By Bob Quarteroni
Coyote hunts are widespread and popular in Pennsylvania – at least 23 are listed for 2017. The coyotes are shot, weighed and then thrown away, like so much garbage.
The “hunts” — in which participants pay a fee and vie for cash prizes for the biggest coyote killed — are touted as a method of attracting young hunters to the shooting sports. They are also promoted as a way to manage the coyote population, to stop coyote attacks on humans and to stop coyotes killing deer and decimating the herd.
On top of that, they are just plain fun, their supporters say.
Only problem is, that they are none of these things. They are simply wanton killing events, which do not belong in a civilized society
As Dan Flores wrote in the New York Times, “Their victims are not only coyotes but the very image of rural America, tarnished by widespread photos of beefy, middle-aged men in camouflage, with guns in hand and dead animals no one is ever going to eat piled up in the backs of pickups.”
The hunts are anachronistic blood baths, just like our dwindling pigeon shoots, and just as meaningless and ineffective in correcting problems that, quite simply, does not exist.
So while there are crazies like rocker Ted Nugent who posted on Twitter that “The only good coyote is a dead coyote,” the facts say otherwise.
Let’s dismember them one by one. First, the hunts attract more young people to the sport.
Wrong. According to the Game Commission junior resident licenses dropped from 30,539 in 2014 to 28,111 in 2015 to 24,771 in 2016. So that dog don’t hunt.
Second, coyotes are rabid killers.
The Humane Society of the U.S. puts that canard into perspective.
“Coyote attacks on people are very rare. More people are killed by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes.”
There has been exactly one recorded fatal attack by a coyote in the United States since the 1980s, when a child was killed in Southern California. No one has ever been killed by a coyote in Pennsylvania.
Since three million children are bitten by dogs every year, your small child is millions of times more likely to get hurt by the family pet than by a coyote.
Adds the Humane Society, “In many human attack incidents, it turns out that the offending coyote was being fed by people. In many other instances, people were bitten while trying to rescue their free-roaming pet from a coyote attack.”
Next, coyotes are decimating the deer population. Hardly.
Coyotes do prey on deer, taking about the same number of fawns as bears do, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Most prey are fawns younger than 9 weeks of age. Among deer that reach 6 months of age, less than 1 percent died because of predators, based on a study the game commission did while putting radio collars on more than 1,000 deer.
Third, and perhaps, most important, coyote hunts help reduce the coyote population. Absolutely, totally wrong.
In a seven-year study of coyote populations published in 2005, Eric Gese, of the USDA’s Wildlife Services research center, found that coyote culling does not facilitate population management of the species. Coyote-killing might result in the opposite.
Research suggests that when aggressively controlled, coyotes can increase their reproductive rate by breeding at an earlier age and having larger litters, with a higher survival rate among young. This allows coyote populations to quickly bounce back, even when as much as 70 percent of their numbers are removed.
Nevertheless, Pennsylvania allows hunters to harvest coyotes around the clock every day of the year. They can use dogs, bait and decoys but still haven’t pushed coyotes to the brink.
AND despite the fact the Commission’s own fact sheet on the Eastern coyote concludes this way: “Coyote populations throughout North America have continued to expand, despite man’s attempt to control them. If there’s one thing we have learned about this intriguing animal, it’s that the coyote, not man, controls the coyote’s destiny.”
So call the hunts what they are: Mindless blood baths.
Coyote hunting competitions were banned in California at the end of 2014. It’s high time Pennsylvania did the same.
Oh, and as for that the hunts are fun argument. Consider what Greek philosopher Bion said thousands of years ago, “Though boys throw stones at frogs in sport, the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest.”