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December 13th, 2018

Guest Opinion: Think VT’s Wildlife Policies Are Formed in the Best Interest of Wildlife and the general public? Think Again

By Brenna Galdenzi, President, Protect Our Wildlife

Both Governor Phil Scott, and the Fish & Wildlife Commissioner who was appointed by Scott, did not support the ban on coyote killing contests, even though Scott let the bill pass without actively signing it. Killing contests and the year-round​,​ open killing season on coyotes are not based in sound wildlife management practices – in fact, these activities are antithetical to the science behind good management. Vermont Fish & Wildlife is allowing emotion (hatred towards coyotes) to dictate​ wildlife “management” policies.

The open killing season on coyotes does not reduce their populations. Rather, studies show that it can cause increased breeding, via something called a compensatory breeding response where coyotes produce larger litters with higher survival rates. Females may also come into heat at a younger age than normal. Further, the open killing season creates pack instability, which may cause problems with coyotes preying on livestock. If people are living among coyotes that aren’t causing any problems, they should embrace that pack’s presence since they are defending that territory against other coyotes that may be problematic. Randomly killing every coyote one sees causes the very problems that coyote killers use to justify their all-out war on th​is intelligent canid.

Killing coyotes is a prime example of wanton waste of wildlife. Coyotes carcasses are left to rot where the​y are killed. No one eats coyotes, and their pelts are only marketable if the animal was killed during the winter months when the fur is prime​ (normally late November through early February.)​ There is no colorable argument in support of killing coyotes. This wasteful killing violates hunter ethics and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation that Fish & Wildlife purports to adhere to.​ ​What’s most concerning of all is that Fish & Wildlife knows this, yet continues to pander to special interest thrill-killers and those who are willfully uninformed.

Most problems that people experience with coyotes are not the fault of the coyote, they are the fault of humans, whether intentional or not. Studies show that coyotes, bears, and other carnivores can become habituated to people, and subsequently lose their aversion to getting close to people, due to humans providing food. Therefore, not properly disposing of livestock carcasses, or leaving​ ​livestock unprotected, not securing garbage, leaving bird feeders out, are inviting problems.

Wildlife advocates have asked Vermont Fish & Wildlife to​address the deep hatred that more than a few in our state have towards coyotes and the wanton and cruel killing that follows. Yet Fish & Wildlife refuses to take action, so these wasteful slaughters continue. If Fish & Wildlife refuses to elevate its policies to meet sound management practices and to accommodate a changing culture that demands better protections for wildlife, then it is their credibility at stake. To continue to unabashedly stand behind a vocal minority that’s routinely heard proclaiming, “the only good coyote is a dead coyote” or “kill ‘em all”, is an abdication of their statutory responsibility to conserve wildlife for the people of Vermont, and yes, that means us wildlife advocates too. The time has come to start holding those in power accountable. We will continue to speak out against the special interests that are exerting undue influence over Vermont’s wildlife “management” policies.

“What you do not know you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.” – Chief Dan George

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