Scientists: Curb the Endless Slaughter

The Washington Post says the mass killing of wolves has led to a growth in the coyote population and despite a century of killing coyotes, the species “refuses to die.” It’s chilling. And obscene.

For nearly a century, federal and state governments have been trying to exterminate coyotes, mostly to protect the profits of sheep-raising ranchers. But we’ve known that it doesn’t work. More importantly, a biologist hired by the federal government over 80 years ago concluded it was immoral.

He was hired “to prove, definitively, that the coyote was the arch-predator of our time” and should be “eradicated.” But when, among other things, the biologist saw a coyote “joyously toss a sprig of sagebrush in the air with its mouth, adroitly catch it, and repeat the act every few yards” he realized “the joy a wild coyote took in being alive in the world.” He called for ending their killing.

Since that is not the answer ranchers and bureaucrats wanted to hear, they shoved the report in a drawer and continued their campaign to “kill roughly half a million of them a year.”

“No other wild animal in American history has suffered the kind of deliberate, and casual, persecution we have rained down on coyotes.” A century later, we’re still killing them.

And not only is it a cruel slaughter with no end, studies prove that non-lethal methods to reduce impacts and populations work best. A pilot program using deterrents, rather than bullets, against wolves, for example, showed a 90% decline in the predation of sheep. Non-lethal methods did not just work better; they were nearly foolproof.

Another study looked at the similar killing of dingoes in Australia and also found that it doesn’t work. Like the U.S. study, it made things worse. Killing wild dogs led “to social instability and diminished territorial integrity in the dingo population, resulting in both increased human-dingo and conspecific conflict, heightened stress, elevated breeding rates and fatal dispersal of poorly socialised juveniles into neighbouring pack territories.” The study’s author suggests that “kindness” might be the “solution” to perceived “conflicts with wild dogs.”

Similar findings have been made with respect to “coyotes in suburban California.”

In fact, a meta-analysis of every study published on lethal intervention against animals to allegedly protect another animal finds that removal does not work (and often causes greater harm).

Of course, the cruel irony here is that ranchers and farmers and the federal government are not against the killing of sheep. They themselves kill those animals. Profit, not ethics, is what is driving the mass slaughter of all these animals. Someday, hopefully soon, humans will learn — or be forced through law — to leave all the animals, including the sheep, alone.

But that is not happening anytime soon. A South Carolina Senator is calling for the killing of every coyote in the state. “The state’s perspective,” he says, “is every coyote needs to be a dead coyote.” He claims that coyotes are wiping out pet cats.

Not only is his alleged concern for cats a ruse, biologists who study the coyote says the Senator’s view is “shaped by fables, cartoons and movies.” When scientists radio-collared cats in coyote territory, they “assumed there would be massive carnage.” There wasn’t. “That’s another case of misinterpreting things.”


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