Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Coyotes have had a negative effect in Vermont

If you live in Vermont and have been here for less than 55 years, you do not know what Vermont looks like without coyotes. I have lived and worked on a Vermont farm for 82 years, and I remember what it was like before the coyote. I started hunting, fishing and trapping in Vermont, primarily in Addison County, and I remember what it was like before the coyote. While I do not actively engage in coyote hunting, I would like to offer some observations I made over my 82 years of farming and hunting on our Vermont lands.

Many animals that once flourished in Vermont are encountering diminishing populations or are at the very least are being monitored in part due to the introduction and flourishing of the coyote. To be perfectly clear … the coyote is not a Vermont native!

While many landowners and gardeners see woodchucks as a nuisance animal, the woodchuck actually provides benefit by actively aerating the soil in which it burrows. The woodchuck’s burrows are also commonly used by other animals, either when abandoned or sometimes at the same time. Many farmers’ lands were once home to numerous woodchucks. In my opinion, coyotes have affected the woodchuck population, and, while generally considered to be stable, the woodchuck could soon be on the endangered list.

I am an avid snowshoe hare hunter and, in the past, have been able to hunt rabbits all over Addison County. While most will say the availability of good habitat primarily affects the snowshoe hare population, it is my opinion the coyote again has a direct effect to the diminishing numbers and the inability of the species to return to the numbers of the past. I fear the snowshoe hare numbers will never return to what I experienced in my youth. Thanks, coyote!

Woodland birds are affected also. There were once large numbers of grouse and pheasant in every wood and fence row. Today, it seems only a few are here and there. Even with organized release of pheasants in the Champlain Valley, if the birds are not monitored they become easy prey to the cunning coyote. Thanks, coyote!

I feel coyote hunting protesters should conduct more realistic research than what they read in the papers. With the growing number of small-scale agricultural farms in Vermont, small animals and calves are easy prey for the coyote. When my farm was an active dairy farm, I routinely lost newborn calves to coyotes. Once, the coyotes were so bold as to come right next to the barn to kill the calf before I could reach the mother and calf. Walk around the land! Walk around my farm at night with your pet dog and see how comfortable you are with the coyotes yipping and barking. It certainly feels like something, or someone is being hunted. Ask rural homeowners how they feel with their pets. I recently met a couple rabbit hunters in the Northeast Kingdom who lost their valuable beagles to coyotes, whether it was after a hunt or even during an active hunt. If the coyote is not a native Vermonter, what makes it that much different than the domesticated dog that is caught chasing a deer in Vermont? If caught chasing a deer, a domesticated dog will most likely be put down by local Fish and Wildlife officials. Why is a coyote hunting program not appropriate?

Lastly, as I stated earlier, I am not coyote hunter. I am a lifelong hunter of other species that I feel have been negatively affected by the invasive introduction of coyotes in Vermont. I feel a managed coyote hunting program in Vermont is valuable to help maintain the populations of the smaller species that make Vermont such an enjoyable hunting experience. I know some will disagree with my opinions on coyotes and coyote hunting. These are simply observations of a Vermont farmer, trapper and hunter who has been enjoying these things for 80 years.

Larry Gebo

Ferrisburgh

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