You don’t have to hang around with wildlife biologists wearning wolf mask to hear casual remarks in conversation that “coyotes are everywhere.’ That doesn’t necessarily mean there are loads of them, it just means some of that species have now colonized most areas of the United States (except Hawaii, Martha’s Vineyard, and other offshore islands). Coyotes are admittedly more prolific in coastline communities, and manage to stay more hidden in wooded inland locations.
Why Wildlife Management Has It In for Coyotes
Contrary to what government wildlife management groups say, coyotes can be good neighbors to man and valuable rodent controllers. This is rarely mentioned by state offices of Fish and Game because their only monetary support to run their operations comes from hunting money, so they blithely push that agenda. It doesn’t matter that hunting is unnecessary, uninteresting, and becoming unpopular, these departments can’t survive without the money it generates. Unless federal and state laws are rewritten to support these organizations from “all wildlife related income”, this foolish practice will continue.
Never mind that technology for binoculars, snoop gear, and cameras is so advanced that if you want to hear and see a wild animal up close, or snap a picture of it in the wild, now you can do it. You don’t need a dead body to see what it looks like. And most civilized people these days have traded in their weapons for cameras, hone their competitive spirits with video games, and actually enjoy leaving wild animals alone to be wild.
Now that it is acceptable to care about the environment and ‘lower creatures’ without being called a “sissy”, even macho-macho man can finally put his ego aside and admit that wild creatures are beautiful, fascinating, and worth observing. He may even be wise enough to realize it can score him some sensitivity points with the ladies.
Do Coyotes Have Any Value?
Coyotes are beautiful, intelligent creatures that, like wolves, have taken the brunt of man’s vengeance for hundreds of years. Unlike wolves, they weren’t driven to extinction; they simply managed to lay low, change their diet, migrate, or whatever was necessary to stay alive. Tests on eastern coyotes in New England have proven that, unlike their western cousins, most of them have some to a lot of wolf DNA, and it has even been proposed to rename them coy-wolves.
These DNA test results prove that when man pushed both species to the brink in attempts to eradicate them, both wolf and coyote populations were stretched so thin as to require interspecific breeding, something completely unheard of where healthy populations of both exist. Indeed, with both species being territorial and preying on much of the same game, coyotes are on the wolf hit list and have to tread a thin line to exist safely around them. Coyotes, in turn, drive out or kill smaller wild canids like foxes, if they feel their hunting territory or food supply is threatened.
But coyotes are clever, and with the intelligence of a dog and the wiles of years of instinct in their wild databases, they generally know who their friends and enemies are. Their biggest problem, as well as their biggest advantage, is that they are able to reproduce when they are barely adults, almost before they know enough to protect themselves. And man (and government agencies), have a bad habit of changing the rules so fast that even their voting constituents don’t know what they are mandating, so it’s quite certain that wild creatures who can’t read the newspapers, don’t know either. Should they continue to be painfully slaughtered for being what God made them – wild animals?
Coyote Wisdom – Live and let Live
The average coyote pack of 4-5 animals can keep an area of about 10-15 square miles relatively free of nuisance critters, and their preferences include the most prolific wild creatures because they are easy to hone in on; rats, mice, raccoons, rabbits, even bullfrogs, Canada Geese and other water birds. But the suburban areas into which they have been forced to expand has raised their mortality rates astronomically from extreme weather conditions and polluted water supplies, to automobile traffic and paranoid homeowners unaware of firearms restrictions shooting out their back doors.
Mankind has continually encroached on wild territory, leaving so little green area for wild creatures to survive in, that all that is left for them is often barely separate man-made cultivations, edifices, shopping centers, parking lots, and residences. Thus, we see more wildlife going about their business, as they dash across roads, behind buildings, and through parking lots, just to get to the small areas with enough greenery to live in and raise their young safely. They haven’t much choice anymore, but human proximity does offer them some advantages, such as new food sources, cast away MacDonald’s waste, pet food left outside, even the pets themselves.
Coyotes are a territorial canine species that stake out hunting territories and defend them against other predators, whether foxes or other coyote packs, by urinating, leaving scat, and howling. Confrontations with coyotes during cold weather when there are no pups yet are virtually unheard of. But multiple dogs being walked in a park or wooded area in the summertime are seen by the resident coyotes as a dog pack encroaching on the coyotes’ home area. Even then, leashed domestic dogs are often left alone because of their human companions, except when there are coyote young nearby in the bushes, which might trigger an attack. All reports show they do not attack the owners, but only the dogs. That indicates there is a competitive reason for the attack. A person walking alone would likely be observed or ignored.
But coyotes prefer to be ghosts; never seen and rarely heard. In communities with certain pitches of fire or police sirens, however, they can’t help but be coaxed to join in, in songs that harmonize with the sirens. Animal news sells and evening TV gives high priority to stories about coyotes chasing dog owners out of local parks while the stations provide unrelated film clips, high energy warnings, and sometimes unrealistic information to hype the story to viewers. In reality, coyote attacks are rare, far less likely by statistics than being attacked by the neighbor’s dog.
Follow the Money
According to statistics from the Dept of the Interior, in just one urban state like Massachusetts, only a little over 1% of the population participates in hunting while almost 2 million people (over 31% of the population or more than 23 times more than the number of hunters) prefer to watch wildlife than kill it. In 2006, resident and non-resident wildlife watchers contributed $755 million to the state’s economy, nearly eleven times the $71 million that comes in from hunting revenues. In that state alone, wildlife management organizations would thrive if that wildlife watching revenue was funneled properly instead of the agencies being handicapped by operating with the dwindling funds from hunting and fishing licenses. But the state, of course, wants to keep this large influx of environmental and wildlife watching revenue flooding into the general funds for ordinary state spending.
Tax-payer dollars are routinely funneled through the Federal Government’s Wildlife Services division to kill more than 80,000 coyotes nationwide (as well as lots of other wildlife) annually, and often on public lands. In the same way that wolves are shot from planes whenever government ‘experts’ order it, more than 30,000 coyotes are killed aerially every year in the United States (by a sharp shooter in a plane). Because it has become a business over time, this country usually spends more money killing wildlife like coyotes than the actual damage they may cause. In such an environmentally conscious generation, this is truly pathetic, as well as cruel and unnecessary.
As a nation, we have become both intellectually and sensitively aware that wildlife belongs to everyone, yet somehow a minority still wants to control the helpless non-voting furred population. As long as current federal and state legislation allows bureaucrats to fund their pet projects from dollar profits resulting from the unlimited deaths of many wild local species, this will continue. The entrenched fur industry still lobbies for favorable state fish and wildlife management policies against all logic, and only federal legislation will likely change these antiquated laws to stop the killing for all but reasons of necessity. With fake fur lighter, warmer, and more stylish these days, very few of the modern generation want real fur anymore, yet it is promoted as if we were still a nation of Daniel Boones. It’s been generations since we wore dead animal skins and killing as recreation should not be encouraged in a civilized society.
There Should Be a Better Way
If we want to save some of the huge sums spent on rodent control in school and industrial areas, near farms and food plants, coyotes can be valuable allies. No one is suggesting we invite them inside. But this isn’t the old west, and they have already spread to our cities and industrial areas. What they are after, and will happily dispose of for free, we might otherwise have to pay some high-tech pest-killer big bucks to catch and remove.
Research has shown that coyote populations tend to remain static, based on the size of their hunting areas and their access to food. The thing that causes spikes in their breeding or population numbers is, guess what? Yes, man randomly killing them. They are seen as a commodity rather than as an integral functioning part of the environment we are all striving so hard to protect.
Federal and state governments want to perpetuate the income they glean from the no longer necessary programs to slaughter huge numbers of wild animals, because it helps cover constant government overspending. It will take some doing to change this powerfully supported and lucrative killing system. And coyotes in particular make good targets, because they keep coming back, so more hunters are hired, more hunting licenses are sold, and more of these intelligent, sentient animals suffer unbearably as a result.
The other side of the coin that the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (or the state departments of Fish and Game) are hesitant to reveal, is that they have known for a very long time that the more coyotes are killed, the more show up to replace them; their breeding increases, their litters are larger, and their territory sizes decrease so they can be shared with more packs. This makes the species a cash cow for those tasked with “wildlife management”, which is merely a deceptive title for ‘increasing income from the sales of more hunting licenses’. The reverse is also true, that when left alone, coyote populations are essentially self-limiting by the available space and food supply.
Generations of Persecution and Torture
Coyotes have been trapped, shot, beaten, stomped on, and tortured since pioneer days. And they are still here – and that has been made out to be bad thing, but it’s not necessarily so. They have their place in the environment and man seems too stupid to understand it, and has never succeeded in eradicating them. Ongoing research has taught us much about coyotes as a species and proven the value of it as a basis for ecology courses at the high school level. Now adults need to be educated. We need to be wise in relating to coyotes, letting them have their privacy and being grateful for the suddenly rat-free dump areas and goose-free golf courses.
Myriads of wildlife watchers today are fascinated by these medium-sized predators and are willing to pay for parking and photographic privileges for coyotes and all forms of other animals as well. Wildlife watching is considerably more lucrative and certainly more humane than selling just hunting licenses to see an animal once—dead and bloody.
There’s also no reason that clever animal control experts can’t find some synergistic methods of allowing coyotes to contribute their talents of rodent and pest control to our society, instead of just their skins and pain and hunting license revenue. That wasn’t acceptable when it was old-school. We should be smarter and more compassionate today.