May 22, 2017
Santa Fe New Mexican
Over a chilly weekend earlier this year in Pennsylvania, thousands of shooters participated in the Mosquito Creek Coyote Hunt, a “killing contest.” Now in its 26th year, this year’s event offered $46,000 in prize money ($10 entry fee multiplied by 4,660 entrants) for the “right” to take a coyote life. This is one of more than 20 staged assaults against coyotes in Pennsylvania. Nationwide, there are many sponsored slaughters throughout the year that, without reason, wipe out wildlife.
New Mexico also has 20 or more of these killing contests annually. Efforts to outlaw such contests made it through the Senate and onto the floor of the House before dying during the last legislative session. Opponents of killing contests will be back. After all, New Mexico is a place where the coyote has played such a prominent role in the arts, culture and state identity — my first knowledge of the coyote was through the work of New Mexican artists.
U.S. taxpayer-funded Wildlife Services also plays a role as death dealer to wild living things, with coyotes high on its hit list. Essentially hired guns for ranchers and the hunting industry, the government agency killed 70,000 coyotes last year, likely killing many pups as it destroyed 430 dens. The Wildlife Services arsenal includes night vision, cyanide capsules, traps, snares and helicopters, which bring hapless animals death from above.
Overall, Wildlife Services last year killed 2.7 million animals, with more than half that number native wildlife.
Dr. Robert L. Crabtree, a top wildlife ecologist on predator ecology and coyotes, has found that indiscriminate coyote killing in fact increases coyote numbers. Crabtree says, “When left alone, coyotes regulate their own numbers.”
Crabtree is far from alone in this science and fact-based thinking on predators. Among many others, biologist and attorney Collette Adkins with the Tucson, Ariz.-based Center for Biological Diversity says, “There’s simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year … carnivores help keep the natural balance of their ecosystems. Our government kills off the predators, such as coyotes, and then kills off their prey — like prairie dogs — in an absurd, pointless cycle of violence.”
So despite little, if any, science, the massive death dealt to our vulnerable wildlife continues.
In Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time, about the broken land of the great American Dust Bowl, he wrote of a place out of balance, overrun with grasshoppers and rabbits. In that time, “rabbit drives” drew mobs herding the animals into pens and corrals, where the rabbits were slain. Some gatherings resulted in the brutal deaths of as many as 50,000 animals.
Are we any more advanced in our thinking than those Dust Bowl scrappers with our wanton killing of the coyote? From rabbits and passenger pigeons to buffalo and the ivory-billed woodpecker, we learn little from our rampant wildlife killing of the past — most notably how easy it is to wipe out entire species.
With the wildlife decimation that is occurring worldwide (a 58 percent loss in just the last 40 years), the mindset that deems it acceptable to kill fur-bearing wild animals for no reason other than to kill them is incomprehensible. As human population continues to rise, we lose more and more of our wildlife and natural world. Yet, even this reality doesn’t slow the killing of millions of sentient beings.
Maria Fotopoulos is a senior writing fellow with Californians for Population Stabilization. She writes about the connection between overpopulation and biodiversity loss. Contact her on Facebook @BetheChangeforAnimals and Twitter @TurboDog50.