Correspondence with an Opponent

Post date: Dec 21, 2016 3:31:51 AM

This blog entry provides material to accompany the Petition to Prohibit Wildlife-Killing Contests in Minnesota.

Letter from an opponent, in support of the coyote-hunting tournament.

(Included here with the permission of the writer.)

Scott, I recently came upon your blog and petition to stop coyote hunting contests. While you do have good points, you are also missing out on some of the main points to have such a contest.

You mentioned how it affects the businesses nearby to have it at Brau Bros in Marshall, but it also increases local business sales, especially for Brau Bros, which in turn benefits the local economy within Marshall.

If you are against this tournament, how would you suggest the coyote population be managed? I have heard numerous stories of coyotes taking down livestock, or even house pets. There needs to be a management practice. These coyotes are not just pointless kills either. Each pelt is donated to the tournament, which in turn makes jackets, gloves, etc.

Next I would like to point out that if you are against such pointless killing you should be against "slug season" during the peak of the deer hunting rut. Over 100,000 deer each year are taken by firearms in MN largely because of the timing of the hunt. Thousands of hunters push groves and scare deer away not even giving them a chance to use their senses, creating, basically, a mass exodus of deer every November. Killing young deer reduces the chances to have adult deer in the future. Yes, deer do need to be managed, but in the right way, not this way. If you find coyote tournaments inhumane, this is in every shape and form just as inhumane, and you should have a petition for that. Consider this tournament the "slug season" for coyotes.

Now, coyotes actually aren't the main predator of pheasants, so I understand the misconception the poster may portray. However, they do their fair share of dwindling down the pheasant population, as well as fawns in the deer population. There have been studies about the effects of coyotes on fawns, and how they reduce the population tremendously. If you are like me and love seeing deer of all shapes and sizes, then there needs to be an answer to the coyote problem. You mentioned that you thought the pheasant had to be injured not to get up out of the snow, and that the coyote was doing its part to help the animal world. Oftentimes, pheasants have tremendous difficulties getting up out of snow which would explain this photo. Or other times, pheasants will hunker down until the last possible second, hoping that whatever is nearby will simply walk away.

I also would be willing to bet the majority of the signatures on your petition are suburban residents who are not often exposed to coyotes. I would also bet they would erase their signatures if their dog or cat was killed by a coyote sneaking into their yard. I have seen news articles about that, and I have a friend whose pet killed was by a coyote. I have yet to come across someone living in the rural parts that would advocate against this tournament, or against coyote hunting in general. Most people can't stand coyotes, and are a little spooked by the idea that there may be a pack in their grove.

Yes, to many, a coyote tournament may sound inhumane. But the tournament rules are as humane as they can get. Participants cannot use dogs, vehicles, or traps. This means it's up to you and the coyote--between wits and senses--whether the coyote will be harvested or not. Lots of times, coyotes remain hundreds of yards away when you are trying to call them in. There will be no slaughter of coyotes, by any means, as it proves very difficult to get them into shooting range. At last year's tournament, there were over 60 teams, I believe. I think only 11 or 12 coyotes were shot total! That means an average of only 1 out of every 5 teams got one, while the rest were skunked. In 2012, there were over 40,000 coyotes in the state of MN, and my guess is that there are even more now. The taking of 12 coyotes out of the whole state is .0003% of the entire population. If that is a slaughter, that is news to me. Consider, too, that a typical litter of pups every spring is 5-7 pups. That means that two females giving birth could replace the 12 that were taken.

In short, I see no issue with such a tournament. I live in the Marshall area, and I see first-hand the affect coyotes have. The tournament is a management practice, and does boost local businesses. Yes some may be opposed, but like I mentioned, the tournament mainly creates interest versus a distraction or disapproval.

Open letter in reply (on behalf of the Petition, in opposition to the coyote-hunting tournament).

Josh, thanks for writing with your perspective on the "Save the Birds" coyote-hunting tournament in Marshall, MN.

I'll respond on behalf of the Petition to Prohibit Wildlife-Killing Contests in Minnesota.

I agree that it's important to acknowledge other perspectives on how people prefer to live with and manage wildlife, what kind of outdoor-recreation activities they prefer, etc. Although I might not fully acknowledge them as I write for this Petition, I continue to examine and consider them.

In other circumstances (when I'm not writing for this Petition), I discuss other perspectives with people who I think might not have heard them. For example, I talk with non-hunters about the differences between responsible hunting and other activities that involve the taking of wildlife. They range across a wide spectrum, and it doesn't help to lump them all together. Unfortunately, they're sometimes lumped together when people on opposite sides of an issue like this exchange insults like "trophy hunters are scum" vs. "antis are idiots."

Let me respond to your points, in specific.

I realize that contest participants come to Brau Brothers Brewing Company for refreshments before and after the event, and that this contributes to the company's revenues. However, there's also a loss of potential customers who oppose this event and the company's support of it. Consumers want to know the companies they're patronizing, and they should be informed that this company is sponsoring this event. That's one of the goals of this Petition.

I agree that wildlife management (in addition to animal husbandry) is necessary to protect livestock and pets from depredation. Of course, wildlife management involves more than killing coyotes. Vulnerable livestock (e.g. cows with calves) need to be protected from predators by physical barriers and behavioral deterrents. Predator attractants need to be minimized. Lethal force is most effective when it's targeted at individual predators that have approached, harassed, or attacked livestock.

A lot of those guidelines apply to pets, too. Urban and suburban residents with pets are learning to be more aware of coyotes, and how to keep their pets safe. The expert advice is to keep garbage, pet food, etc. out of reach; to haze coyotes that might become food-conditioned to humans (not just habituated, but expecting food); to respect den sites in spring and early summer; etc. One of the benefits of taking that advice, and doing those things, is our improved security. Another is our enhanced appreciation of nature, and our coexistence in it. In the big picture, we're all in it together, we and the coyotes, and the rest of nature. Our lives have purpose and meaning--to ourselves and to each other.

By "slug season," I assume you're referring to the Minnesota firearms and muzzleloader deer-hunting seasons (in southern and western portions of Minnesota, only slugs or handguns are allowed for deer hunting).

Of course, deer hunting is a very popular pursuit, and every sportsmen's group has opinions about how deer, and deer hunting, should be managed. There are some major controversies over the feeding, baiting, farming, pursuit, and taking of deer. Will I be organizing a petition against them? No. But you seem to have a special interest in it. Maybe you'll give it a try.

Of course, deer are very different than coyotes, and it's almost always a mistake to try to equate deer management with coyote management.

Your statement that "coyotes do their fair share of dwindling down the pheasant population, as well as fawn numbers in the deer population" needs to be addressed in the context of population dynamics, including the tendency of prey populations (and predator populations) to reproduce in excess, and including the tendency of predators to take the most vulnerable individuals from prey populations. Yes, that often includes the young; but it also includes the aged, the weak, and the sick. That's the nature of predator/prey systems: predators selectively thin prey populations, tending to leave the stronger, more fit, individuals to live and reproduce.

About the photo of the coyote and the pheasant on the event poster, I wrote about the question of why the pheasant wasn't flying away as follows: "... one answer might be that the pheasant was injured and/or diseased". However, you misquoted me as follows: "you thought the pheasant had to be injured not to get up out of the snow." Straw man fallacy: look it up. Yes, there are variations in pheasant behavior; such that some pheasants in some conditions will hide from a predator rather than fly to escape it. And there are natural consequences for those behaviors. They're all balanced in the big, ecological picture.

And as for the low take of coyotes during the 2016 event: that hunt was hampered by warm weather and a lack of snow cover on the ground (coyotes are easier to spot against a white background). As a consequence, only about ten coyotes were taken. The date of the 2017 event has been moved up a month, apparently to improve the chances of better conditions for hunting. Contestants who want to win the $1000 prize will kill as many coyotes as they can. Although that's not expected to cause statewide population numbers to rise or fall, it can be expected to have significant social, biological, and ecological effects on coyotes, and their ecosystems, in the targeted areas. The $1000 prize is awarded for killing in numbers.

Yes, another goal of the event is to "create interest" in predator hunting (and in the purchase of high-performance weaponry and gear promoted by the event sponsors). But this won't be accomplished without a loss of credibility by the event and its sponsors. Petitioners are writing to the only remaining, credible sponsor--Pheasants Forever--to warn them away from this.

The Petition, on the other hand, is accomplishing its goals while maintaining its credibility. It's providing solid information about how to really "Save the Birds"--and how to avoid the unnecessary, ineffective, and unethical errors in judgement that are being promoted by this event--and all events like it.

Coyote Taking a Break. Photo by Lori Iverson, 2013.

Coyote Taking a Break.

Photo by Lori Iverson, 2013.

From the U.S. National Digital Library. A coyote on the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming takes a break from hunting on a sunny winter morning.