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…..

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