Opinion: No justification for coyote killing

Since becoming a Vermont resident in 2003, I periodically have been shocked by the behavior of some hunters. Specifically, I’m referring to hunters who participate in coyote contest hunts or just “run their dogs” on coyotes for the thrill of the kill.
There is no biology or other science behind the state’s egregious open season on coyote. Coyotes may be killed day or night, seven days a week and 365 days a year. There is nothing prohibiting someone from killing a nursing coyote and leaving her pups to starve. There are no laws that forbid killing young coyotes or even just leaving a wounded coyote to suffer. Yet there is no financial remuneration for killing coyotes because their pelts are almost worthless. The most recent Vermont Trappers Fur Auction listed coyote pelts selling for less than $5 each.
While it is true that coyotes can kill small livestock, that is true of many predators (most of which we’ve hunted to the brink of extinction — bobcat, lynx, catamount, etc.). Predators are a critical part of our ecosystem by preying on the old, sick or injured animals (which improves those populations) and by reducing the spread of illnesses like Lyme disease through their consumption of whitetail mice (carriers of deer ticks).
The behaviors of coyote hunters damage the reputation of all hunters. They routinely disrespect landowners’ rights by running their dogs through private land against the owner’s wishes. There is evidence hunters have intimidated landowners and they’ve been known to damage fields, leave farm gates open and shoot in compromising areas. This paper covered this story recently: www.addisonindependent.com/201602shoreham-coyote-hunt-spurs-anger.
On a recent trip to a popular hiking spot, the Bristol Watershed, I came across two coyotes killed by hunters and tossed into a ditch by the parking lot. They were left to rot like someone’s garbage. Families, school groups and others use this natural area to learn about and build respect for the natural world. It has been alleged that the same hunters who dumped the coyotes also shot and killed a porcupine and left it in the middle of a trail. What message is that sending to the community at large? And doesn’t it also tarnish the reputation of all hunters?
A game warden I spoke with recently said that he is frustrated because he can’t enforce laws if no one comes forward to accuse these hunters of their unethical behavior. Discarding dead wildlife is illegal but the hunters will not be fined because no one will come forward out of fear of retribution. In recent conversations with landowners, both of whom hunt, I was told they will post their land for the first time because of this behavior.
Kevin Lawrence, the chair of Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife board, stated that he has never received a call complaining about the reckless coyote thrill killing. I believe that’s because the complainants are too intimidated to come forward. I would be intimidated too since coyote hunters arrive on their property with loaded guns and often a pack of dogs.
If he looked, Mr. Lawrence could find an abundance of articles and organizations that have sprung up to address the current lack of hunting regulations for coyotes and the subsequent roguish behavior of those hunters. Our Fish and Wildlife Department perpetuates this lack of respect and depraved behavior because the department refuses to acknowledge coyotes as a valued predator, important to Vermont’s ecosystem. Ask yourself: How often do you see a deer or moose carcass left to rot?
Holly Tippett, Bristol

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