Coyote hunt attracts protestors: Contest proceeds with limited success

BRISTOL — The coyote hunting contest scheduled for this past weekend by a Bristol man came off as planned. Plenty of protesters showed up, as well as almost three dozen hunters.
The only thing missing was a plentitude of coyotes.
Todd Baldwin, organizer of the “Wile E. Coyote Hunt 2017,” said the results were “not good”; only four coyote carcasses were turned in from a total of 35 registered hunters. Two of the coyotes were bagged in Rutland County, one in Panton and one in Starksboro; the largest was 42 pounds.
Three years ago a much larger group of hunters brought in 16 coyotes.
Baldwin, who hunts with dogs, saw nine coyotes during the hunt, but didn’t manage to get a shot off.
The hunt was held last Thursday through Sunday, noon; with hunters paying a $25 registration fee that allowed them to bring in a coyote killed anywhere in Vermont during the contest period. Prizes were given for the largest animal killed.
In Vermont the hunting season for coyotes is year round, and there is no bag limit.
Although the hunt did draw hunters from as far away as Sheffield and Bethel (one participant was a Connecticut resident), Baldwin said publicity from people opposed to the hunt kept the number of hunters down.
A protest organized by the Vermont Coyote Coexistence Coalition, or VCCC, drew between 50 and 75 people (and at least 6 domesticated dogs) to the Bristol village green on Saturday afternoon. The VCCC said those in attendance included lifelong hunters, wildlife rehabilitators, farmers, landowners, students and children. They called on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and its board to stop what they called “the ongoing, reckless persecution of these vital predators.”
Protest signs covered a wide range of concerns from the current open season on coyotes to concerns about hunting with dogs.
Tim Gillespie of Middlebury thanked those who participated in the rally in a Facebook post. He criticized state officials’ reasons for allowing an open season on coyotes.
“None of those justify the senseless, wasteful slaughter of a beautiful, intelligent animal for entertainment purposes,” he wrote. “The cost is not just to coyotes but to humans and our morality.”
Holly Tippett, a VCCC protest organizer and Bristol resident, also decried the killing contest.
“Vermont’s treatment of a vital predator is appalling, unethical and cruel,” she said in a press release. “Since most of the coyotes killed during this contest will be discarded, it is a clear wanton waste issue, which is in direct contradiction to any respectable wildlife management practices.”
The hunt organizer said there were not direct confrontations with protesters.
“I told my guys not to bother them,” Baldwin said.
He did note that they called a game warden when a property owner in New Haven came out of their home with a pistol after a coyote hunter’s dogs strayed onto their land. The hunter called his dogs and the situation did not escalate.
State wildlife officials question whether such hunts have any effect on coyote populations, saying studies show that coyotes will produce more pups when their numbers are under pressure from hunting. Others have claimed that coyotes don’t bother their livestock and thus aren’t a threat.
Baldwin is convinced that coyotes are a threat to livestock (he says he’s seen it on his land) and to deer; hunting coyotes results in more prize bucks in the deer herd, he claims. He said that since he’s been hunting coyote in the Bristol area, that same area has produced more heavy deer than it did 10 years ago.
Nick Fortin, Deer Project Leader for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Independent that deer older than six weeks can outrun a coyote. A fact sheet from his department said deer numbers are monitored “and there is no indication that coyotes are negatively influencing deer populations in Vermont.”
After last weekend’s sorry results, Baldwin said he is not sure if he’s going to run the hunt again next year.
“I don’t make any money off it,” he said.
Still, he’s not philosophically opposed to it.
 “I’m not here to wipe out every coyote,” Baldwin said. “You’ve got to keep the ecosystem in check.”

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