6/21/2020 *Going forward the pages within this group will focus on canids such as wolves, coyotes, and foxes. Click on the sub-categories in the banner on the main page to dive into the animal of interest. Any articles on this page will contain articles on canids as a whole.
Maximilian Werner: The senseless treatment of predators in the West
Given the many challenges we face as humans, it’s easy to ignore the non-human world and the plight of other animals besides ourselves. I wonder how many Utahans know about the American West’s vicious and unrelenting extermination campaign against predators.
My guess is not many. Because if people knew that thousands of these beautiful and important animals — including cougars, black bears, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and wolves — are shot, trapped and poisoned every year for people’s amusement or at the behest of livestock producers and hunters, I suspect that this disgusting, irrational and senseless treatment of predators would have ended long ago.
One would hope that we would have learned from the extermination campaigns of the past, when many species were extirpated from the landscape to the detriment of entire ecosystems. Unfortunately, when it comes to advocating for the interests of others, humans are notoriously slow learners.
I have long known about Utah’s shameful treatment of predators (for example, our misguided coyote bounty program), but not until I began studying wolf and grizzly bear management in southwest Montana, and saw how easily it was for state and federal agencies to destroy these animals for reasons that were arguable at best, that I realized the extent and pervasiveness of this problem.
Now it seems that a day does not go by when I don’t hear of some half-baked plan to make it even easier to kill predators.
Just last week a senator from Idaho introduced “emergency legislation” that would allow Idahoans with a hunting license and a wolf tag to shoot wolves year-round in what the bill describes as “wolf free zones.” These zones, which will be south of I-84 and the Snake River, sound a lot like Wyoming’s “predator zone,” which, because it includes 85% of the state, may as well just be called “Wyoming.” Any wolf unlucky enough to wander into that zone can, in the words of one wolf advocacy website, “be killed by almost any method, at any time, in any number and without a license.”
Similarly, in late December of 2019 Utah’s own Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney joined Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Wisc., to introduce S. 3140, the American Wild Game and Livestock Protection Act. If approved, this bill (whose title conflates wild game with livestock) will delist gray wolves nationwide (currently only Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have this distinction) and prohibit judicial review.
If this happens, and delisting becomes the law of the land, we can expect other states to adopt equally barbaric, unscientific and indiscriminate management policies of their own and wolves will again be pushed to the brink of extinction.
More recently, “Rural Person of the Year” Rep. Carl Albrecht, also from Utah, just introduced HB 125, the purpose of which is to boost deer and elk populations by ramping up both the Division of Wildlife Resources’ predator control program and trophy hunting quotas of mountain lions, black bears, bobcats and coyotes.
If the reader is wondering if deer and elk populations in are in trouble, the short answer is no. So why HB 125? So that there are more deer and elk for hunters to kill, of course. I don’t know about the reader, but I am not persuaded by this reasoning for killing our wildlife.
The news isn’t all bad, however. In 2016, California recorded its first wolf pack since the 1920’s, as has Colorado just within the last week. A handful of packs have also found their way to Washington and Oregon. A small pack of Mexican gray wolves is trying to survive along the New Mexico and Arizona border. Wolves are all around us. One day very soon they will find their way to Utah. I hope that we do not fail them.
Puma Management in North America
Letter: Utah should ban wildlife killing ‘contests’
By Paul Zuckerman | The Public Forum in The Salt Lake Tribune; September 24, 2019
Arizona recently banned “contests” that involve people of all ages going out to kill animals, such as coyotes, presumably for entertainment and human gratification or ostensibly for protection of livestock. They join Colorado, New Mexico, California, Vermont and Maryland as states instituting a ban on this activity.
In Utah, a state that prides itself on our humanity at home and worldwide, a state that boasts a high-tech, forward-looking economy, we not only still allow this anachronistic and cruel practice but also spend our tax dollars incentivizing contestants to kill as many animals as they wish and get paid $50 for each living creature they can prove has been dispatched.
Science has proven that efforts at reducing the numbers of these target species not only doesn’t cull their numbers but actually increases the numbers and also teaches them to seek food sources that are not naturally found in their environment. In essence, these hunts promote the predation of livestock rather than controlling it.
Children old enough to physically shoot a rifle partake in these contests, with rewards that may include a new gun.
You may agree that family bonding and self-esteem building can be achieved in ways that do not teach children that the life of another species is disposable and that taking that life is a noble pursuit and a healthy way to entertain oneself. If so, you may be interested to know that it took public opinion, in the form of 5,000 letters to the Arizona Fish and Game, to get the ban passed.
The vast majority of our state’s population that do not shoot animals. If you are one who does not want your taxes spent promoting killing contests, then go to the Division of Wildlife Resources contact page and express your desires in a brief message. They are charged with managing wildlife for all of us but, to do so, they need to hear from all of us.
Paul Zuckerman, Salt Lake City
Mike Phillips – How to Save a Species podcast
“Humans and cockroaches and coyotes are going to inherit the earth.”
— Mike Phillips
[Visit tim.blog/wolf for the most important links from this interview and my personal next steps.]
Mike Phillips has served as the Executive Director of the Turner Endangered Species Fund and advisor to the Turner Biodiversity Divisions since he co-founded both with Ted Turner in June 1997. Before that, Mike worked for the U.S. Department of Interior, leading historic efforts to restore red wolves to the southeastern US and gray wolves to the Yellowstone National Park. He also conducted important research on the impacts of oil and gas development on grizzly bears in the Arctic, predation costs for gray wolves in Alaska, and dingo ecology in Australia. These days, Mike is an advisor to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project.
In 2006 Mike was elected to the Montana House of Representatives. He served there until elected to the Montana Senate in 2012. His service in the senate will extend through 2020.
Mike received his MSc in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Alaska in 1986 and his BSc, Ecology from the University of Illinois in 1980.
Please enjoy by clicking HERE!
Coyote Fact Sheet
Coyotes are family oriented and very intelligent. They are indeed wily. They possess intelligence, feelings and emotions. They experience pain and grief. They love and care for each other. Native Americans admired and revered them.
Coyotes are much more beneficial than harmful. Coyotes control rodent and rabbit populations, thereby checking the spread of Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and chronic wasting disease (which is lethal to deer, elk and moose). By reducing rabbit populations, they create more forage for deer, elk, mountain sheep, pronghorns and moose.
Despite this, coyotes are killed by the thousands in Utah and other western states. Utah is one of only two states that has a bounty on coyotes: If you have a dead coyote in hand and can prove it was killed in Utah, you can get paid $50 by the government!
There are also “coyote calling contests” in rural parts of the state, where a small entry fee allows you and a partner to engage in “calling” in and shooting as many coyotes as you can during a period of one or two days. The team that kills the most coyotes, or the largest one, wins a prize, which is typically a piece of hunting or trapping gear. Participants often describe the thrill and sheer fun they enjoy. They think of it as a wholesome activity that actually benefits other wild animals, ranchers and farmers.
Yet random killing of coyotes, as occurs with coyote kill contests, has been shown to not reduce livestock depredation or to increase deer and elk herds. Furthermore, it typically causes compensatory breeding by subordinate animals plus new coyotes migrating to fill the empty niche, resulting in even more coyotes, and hence more predation on deer fawns and sheep. In short, coyote killing has been scientifically shown not to accomplish any legitimate wildlife management or livestock husbandry objective.
Despite their sentience and intelligence, their great beauty and ecological value – despite all these positive values, and despite the total lack of evidence that it does any good – coyotes have no legal protection in Utah and other western states. A license is not needed to kill them and there is no bag limit. Nor are there any special restrictions on how you can kill them: guns, fire, rat poisons and neck snares – all are legal. The only thing that is illegal, it would seem, is allowing coyotes to go about their lives unmolested.
Given all these facts, can coyote kill contests possibly be moral? Is killing intelligent beings for fun a moral activity?
Mexican Gray Wolves
What Good Are Large Carnivores?
There are many good reasons to care about carnivores. The very term means ‘meat eater’ and they do kill and eat other animals, which can arouse fear and loathing in some people. Trout and praying mantises also kill and eat other animals, by the way. Praying mantises could just as well be named preying mantises.
But when we are talking about biological classification, ‘carnivore’ is the term for an order (order, family, genus, species): it designates mammals with carnassial teeth. Carnassial teeth are the pairs of teeth on the sides of the jaw where molars appear in humans and deer. Rather than the top carnassials falling flat onto the bottom ones, they overlap the bottom ones like a pair of scissors – good for cutting meet, hide and sinew.
Thus, bears, which are actually omnivores, are classified as carnivores because they have carnassial teeth. In reality, most bears eat mainly vegetation, such as grass and tubers and pine nuts. Coyotes too, unlike their cousin the wolf, eat a lot of vegetation and even garbage. That’s one reason they do so well living near, and even in, our cities. I heard coyotes yipping in the middle of the day while walking Luna dog in lower City Creek just yesterday. So did Luna, and it really caught her attention.
Back to the question: Why protect and conserve wild carnivores? Here are some of the main reasons.
Cougars and wolves are especially good at keeping ungulate herds healthy, as they tend to remove the least healthy animals. Wolves are in fact very much analogous to the white corpuscles of our own immune systems, in that they key in on sick and feeble animals and remove them from the population. This could be especially important when a disease such as the encroaching chronic wasting disease (CWD) begins to affect herds of deer and elk in the Rocky Mountains, as has already begun to happen. Cougars, too, have been shown to focus preferentially on deer that have CWD.
Mesopredators, such as the coyote and the bobcat, do much to keep rodent populations under control.
Cougars and wolves in particular also keep prey populations within the carrying capacity of the habitat. You may recall that Aldo Leopold warned Arizona game managers not to kill off all the cougars and wolves on the Kaibab Plateau, but they did so anyway, hoping it would result in more deer. And did it ever – with devastating consequences. In fact, this was the main scientific justification for reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone. The elk herd had grown way beyond carrying capacity and was wreaking havoc on the land and its wild denizens.
Think of large wild carnivores as the evolutionary dance partners of wild ungulates. They shaped each other into what each now is through the long eons of evolution. They belong together. They need each other. Now we are beginning to “think like a mountain,” as Aldo Leopold put it in a famous essay by that title.
Add to this the fact that cougars, bears, wolves, bobcats, coyotes, lynxes, fishers, otters, martens, foxes and wolverines are just plain beautiful animals. And the stories of their lives are fascinating.
Large carnivores are always fewer in number than the species they prey upon. Thinks of the shape of the food pyramid. In all of Yellowstone National Park, at any given time there are only about 75 wolves and only about 25 cougars – all in an area that is roughly 3600 square miles. That’s one large carnivore for every 36 square miles – hardly too many. Adult animals need large home ranges.
Thus, protecting and conserving large carnivores requires protecting and conserving large areas of habitat, which not only results in protection and conservation of the carnivores, but of all the other species of plant and animal that live there as well. For this reason, large carnivores are sometimes referred to as “umbrella species”.
Large carnivores have been heavily persecuted since the first pioneers settled the West. Indeed, the wolf was entirely eradicated from the Western U.S. by about the mid-1930s. Only in the late 1960s were cougars finally removed from the list of vermin and given the status of a protected species in the Western states (which, outside of Florida, were the only ones that still had populations of cougars). Now, with the sole exception of Texas, all states west of the Mississippi River that have cougar populations require a permit for hunting them. California has gone a step further and completely outlawed the hunting of cougars. If a cougar kills your goat, you have to get a special “depredation” permit to kill that specific cougar. Only 100 or so cougars are killed on depredation permits in California each year. Last year, Utah killed 400 cougars.
Western Wildlife Conservancy is a small organization, and the only one in the state of Utah whose mission is to resist the regressive forces of carnivore oppression and persecution that are very strong here – a state where the largest convention of the year is now the “Hunting Expo” which caters mainly to trophy hunters. We will keep on doing our best to educate folks on the importance of carnivore protection and conservation, and to advocate for these wonderful creatures.
Coyotes Coyotes in Utah are treated as vermin and can be killed at any time. In designated areas of Utah, the state government offers a $50 bounty on coyotes in a dubious effort to increase mule deer populations. Coyote hunting contests are held near towns like Beaver, Utah. Western Wildlife Conservancy works to expose the barbarous treatment of coyotes and promote co-existence. Black Bears Black bears in Utah are subject to being chased with hounds. Hunters set out bait to attract bears. Orphaned bear cubs are sometimes left behind to starve. Hardly anyone eats bears. A desire for a trophy on the wall is no excuse for killing bears. Western Wildlife Conservancy testifies before the Utah Wildlife Conservancy annually to reduce and finally eliminate trophy hunting of bears. Cougars Cougars are hunted in Utah, sometimes with hounds. Cougars are an important apex carnivore keeping nature in balance with their interactions with prey species. Like black bears, hardly anyone eats cougars and there is no excuse for hunting cougars. Cougar conservation has always been a major focus of Western Wildlife Conservancy. Wildlife Management Reform Most Western states have atrocious wildlife management policies. State wildlife commissions and boards are almost all captured by trophy hunting and agricultural interests. "Non-consumptive" wildlife watchers and people concerned about ecological integrity have little to no representation on decision-making bodies. Ideas about managing wildlife as a "public trust responsibility" and heeding the "precautionary principle" when faced with uncertainty are alien to these agencies' practice. Western Wildlife Conservancy is taking the lead in organizing wildlife protection advocates across the West to reform wildlife management so it is democratic, ecologically responsible, and humane.