893 coyotes, 142 foxes, 83 black bears, 18 bobcats and thousands of other creatures in California. Nontarget animals — including family dogs and protected wildlife like wolves, Pacific fisher, and eagles — are also at risk from Wildlife Services’ indiscriminate methods.

Peer-reviewed research shows that such reckless slaughter of animals—particularly predators—results in broad ecological destruction and loss of biodiversity. The program’s controversial and indiscriminate killing methods have come under increased scrutiny from scientists, the public, and government officials.

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system. To accomplish this mission, the Animal Legal Defense Fund files high-impact lawsuits to protect animals from harm; provides free legal assistance and training to prosecutors to assure that animal abusers are punished for their crimes; supports tough animal protection legislation and fights harmful legislation; and provides resources and opportunities to law students and professionals to advance the emerging field of animal law. For more information, please visit aldf.org.

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and 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. For more information, visit awionline.org.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places: biologicaldiversity.org.

Project Coyote, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Northern California, is a North American coalition of wildlife educators, scientists, ranchers, and community leaders promoting coexistence between people and wildlife, and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy. For more information, visit ProjectCoyote.org.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

For 30 years, the Mountain Lion Foundation has worked with member volunteers and activists to further wildlife policies that seek to protect mountain lions, people and domestic animals without resorting to lethal measures. For more information, visitmountainlion.org.

Why killing coyotes doesn’t make livestock safer

https://theconversation.com/why-killing-coyotes-doesnt-make-livestock-safer-75684

Few Americans probably know that their tax dollars paid to kill 76,859 coyotes in 2016. The responsible agency was Wildlife Services (WS), part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its mission is to “resolve wildlife conflicts to allow people and wildlife to coexist.” This broad mandate includes everything from reducing bird strikes at airports to curbing the spread of rabies.

Controlling predators that attack livestock is one of the agency’s more controversial tasks. WS uses nonlethal techniques, such as livestock guard dogs and fladry – hanging strips of cloth from fences, where they flutter and deter predators. But every year it also kills tens of thousands of predators, including bears, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, hawks, cougars and wolves.

However, there is no clear evidence that lethal control works to reduce human-predator conflict. In fact, it can even make the problem worse. At the same time, research shows that predators play key roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems. As a conservation biologist specializing in human-wildlife conflicts, I see growing evidence that it is time to reconsider lethal control.

Warfare on the range

Coyotes have been a target ever since European explorers first arrived in their territory centuries ago. Nonetheless, their range has expanded from the western plains across most of the continent.

The most common reason for killing coyotes is to reduce predation of livestock, such as sheep and calves. In a 2015 USDA report on sheep losses, ranchers reported how many of their animals died in 2014 and how they died. Twenty-eight percent of adult sheep losses and 36 percent of lamb losses were attributed to predators. Of those animals, ranchers stated that 33,510 adult sheep (more than half of total predation losses) and 84,519 lambs (nearly two-thirds of all predation losses) were killed by coyotes.

Domestic sheep killed by a coyote in California. CDFW/Flickr, CC BY

According to the American Sheep Industry Association, about UD$20.5 million of ranchers’ losses in 2014 (roughly one-fifth of their total losses) were attributed to coyotes. Importantly, however, these numbers were based on self-reported data and were not verified by wildlife professionals. External review would be useful because even experienced ranchers may have trouble determining in some cases whether a sheep was killed by a coyote or a dog (dogs are second only to coyotes in reported predation on livestock), or died from other causes and later was scavenged by coyotes.

To keep coyotes in check, WS employees set neck snares and other traps, shoot coyotes on the ground and from planes and helicopters, arm sheep with collars containing liquid poison and distribute M-44 “bombs” that inject sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals that chew on them.

As in warfare, there is collateral damage. M-44s killed more than 1,100 domestic dogs between 2000 and 2012. Scientists have also criticized WS for unintentionally killing numerous animals and birds, including federally protected golden and bald eagles, while failing to do any studies of how its actions affected nontarget species. Early this year the American Society of Mammalogists called for more scientific scrutiny of the policy of killing large predators.

How effective is lethal control?

It is understandable for struggling ranchers to blame coyotes for economic losses, since kills leave tangible signs and killing predators seems like a logical solution. However, a widely cited 2006 study called coyotes scapegoats for factors that were more directly related to the decline of sheep ranching in the United States.

The author, Dr. Kim Murray Berger, who was then a research biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, built and tested a series of statistical models to explain the declining number of sheep being bred in the United States. She found that variables including the price of hay, wage rates and the price of lamb explained most of the decline, and that the amount of money spent on predator control had little effect.

Other research indicates that even if predation is one factor in ranchers’ economic losses, lethal control is not the best way to reduce it.

Warning in area baited with cyanide traps, Sandoval, New Mexico (click to zoom).Killbox/Flickr, CC BY-NC

One 2016 analysis reviewed studies that compared lethal and nonlethal strategies for controlling livestock predation. Lethal methods ranged from civilian hunts to government culls. Nonlethal methods included fladry, guard animals, chemical repellents and livestock protection collars. The review found that nonlethal methods generally reduced livestock predation more effectively, and that predation actually temporarily increased after use of some lethal methods.

Why would predation increase after predators are killed? When pack animals such as coyotes, dingoes and wolves are killed, the social structure of their packs breaks down. Female coyotes become more likely to breed and their pups are more likely to survive, so their numbers may actually increase. Packs generally protect territories, so breaking up a pack allows new animals to come in, raising the population. In addition, some new arrivals may opportunistically prey on livestock, which can increase predation rates.

These findings extend beyond the United States. A three-year study in South Africa found that using nonlethal methods to protect livestock from jackals, caracals and leopards cost ranchers less than lethal methods, both because less predation occurred and because the nonlethal methods cost less.

In Australia dingoes occupy a similar ecological niche to coyotes and are similarly targeted. In a recent case study at a cattle station, researchers found that ceasing all lethal and nonlethal predator control reduced predation of cattle by dingoes as the social structure of the resident dingoes stabilized.

Even research by USDA supports this pattern. In a recent study, researchers from several universities, USDA’s National Wildlife Research Center and the nonprofit advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife analyzed wolf predation rates for sheep producers on public grazing lands in Idaho. Predation was 3.5 times higher in zones where lethal control was used than in adjacent areas where nonlethal methods were used.

A USDA biologist installs fladry to deter predators on a ranch near Jackson, Wyoming. Pamela Manns, USAD/Flickr

A high-stakes placebo

Overuse of subsidized predator control is comparable to primary care doctors overprescribing antibiotics to human patients. Patients often demand antibiotics for common colds, although doctors understand that these infections are caused mainly by viruses, so antibiotics will be ineffective. But receiving a prescription makes patients feel that their concerns are being addressed. Lethal control is a high-stakes placebo for the problems that ail ranchers, and misusing it can increase problems for ranchers and the ecosystems around them.

Human-wildlife conflict is a complex issue. Often, as some colleagues and I showed in our recent book, “Human-Wildlife Conflict,” the real problem is confrontations between humans about how to deal with wildlife.

This means that we need to choose prevention and mitigation methods carefully. If cultural values and prevailing community attitudes are not taken into account, attempts to change ranching practices could increase hostility toward predators and make it harder for conservation groups to work with ranchers.

Federal employees at Wildlife Services are under tremendous pressure from the agricultural industry. And farmers and ranchers often act based on deeply rooted traditions and cultural attitudes. It rests with wildlife professionals to use current and well-grounded science to address human concerns without harming the environment.