Opinion: Coyote policies lead to ‘reckless killing’

VERMONT — On Christmas Day a Pittsford family dog was shot and killed by a man when he mistook the dog for a coyote. The man claims that he thought the coyote was chasing a deer. Neither party has yet to be cited for a legal violation by the Vermont State Police.
Eastern Coyotes are a keystone predator in managing weak and diseased prey, and the ability in Vermont to hunt these canines year-round — including a regulated trapping season from October to December — compromises this important contribution to the ecosystem.
With no limit on the coyote-hunting season, it is unsurprising when hunters adopt a “shoot first, identify later” mentality that compromises the hunter’s responsibility to know their target before shooting. The mistaken identity of a family pet, then, is an unintended consequence of neither having a limit to the coyote hunting season nor respect for the value of this vital predator. Instead, state policies invite reckless and wasteful killing.
Vermont Humane Federation encourages pet owners to educate themselves both about the unregulated coyote hunting season and the subsequent need to protect family pets, including the use of leashes and bright coats. From a distance a dog with a grey or tawny coat coloration can be wrongly killed in an instant.
President of the Vermont wildlife protection nonprofit Protect Our Wildlife, Brenna Galdenzi, says, “Sadly, Vermont Fish & Wildlife supports an open hunting season on coyotes. There is no reason why Maple, the dog in Pittsford, should’ve been mistaken for a coyote and killed, but we cannot say that we are surprised based on the unethical and irresponsible coyote hunting practices we’ve witnessed.”
“While Vermont wildlife organizations, including POW and the Humane Society of the United States VT, led efforts to ban coyote killing contests earlier this year, there is still a lot more to be done to prevent the reckless killing of these animals, including banning the open season,” says Jess Danyow, president of VHF.
Those interested in supporting efforts to enact a limited, regulated hunting season for coyotes can sign a petition created by the Vermont Law School at tinyurl.com/coyote-VtLaw. In addition, the Vermont Coyote Coexistence Coalition (VCCC) has written a letter of inquiry to both the Vermont State Police and Vermont Fish & Wildlife in protest of the shooting and regarding the status of the investigation. See their communication  at tinyurl.com/coyote-letter.
This week’s Community Forum is by members of the Vermont Humane Federation, including Jessica Danyow of Homeward Bound.

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