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Letter To The Editor: Eliminate Coyote-Killing Contests

on February 11, 2019 - 3:53pm
By STEPHANIE NAKHLEH
Los Alamos

I’m grateful to our new Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard for ending coyote-killing contests on state trust land.

We have more work to do, though. Legislation needs to eliminate this barbaric practice across the entire state. Once the public really understands how harmful these contests are, I feel it will overwhelmingly support eliminating them.

Across the country, tens of thousands of coyotes are slaughtered annually at taxpayer expense—a practice that is truly senseless, as the killing doesn’t serve any purpose. Coyotes respond to the slaughter by going on breeding binges; their population rebounds easily.

Additionally, there is no evidence that livestock is made safer by the culling, and some evidence that the social disruption from the slaughter may increase the coyotes’ tendency to attack livestock.

Further, the knock-on effects to the ecosystem from wildlife-killing contests are profound. Coyotes, like other predatory canines (foxes and wolves) play an integral role in maintaining natural ecosystems. Coyotes help control the populations of smaller carnivores, like raccoons and skunks, which in turn preserves populations of native birds that would have otherwise been eaten by the smaller carnivores.

I understand why people may have negative feelings toward coyotes: we lost plenty of housecats to coyotes when I was growing up in La Senda—and when I was at the Los Alamos Monitor many years ago, I reported on a story of a coyote that was attacking children in the Western Area. But who was to blame for this, really? We let our housecats outside … that is a bad idea, for many reasons, not the least the destruction caused to bird populations.

The rogue coyote that attacked the children had been eating dog food left out by a careless neighbor and had lost fear of humans. (This coyote was dispatched by Game & Fish, which is the appropriate response to an individual nuisance animal.) It’s not just bad experiences that can lead to anti-coyote sentiment: humans are pretty hard-wired to view other big predators with fear and loathing.

But we have to get past these feelings, because we need apex predators. Our environment cannot do without them.

It’s time to stop coyote-killing contests, which are grounded in tradition and emotion rather than science, and which do nothing to reduce the number of coyotes or the predation on livestock—but which do cause plenty of misery for these animals, which live in highly social, intensely bonded family units.

Please support Senate Bill 76, which would eliminate these contests across the entire state. Call the members of the Senate Conservation Committee (click hyperlink for listing) to ask them to pass this bill. 

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