Coyotes are more than targets

Nathan P. Cote, Ph.D.
Former State Representative, District 53

All of us benefit from healthy ecosystems and the priceless services they provide: clean water and air, forest regeneration, natural pest control, seed distribution, nutrient recycling, and healthy soils. A growing body of scientific research reveals just how important carnivores are to maintaining the health of these natural systems.

Take coyotes, for example. Besides entertaining us with their nocturnal singing, these wild members of the dog family help to control prey populations by consuming prodigious quantities of rodents, including some that carry human diseases such as Hantavirus and plague.

Unfortunately not everybody appreciates coyotes. They are completely unprotected under New Mexico’s wildlife laws and, in fact, are often the target of organized killing contests in which participants compete for prizes based on who can kill the most or the largest animals.

In 2013, I sponsored a bill that would have made coyote-killing contests illegal in our state. The entire idea of killing members of our wildlife population as if they are some kind of living video game has no grounding in the responsible stewardship of our lands and wildlife.

It is also a violation of a key tenet of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation adhered to by ethical hunters, which states that wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose. Most New Mexicans would surely agree that using animals for live target practice in order to win prizes is not a legitimate use.

Wildlife killing contests serve no legitimate management purpose. Killing random coyotes just for fun, prizes and entertainment doesn’t eradicate them, it doesn’t help other game species in any sustained way, and it doesn’t “protect” livestock. It does alter both their pack structure and the natural ecosystem balance that keeps populations of coyotes and rodents in check.

Many studies have shown that when coyotes are removed from their natural habitat in mass they tend to breed in larger numbers to sustain their population, but that takes time. As a result younger coyotes tend to be less sophisticated in the ways of hunting and may end up eating a family pet. When allowed to attain natural population densities and pack structure, coyotes consume large quantities of rodents and rabbits; therefore, a reduced number of natural predators such as the coyote allow these components of the food chain to multiply unrestrained, and the biodiversity of our beautiful landscape plummets. Science is catching up to hysteria about coyotes, and we now know that these animals are family-oriented, with pairs staying together for life and, as they mature, develop sophisticated hunting techniques…..

Click HERE for the full story.

Effects of coyote control on their prey

COTT E. HENKE, Campus Box 218, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University- Kingsville, Kingsville, TX 78363.

Abstract: Coyotes (Canis latrans) are often removed from an area because of their predatory nature, regardless of the effect such removal may have on the ecosystem. Research results concerning ecosystem changes due to coyote removal appear ambiguous; however, differing lengths of coyote control can produce different results. Short-term coyote removal efforts (< 6 months) typically have not resulted in increases in the prey base; however, long-term, intensive coyote removal reportedly has altered to alter species composition within the ecosystem. A dichotomy of views exists concerning the role of coyotes in ecosystems. Ranchers, wildlife biologists, environmentalists, and urbanites have different views concerning the same animal. Historically, livestock managers have been the group most concerned with coyotes because of their depredation. However, with the advent of game ranching, lost wildlife revenues resulting from coyote predation have increased the competition between human interests and coyotes (Scrivner et al. 1985)...... Texas Studies A total of 328 coyotes was removed during April, 1990 – January, 1992. Coyote abundance was reduced by 48% on the removal areas, as estimated from scent station lines, vocalization rates, and scat transect counts. After 9 months of removal effort, rodent species richness and diversity declined on removal areas, while rodent density and biomass, percent of kangaroo rats (Dipodomys ordii) within the rodent population, and black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) density increased on the removal areas. Abundance and density of species on the non-removal areas remained fairly stable throughout the study. Cottontail rabbit density, and raptor richness, diversity, and density were relatively unaffected by coyote removal. Henke (1992) believed that kangaroo rat populations irrupted on coyote removal areas. This appeared to create intense competition among the 12 species of rodents found in the area, and eventually lead to the exclusion of the other rodent species from the area. Henke (1992) also noted that coyote removal appeared to cause a 320% increase in jackrabbit density and suggested that altered jackrabbit behavior due to a lack of coyote predation risk could increase competition with livestock for available forage. He speculated that such dramatic changes in the structural composition of the food web would lead to instability within the ecosystem..... Conclusion Although the results of these studies appear ambiguous at first glance, differences in methodologies among studies can explain the various outcomes. The Texas studies which involved short-term (< 6 months) coyote removal programs did not note differences in rodent and lagomorph populations. However, those studies which consistently removed coyotes throughout the year began to realize population-level changes after a minimum of 9 months of coyote removal. Although white-tailed deer and bobwhite quail reproductive success increased with coyote removal, overall population densities for both species remained unchanged. This implies that a compensatory mortality mechanism is involved with these populations and that potential population increases of certain game species due to coyote removal are short-lived. All studies indicated that coyote control caused an immigration of coyotes into the removal areas. Coyote population densities returned to pre-removal levels typically within 3 months after removal efforts ceased. Therefore, short-term coyote removal programs typically are not sufficient in reducing coyote density and, therefore do not alter ecosystem composition. However, intensive, long-term coyote removal has been successful in reducing coyote populations by over 40%, which has resulted in prey-base increases. The intended goals of coyote control need to be determined prior to the onset of removal efforts. If the management objective is to reduce livestock losses caused by coyotes, then an intensive, short-term removal program may provide immediate relief of depredation just before and after parturition. However, if the coyote removal is practiced year-round, microherbivore populations may potentially increase; increased competition for forage with livestock may result. Consequently, a reduced stocking rate then may be required to offset competition, which may negate the number of livestock saved from predation. If the goal is to increase the harvestable surplus of a game species, then it must first be determined that coyote control will increase the numbers of the target species. Next, can the additional animals be supported by the habitat? Finally, will predation as a mortality source be replaced with other mortality factors acting in a compensatory manner? Until these questions can be answered, then coyote removal would not be warranted. Click HERE for the full paper.

The Rewilding Institute

The Rewilding Institute’s Mission:

To develop and promote the ideas and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation in North America, particularly the need for large carnivores and a permeable landscape for their movement, and to offer a bold, scientifically-credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization in North America.
– See more by clicking HERE>

Social behaviour of black bears at a garbage dump in Jasper National Park

by Stephen Herrero, faculty of environmental design, Univ. of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

A minimum population of 34 black bears (Ursus americanus) visiting and feeding at the town dump in Jasper National Park, Alberta, were observed for over 750 hours on 141 days in 1968. Females with young of the year visited the dump more than any other group. Their average litter size of 2.67 for regular dump visitors suggests that food from the dump contributed
to reproductives uccess. Social interactions between bears were characterized by tolerance, avoidance and spacing, but we did observe 141 intraspecifica gonistici nteractions. In 89 out of 91 agonistici nteractions,f emales with young of the year dominated all other age/sex classes, including adult males. These females, even when not with their young, used agonistic behaviour to maintain an individuald istanceo f 3 to 30 m. Twelve posturala nd 4 vocal componentso f the agonistic repertoires are described and frequency of use is given for each identifiedb ear. Agonistics ignalsw ere stereotypedb ut not invariant;p hysicalc ontact was rare. Agonistic interactions were more frequente arly in the season than later. The dump was visited by 7,500 to 10,000 tourists; despite hundreds of close approaches, including 57 situations in which people threw rocks or chased bears, a bear never struck, bit, or
touched a person. Bears on 15 such occasions directed agonistic signals toward people; these were similar to signals used in intraspecific encounters. Subadults and females with their young climbed trees, where they appeared to find safety from harassment.Bears in trees were seen nursing, playing, sleeping, sheltering, relaxing, or cooling. The dump offered a food source which was concentrated high-quality predictable, and prolonged in time. Bearse xploitedt his resourceb y formings ocial aggregationst, olerating
other bears at shorter distances when at the dump than when away.

Click Stephen Herrero: Behaviour of black bears at a garbage dump in Jasper National Park for the full article.

Detroit Zoo Director: against “bastardization of science.”

Ron Kagan has been head of the Detroit Zoo for more than 20 tumultuous years. During that time, he fought off an effort by Detroit City Council to close the zoo and helped win its independence years before the city’s bankruptcy gave the art institute its own near-death experience.

He’s also led a transformation of the zoo from a somewhat tired park to a leader in worldwide conservation efforts and a much more exciting place.

The zoo’s Arctic Ring of Life is the nation’s largest polar bear exhibit; next year, a new penguin conservation center and wolf habitat will open. Attendance has swollen so much that Kagan is now facing the unwelcome chore of planning a new parking structure.

Yet the zoo director has been in the news this year for other reasons. He strongly opposes wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula, and has gone to Lansing to say so to the state Legislature.

He’s been more than willing to do this, despite less-than-veiled threats from a couple of lawmakers, and attacks from groups who say he has an “anti-hunting agenda.” But Kagan is a biologist, and feels it his duty to speak out. Not because he opposes hunting in itself. He doesn’t.

Nor is Kagan anybody’s idea of a wimp. Athletic and fit, he was once a tank commander and has seen combat. But he doesn’t think much of trophy hunting.

And what he is really against, he told me, is “the bastardization of science.” Kagan said that claims that a wolf hunt is a scientific way of controlling a too-large population are totally bogus.

“I don’t believe that a population of 650 wolves is too many animals for the Upper Peninsula,” he said. Even if it was, allowing hunting is neither a scientific nor a sound way of dealing with it.

Wolves have never killed a human being in Michigan, and livestock losses in the sparsely populated U.P. have been minimal.

What’s more, a hunt that kills 40 or 50 wolves actually could end up putting livestock more at risk, not less. Wolves have complex social structures, and killing random members of a pack could lead to dangerously destabilizing behavior.

It would make far more sense to transport an entire pack to Isle Royale, where the wolf population is on the point of becoming extinct. Michigan voters last month overwhelmingly voted against wolf hunting in two separate referenda.

But anticipating that, the Legislature moved to take the voters right to determine that away.

The issue is headed to the courts. But to those who say he wants to take away their right to hunt wolves, Kagan says, “if they belong to all of us, why can’t I buy a license to not have them killed?

The way he defines it is that welfare is about individuals; conservation is about the welfare of an entire population. Still, he loves the story about the child who sees thousands of starfish washed up on the beach, and an old man throwing them back, one by one.

“Why are you doing that?” the boy says. “You can’t save them all. It doesn’t make much difference.” “Yes,” says the man, holding a starfish. But it makes a difference to this one.”

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. You can read his essays online at Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

To see the entire article, click here.

Can we coexist with predators?

For those who feel they cannot coexist with coyotes, bears, wolves and other predators, here’s an excellent educational resource showing not only how easy coexistence is, but also how ESSENTIAL it is. Every authoritative study has concluded that killing predators creates ecological imbalances which exacerbates human/predator conflicts and causes vast effects throughout the food change, hurting farmers, ranchers, hunters and non-consumptive “users” of wildlife. When on choses to ignore science in favor of killing, we all pay the price.

For Project Coyote, click HERE.

Written in feathers: failure to safe our sage grouse

Idaho Mountain Express
January 5, 2015

The future of the West may be written in feathers.

When Congress and President Barack Obama approved the 2015 omnibus funding bill in the year-end rush to keep the federal government open, they may have issued the death warrant for the greater sage grouse.

A rider in the bill, which had absolutely nothing to do with keeping the government running and everything to do with lawmakers paying back influential donors and constituents, prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service from issuing rules to place sage grouse on the endangered species list. The agency was facing a court-ordered deadline of September 2015 to decide if the grouse would be placed on the endangered species list.

Some people say the rider is just a delay to make sure federal agencies have time to finish a recovery plan. We doubt it.

Does anyone besides a few benighted environmentalists care about a plump, puff-breasted bird that depends on Idaho’s sagebrush steppes to survive? Moreover, why should anyone care given that the declining numbers of birds are simply getting in the way of oil and gas drilling, grazing, wind and solar power generation projects and airports? They are costing a lot of money to study and driving a lot of politicians crazy with their neediness and desire for protective sage canopies for themselves and their chicks, food and mating grounds where they can flirt, posture, dance and belt out a booming bass line in nature’s reproductive chorus.

Sage grouse, a true native of the West, can’t hop a jet for Washington, D.C., can’t make anyone rich, can’t buy lobbyists or politicians, and can’t deliver up domestic oil or gas to put pressure on oil-producing nations of the Middle East. They can’t bring the romance of West to bear on urban lawmakers by appearing in sweat-stained cowboy hats and roper boots.

What they can do is tell us where our common habitat is headed and perhaps foretell our own future if things don’t change. But the sage grouse can only tell us this if we look closely and listen. This will be helpful only if we act intelligently, boldly and soon to protect what sustains those with feathers and those without.

Click here for the source article.

Dispute over grazing fees rages on…

SANTA FE, N.M. — The accusation is a blunt one: That ranchers who hold permits from the federal government to graze their cattle on public land are little more than welfare recipients. The response is just as blunt: Like hell we are.

The argument has kicked around the West for years, and it’s come into sharper focus in recent months as ranchers in parts of northern and southern New Mexico have clashed with environmentalists over the recent listing of a critter most people in the Land of Enchantment have never even seen — the meadow jumping mouse.

In June, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the mouse — which can hop up to three feet from its hind legs — on the endangered list. That has prompted the U.S. Forest Service to reinforce a gate along the Agua Chiquita in Otero County and erect barbed-wire fencing near the Rio Cebolla creek in the Santa Fe National Forest to keep cattle from damaging the mouse’s habitat.

The livestock industry has enjoyed special treatment from the federal government for so long that our streams have been trampled to death,” Bryan Bird, program director at WildEarth Guardians, said earlier this month when his group filed a lawsuit just before the fencing was constructed.

Bird’s comment echoes a long-running complaint environmentalists have about grazing fees on public lands.

They say ranchers have been getting a sweetheart deal from the government for too long, pointing to fees charged by the entities such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service charging $1.35 a month for what’s called “Animal Unit Months,” compared to an estimated $16-$20 a month on private land.

They also cite data from a 2005 report from the General Accounting Office and say U.S. taxpayers suffer a direct loss of more than $120 million because of the fees.

“Ranchers have benefitted from a whole suite of subsidies. I used to call them welfare queens,” John Horning, the executive director of WildEarth Guardians-NewMexico, told New Mexico Watchdog in an interview in July. “I don’t really care if it’s welfare because the bigger issue for me is not that (taxpayers) subsidize it, but that we allow the activity to degrade so many valuable things.”

But cattle growers push back just as forcefully.

“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. “And it’s a tired old argument.”

Cowan says the price difference between grazing fees is misleading because ranchers have to pick up the costs for things such as managing and fencing their allotments, supplying their herds with water and absorbing any losses due to death and attacks by predators that aren’t usually incurred when grazing on private property.

“It’s kind of like you renting a house in Albuquerque that has all the amenities,” Cowan said. “It’s furnished, you’ve got electricity, all the utilities are done.” But grazing on public lands is like “renting a house that’s totally vacant, has no amenities … and anyone can come through your house and use the bathroom anytime they want … The price is low until you look at the amenities that don’t go with it.”

But Horning counters the pricing formula for grazing on public land has essentially been frozen by the executive order since 1986 when Ronald Reagan was president.

“The grazing fee today is the same as it was 30 years ago,” Horning said. “Name one commodity or one resource that you can extract today for the same fee you could 30 years ago.”

But for ranchers like Mike Lucero, grazing cattle along the Rio Cebolla is something his family has done for generations, going back to the time of land grants in New Mexico, predating the existence of the U.S. Forest Service.

“This is my family and ancestors’ heritage,” said Lucero, a member of the San Diego Cattleman’s Association.

Unique to states such as New Mexico, land grants were awarded to settlers by the Spanish government during colonial times. Under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the U.S. government pledged to honor the grants, but property disputes have persisted in the Southwest ever since.

“I totally agree, there is a discounted rate involved,” Lucero told New Mexico Watchdog this summer. “But when that used to be a land grant, that wasn’t federal land at all. So you’re telling me I don’t have a right to get a discount when it was taken away from my ancestors to begin with? Everyone knows land grants are for the people in those communities to make a living off of.”

THE MOUSE IN QUESTION: Listing the meadow jumping mouse as an endangered species has led to a battle between environmentalists and New Mexico ranchers.
THE MOUSE IN QUESTION: Listing the meadow jumping mouse as an endangered species has led to a battle between environmentalists and New Mexico ranchers.
Ranchers at the Rio Cebolla say their cattle only use the meadow for four-five weeks in the fall and one-two weeks in the spring. They insist they keep the area in excellent shape.

But environmental groups say the habitat for the meadow jumping mouse has been systematically degraded in New Mexico, as well as Arizona and Colorado.

“We are asking the Forest Service to keep cows out of 1 percent of public lands that have streams and rivers,” Bird said. “The livestock industry needs stop kicking and screaming and cooperate to ensure clean water and healthy wildlife.”

“Ranchers are responsible for the stewardship of their land,” said Cowan. “Recreationists don’t pay to hunt or hike or fish on those lands. But the timber industry, the oil and gas industry, the livestock industry (do). I think guides and outfitters even have to have some kind of permit. Those folks are paying the government something.

While WildEarth Guardians has filed its lawsuit to protect the mouse’s habitat, the ranchers have filed their own, alleging the Forest Service of heavy-handedness and not following its own environmental analysis.

Regardless of what decision is reached, it’s clear the debate — and the rhetoric — over grazing fees would continue.

“Grazing permits are costly food stamps for cattle,” wrote an attorney from Utah in the Salt Lake City Tribune earlier this year.

“The whole purpose of what (environmental groups) are doing on the land is not to save anything, it’s to protect it from people who actually doing something productive and I’m talking about ranchers ,” said C.J. Hadley, publisher of the pro-rancher publication RANGE magazine.

the full article here.

Reward offered in death of coyote in illegal trap

By Associated Press
Published: December 31, 2014, 10:03 AM

SEATTLE — Animal welfare organizations are offering a $2,500 reward for information after an illegal, leg-hold trap led to the death of a female coyote in the north Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park.

The Seattle Times reports that the Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust announced the reward Tuesday. They say a teenage girl out walking her dog found the dead coyote on Dec. 21. The groups say the animal apparently dragged herself to a creek after she managed to pull the trap on her foot loose from an anchoring stake.

Humane Society spokeswoman Lisa Wathne says officials think the trap was likely set on private property, but the animal was found on property owned by the Lake Forest Park Water District.

The Humane Society statement says leg-hold traps and other body-gripping animal traps were largely outlawed in Washington following passage of a citizen initiative in 2000 and the City of Lake Forest Park passed an ordinance banning the use of body-gripping animal traps in 2012.