Maria Fotopoulos, 3/21/2017 [Archive]

On the Value of Coyotes and Other Non-Human Life

On the Value of Coyotes and Other Non-Human Life

By Maria Fotopoulos

Over a chilly weekend last month in Pennsylvania, residents got out their guns and their kids to kill wildlife in the Mosquito Creek Coyote Hunt, a "killing contest" now in its 26th year. This is one of more than 20 staged assaults against coyotes in that state. Nationwide, there are many more of these sponsored slaughters throughout the year that, without reason, wipe out wildlife.,

Last year, the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen Association, sponsor of the sanctioned killing, touted that a 15-year-old had "won" by extinguishing the life of a nearly 50-pound coyote. This year, thousands of shooters turned out for the opportunity to, as the association calls it, "harvest" coyotes, a term which I suppose for those involved puts these sentient creatures on a level with wheat, corn and grapes. Such events minimize life ---- in a very efficient and organized way, tabulating results down to the time of the killing, the sex and weight of the animal, ammunition used to execute the killing and the manner in which the animal was tracked to its demise.,

Further denigrating non-human life, a dollar value is assigned for the "right" to kill an animal. In the Mosquito Creek case, that translated this year to $46,000 in "prize money" In the minds of participants and organizers, promoting these activities as contests, bringing out the whole family and attaching prizes presumably gives an air of legitimacy.,

New Mexico also has 20 or more of these killing contests each year, and the House Judiciary Committee just voted to make it illegal in the state to organize, sponsor or participate in a coyote killing contest, but no restrictions would be placed on hunting or trapping coyotes. The initiative won Senate approval earlier this month and now moves to the full House for consideration. This is just one indicator that awareness, outrage and grassroots efforts to end these organized killings are growing throughout the country.,

U.S. taxpayer-funded Wildlife Services also plays a huge role as death dealer to wild living things, with coyotes being high on its hit list. Mostly working as the hired guns for ranchers and the hunting industry, the government agency killed 70,000 coyotes last year, and they destroyed 430 coyote dens, likely killing an uncounted number of pups. The Wildlife Services arsenal ---- again, funded by taxpayers ---- includes night vision, cyanide capsules, traps, foot/leg/ snares, and helicopters, which bring hapless animals death from above (remember the enthusiasm of former VP candidate Sarah Palin for aerial shooting of wildlife).,

Overall, Wildlife Services last year killed 2.7 million animals, with more than half that number native wildlife. Put another way, that's about five animals every minute.,

Dr. Robert L. Crabtree, a top wildlife ecologist with years of research 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. They are affected by the same factors that control many other wildlife populations: social structure, prey availability, territory, and weather. Most coyote populations, however, are under constant pressure from lethal predator control programs, and from fur trapping, sport hunting, contest hunts, and bounties. These cruel, counterproductive programs can actually make coyote numbers rebound.",

Crabtree is far from alone in this science- and fact-based thinking on predators. Among many others, biologist and attorney Collette Adkins with the Center for Biological Diversity says, "There's simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year ... Wolves, bears and other 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 behind the massive death dealt to our wildlife, it continues. And that's before you even go down the trail of basic ethics and morality. Where are all the protestors to demand an end to these brigades against the country who are killing the most vulnerable, least protected life in America?,

Pulitzer Prize winner Timothy Egan wrote in "The Worst Hard Time" about the Great American Dust Bowl and a broken land, out of balance, overrun with grasshoppers and rabbits. In the barbarism of that day, numerous "rabbit drives" drew mobs herding rabbits into places of no escape ---- pens, corrals ---- and smashing their skulls with bats, chains and wrenches ---- with some gatherings killing as many as 50,000 animals.,

Are we any better today, any more advanced in our thinking, than those Dust Bowl scrappers ---- any more civilized ---- with our wanton killing of the coyote? Maybe our clothing is cleaner and we have better weapons, but we appear as ignorant and as bereft for non-human life as then. 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.,

For anyone who has even a cursory understanding of the decimation of wildlife that is occurring worldwide, the mindset of Americans who find it acceptable to kill fur-bearing wild animals for no reason other than to kill them is incomprehensible. An estimated 58 percent of wildlife has been lost in just the last 40 years. As human population continues to rise, we lose more and more of our wildlife and natural world. Yet, even with this reality, we continue to mindlessly kill sentient beings.

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2016 Copyright Maria Fotopoulos. Maria is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (capsweb.org). Contact her at caps@capsweb.org. This column is distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

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