Winter 2009 Newsletter
|Predators in Peril:
The Federal Government’s War on Wildlife
Wild Coyotes in Wyoming State
CAMILLA H. FOX
Each year, more than 120,000 native carnivores are killed by the federal government on public and private lands across the U.S., primarily to benefit private livestock operators. Killing native carnivores has been a common practice since European colonists arrived in North America nearly four centuries ago. The colonists viewed native carnivores as a threat to livestock and as competition for game species. So prevalent was this view that a bounty on wolves was enacted shortly after the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony in Massachusetts in 1630.
As settlers pushed west into the Great Plains in the 1800s, they slaughtered native carnivores to open the land to livestock and farming. The federal government officially became involved in predator control 1915 when Congress allocated $125,000 to create the Branch of Predator and Rodent Control within the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Biological Survey. Their mission was to carry out official strychnine poisoning campaigns targeting wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, bears and eagles on the public domain lands of the West. Later, during the Hoover Administration, livestock operators and hunters pressured Congress to pass the Animal Damage Control Act in 1931. This Act, still in effect today and largely unchanged, authorized the “suppression, eradication, and control” of wild animals that caused injury to agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and animal husbandry.
Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program, (formerly called Animal Damage Control) kills more than 2.4 million animals each year, including more than 120,000 native carnivores at an annual cost to taxpayers of over $115 million. The methods employed include poisons, steel-jaw leghold traps, strangulation neck snares, denning (the killing of coyote pups in their dens), hounding, shooting, and aerial gunning. Many of these methods are coming under increasing public and scientific scrutiny as a growing body of literature challenges the ethics and effectiveness of methods that are inherently indiscriminate and often inhumane.
THE INEFFECTIVENESS & ECOLOGICAL IMPACTS OF LETHAL PREDATOR CONTROL
While a century of sustained lethal predator control has done little to mitigate conflicts between ranchers and native carnivores, the ecological effects of removing large carnivores from the landscape may have long-term consequences that scientists are only just starting to fully comprehend. By studying the effects of their removal on ecosystems, biologists have found that many large native carnivores are “keystone species” that play a pivotal role in maintaining ecological integrity and preserving species diversity. The disappearance of a keystone species can trigger the loss of other resident species, and the intricate connections among the remaining residents begin to unravel, dramatically changing the habitat. In a "domino effect," species losses cascade through the ecosystem, as the disappearance of one species prompts the loss of still others. As argued by conservation biologists, “Our current knowledge about the natural processes that maintain biodiversity suggests a crucial and irreplaceable role of top predators. The absence of top predators appears to lead inexorably to ecosystem simplification accompanied by a rush of extinctions.”1
Remarkably, though not surprisingly, WS has never attempted to calculate the overall environmental costs of its predator control programs and its impacts on rangelands, agricultural crops and species diversity. Indeed, we may never be able to accurately catalogue the extent of its impact.
One thing we do know is that more than a century of killing predators has not diminished livestock losses. This is largely because lethal control does not address the underlying cause of livestock predation, which is the presence of an attractive prey (e.g., domestic sheep) in the habitat of opportunistic carnivores. The large size of livestock and their lack of anti-predator behavior provide a sizable meal for relatively little effort, especially domestic sheep unaccompanied on open range far from human activity, as occurs on public lands throughout the West. Further, livestock consume and trample the vegetation needed by most of the predators’ natural prey to survive.2 When these species are depleted, other predators may turn to livestock, leading to increased lethal control efforts and an endless and ultimately futile killing cycle.
A recent study by wildlife biologist and economist Dr. Kimberley Murray Berger that examined predator control in the U.S. in relation to sheep production suggests that the decline of the sheep industry is more closely associated with unfavorable market conditions than predation and raises serious questions about the effectiveness of lethal predator control programs.3 While Wildlife Services killed 5 approximately million native carnivores from 1939 to 1998 at a cost of $1.6 billion, Berger found that the effort had little effect on sheep industry trends. Even though the agency has been killing carnivores for nearly a century, she points out, 85 percent of U.S. sheep producers have gone bankrupt.
Ironically, the loss in species diversity that results from killing predators to protect livestock can lead to increased problems for ranchers. Researchers at Texas Tech University reported in 1999 that removing nearly all of the coyotes in a 5,000-hectare area caused a severe decline in the diversity of rodent species and a significant increase in the numbers of jackrabbits, badgers, gray foxes and bobcats.4 They concluded that removing coyotes to protect livestock could actually be counterproductive: “Increased jackrabbit density caused by a lack of predation could cause increased competition for forage between jackrabbits and livestock…consequently, a reduced stocking rate [of livestock] may be required to offset competition, which may financially negate the number of livestock saved from predation.”5
Attempts to reduce coyote populations — the main emphasis of WS’s predator control program (more than 90,000 coyotes were killed by the agency in 2007) — have failed because coyote populations exhibit strong compensatory responses to lethal control. While lethal control may result in short-term reductions in the number of coyotes in a specific area, the vacuum is soon filled by coyotes emigrating from surrounding areas and by shifts in neighboring packs. Lethal control disrupts the social hierarchy of coyote packs, causing pack members to disperse and allowing more females to breed. Females in exploited populations tend to have larger litters because competition for food is reduced and more unoccupied habitat is available. Lethal control also selects for coyotes that are more successful, wary, nocturnal, and resilient — what some biologists call a “super coyote.”6
Despite the biological understanding of the critical ecological role of coyotes and other native carnivores, management is still largely controlled by those with an economic investment in continuing the practice of lethal control.7
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Top: A young Jasa still growing into his big ears
Top: Jasa and Lyla playing together
Bottom Right: Jasa at 8 months old
came to Indiana Coyote Rescue when he was about one month old in mid April of 2008.
Jasa was found by a man who was turkey hunting in southern Indiana. While walking in the field, the man saw a small coyote puppy laying in a small indentation in the ground in the middle of a cornfield. He left Jasa there all day and all night, hoping that when he came back the next day, the puppy would have been moved by its mother.
The next morning, the puppy was still there. He continued his turkey hunting that day and as he was leaving, he checked on the puppy. The coyote puppywas still there. As he approached the puppy, the puppy tried to stand and couldn’t. It was too weak.
As he picked up the puppy, he noticed that it’s eyes were still closed. It is unusual for coyote puppies to be outside of the den when it’s eyes are still closed. We had had a lot of rain and flooding in Indiana. I think the puppy got washed out of it’s den.
Anyway, the man took the puppy home for his eight-year-old daughter to bottle-feed and love. She named the puppy Jasa after a beloved uncle.
They quickly realized that Jasa was not going to be a pet, like a dog. Jasa was brought to me.
Within two weeks after Jasa arrived, another coyote puppy was brought to ICRC. It was a female and she and Jasa became good friends. They will live here, together, for the rest of their lives.
|Greater Protection for Coyotes in Indiana|
July 15th, the Natural Resources Commission by a unanimous vote
approved the Indiana Department of Natural Resource's rule changes
regarding coyotes. It was signed into law by Governor Mitch Daniels on
July 28th 2008. These new Indiana state code rules will help stop the
trade and abuse of coyotes.
A summary of the new rules:
1. Coyotes taken from March 16th to October 14th (outside of hunting & trapping season) be must be euthanized within 24 hours of capture.
2. The sale, trade and gift of live coyotes outside of the coyote hunting & trapping season is prohibited.
3. A person is prohibited from having in possession lawfully taken live coyotes more than 20 days after the close of the hunting & trapping season unless authorized by law.
Prior to the passage of these rules, there was no regulation to what happend with live trapped coyotes. They were often sold and used as live bait in hunting hound dog training. This cruel and inhumane practice often leads to the suffering, major injury or death of the dogs & coyotes involved.
Thank you to all the people who helped with the passage of these rules into Indiana law.
|Lyla-Rose arrives at ICRC|
Top: Baby Lyla asleep with Kendall
Top: Lyla exploring the garden
Top: Lyla at ICRC
Right: 8 months old
came to us May 1st when my brother called me to tell me he had a
surprise. He and his friend were riding their four wheelers
the woods, when they came across an abandoned baby coyote.
eyes had not yet opened. Thinking it would be a cool thing to
the boys brought the baby coyote home with them. Since I am
avid lover of animals, I immediately took interest and adopted her into
my care. The boys’ apartment did not seem to be the
environment for a dependent, wild animal.
Two days after living in her new home, Lyla Rose opened her eyes. We fed her with a syringe for the first few days as she struggled at first to take a bottle. Shortly after, she accepted a miniature baby bottle and within three weeks had an appetite three times the size of her stomach. We referred to her as “the walking tennis ball” after her meals and taught her how to use a litter box. She loved to play and to curl up on an empty lap afterwards, and spent most of her nights curled up next to me in bed. She even found a spot on my pillow.
When my spring semester at Purdue ended, and I started working full time, Lyla began spending a lot of time at “grandmas.” I would wake up at 6 a.m. and feed her before getting in the shower. Then I would drop her off at mom’s house on the way to work. She made Lyla her own bedroom in our first floor half bath. Lyla Rose learned that this was her “den” and knew where to return to when she was finished eating or playing. Her first toys included a catnip filled mouse, a black sock, and anything else she could chew on.
At about five weeks, we knew we weren’t going to be able to take care of Lyla forever, and that she would not be able to be released back into the wild. After meeting CeAnn, my mom and I knew that she shared the same passion for animals that we did, and that Lyla would receive an abundance of love and the best care possible living at Indiana Coyote Rescue Center. Since adopting Lyla Rose, we are looking forward to watching her grow and hoping she’ll live to be twice as old as she might have in the wild, along with the peace of mind knowing she’ll be well taken care of the rest of her life.
By: Kendall Huffer and Betsy Montgomery
Coyote Rescue is pleased to announce that Holly
Hadac is our
Educational Director. She is a wildlife rehabilitator from
Michigan. She has become very interested in coyotes and their
place in the wild. Holly has spent the last year working with
wildlife biologists, researchers, and other specialists to learn about
coyotes. She has done extensive research via computer about
coyotes, talking to wildlife biologists all over the country for
Holly has a PowerPoint presentation to inform people how coyotes got here, how they live, how we can avoid conflicts with them, and what to do if they occur. She can be reached at 248-672-9615 or email@example.com. Arrangements for a presentation should be made directly with Holly including fees and traveling expenses. If someone has LCD projector which they could donate it would be greatly appreciated. Having one would allow us to give presentations to larger audiences.
arrived at Indiana Coyote Rescue Center in March of 2008. She
was a mud covered, fur ball, that weighed one pound and three
ounces. Her eyes were still closed.
The couple who brought her here said that they kept hearing weird crying under their house. The first night, they looked, but couldn’t see anything. The second night, they got flashlights and crawled through the mud, under the house. At first, they couldn’t see her, but then they saw a ball of mud move. They picked up the mud ball and took it into the house. They gave her three baths, before they could see her body.
They kept her for three days, thought that she was a coyote puppy and called me. They brought her to me. She was a fox puppy! She had mange and was a very vocal animal. Since I had an empty fox pen, I decided take her in as a resident here at ICRC.
It took almost six weeks to get rid of the mange. You should see her now. She is beautiful. She has a friend by the name of Richard. He makes sure that Jenna doesn’t want for anything.
Jenna seems very happy here and cries for my attention when I am working in the yard. She is more vocal than a coyote puppy.
Coyote Rescue Center would like to thank all the people who donated
towards the professional removal of a tree which endangered the
coyote and fox pens . I am very sad that had to be done. The huge
maple tree was about fifty years old and had sheltered four of my coyote
pens and one fox pen for twenty-two years. Eight years ago, it suffered
a large wound from a lightening strike. The maple tree tried to heal itself but
borers infested trunk. It was in danger of falling on three pens and
the animals inside them.
|In Memoriam - Mariah|
1996 - 2008
|Your Voice for the Coyotes|
are asking our readers to write letters sharing their experiences about
wild or captive coyotes, living with coyotes in
ranching country, trying to help coyotes and federal predator control.
Let people know that someone is out there fighting for these wonderful
animals. The letters will be placed on our website and in the
Please email your letters to CeAnn at firstname.lastname@example.org
|About the Indiana Coyote Rescue Center|
CeAnn & Artemis
Photo by Tom Strickland Photography
© Detroit Free Press
center is currently home to 22 coyotes and one fox, all rescued from
shelters or private wildlife rehabilitators when the animals
couldn’t care for themselves in the wild, usually because
they’d become too socialized to humans and lacked survival
skills. ICRC is licensed by the state. CeAnn Lambert has supported her
facility from donations and her own funds. ICRC is a
not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization. Information about helping ICRC
is on the website under the wish-list
Address: PO Box 275, Burlington IN 46915, USA
Gift Store: www.cafepress.com/coyoterescue
Indiana Coyote Rescue Center Logo was designed by Nadia T. Beji
Newsletter text & photos © 2009 Indiana Coyote Rescue Center
| Continuation of:
Predators in Peril: The Federal Government’s War on Wildlife
A coyote caught in a conibear trap
Marin County is located north of
San Francisco, California
a deadly poison which has no antidote
| TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Many of the lethal methods used to kill native carnivores, are inhumane, indiscriminate, and a threat to public safety. The primary killing tools employed by Wildlife Services include leghold traps, strangulation neck snares, poisons, denning (the killing of coyote and fox pups in their dens) and aerial gunning. Increased public, scientific and Congressional scrutiny has led to greater awareness and widespread condemnation of prophylactic lethal predator control (see sidebar: Federal Bill to Ban Predator Poisons). In 1995, as a result of public outcry, Congress directed the General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate Wildlife Services’ predator control activities in the field. The GAO found that: "ADC [Wildlife Services] personnel in western states use lethal methods to control livestock predators despite written USDA policies and procedures giving preference to the use of non-lethal control methods where practical and effective."8
Despite clear scientific evidence demonstrating the futility and counter productiveness of indiscriminate lethal coyote control, many state and federal wildlife managers continue to promote prophylactic killing as the best method to address conflicts. An increasing number of scientists, however, have begun to speak out against lethal control. Their studies show that coyotes, and other large carnivores play a vital ecological role and their removal can have a devastating impact on species diversity and the health and integrity of native ecosystems.
But scientific evidence is not enough. What is needed is a new paradigm for the way we treat native carnivores - indeed all wildlife - one that recognizes the ecological importance of these species as well as their intrinsic value as individuals. If the money and efforts used to kill coyotes, and other predators, were redirected toward cost-effective, non-lethal methods, such as public education, better landscape development, improved fencing, and guard animals, conflicts could be significantly reduced without the need to kill indiscriminately.9 Ultimately, it will be the public that pressures wildlife managers to make this ethical shift as communities across North America demand that wildlife conflicts be addressed with humane solutions that recognize the importance and value of native carnivores, not merely based on their utility to humans but on their own vitality and intrinsic worth.
SIDE BAR 1:
AN ALTERNATIVE TO SUBSIDIZED LETHAL PREDATOR CONTROL:
THE MARIN COUNTY MODEL
In 1996, in the bucolic northern California county of Marin, community-wide controversy arose when wildlife advocates learned that Marin was to be one of three counties where the deadly poison Compound 1080 would be pilot tested to kill coyotes. The proposed plan led to a rancorous debate about management of native carnivores in a community known for its environmental consciousness and strong support of agriculture.10 On one side were animal advocates and conservation groups who questioned the ethics of using taxpayer dollars to employ a federal (USDA-WS) trapper to kill native wildlife with predator poisons, denning, and body-gripping traps. On the other side were sheep ranchers who argued that federal assistance with predator management was necessary and that loss of such assistance would put them over the edge in a market that was already being undermined with cheap imports from overseas.
After a series of roundtable discussions organized by the Marin County Agricultural Commissioner that included ranchers, animal advocates, conservationists, and local public officials, the Marin County Board of Supervisors attempted to reach a compromise with the WS. The Supervisors said they would renew the contract with the federal agency but stipulated that neck snares and other lethal methods could only be used a last resort after non-lethal methods had been tried and proven unsuccessful.11 When WS refused to operate under the county’s guidelines, the Marin County Board of Supervisors decided it was in the county’s best interest to cease contracting with the agency. The decision, however, did not prevent ranchers from shooting predators on their own land to protect their livestock.
In place of the traditional WS program, the Supervisors approved of a program put forth by a coalition of animal and conservation organizations and later more fully developed by the Marin County Agricultural Commissioner’s office with input from the ranching community. The plan, called the “Strategic Plan for Protection of Livestock and Wildlife,” redirected the county’s $30,000 annual cost for WS to assist qualified ranchers in implementing non-lethal techniques including livestock guard dogs, llamas, improved fencing, and lambing sheds, and shepherding.
To date more than 80% of all Marin sheep ranchers participate in the program and initial data indicates livestock losses have declined since implementation of the program.12 Importantly, the program provides a model that has successfully addressed and embraced ethical concerns as well as differing values expressed by both the animal protection and ranching communities.13
FEDERAL BILL TO BAN PREDATOR POISONS
Last year Representative Peter DeFazio (OR-D) authored HR 4775- the Compound 1080 and M-44 Elimination Act – a federal bill that would prohibit use of Compound 1080 (sodium monofluoroacetate) and M-44s (sodium cyanide), two deadly poisons used to kill coyotes and other predators. The bill garnered 35 co-sponsors. Representative DeFazio is expected to re-introduce the same or a similar bill in the 111th Congress. Letters of support will be needed to encourage other members of Congress to co-sponsor and support this important legislation. Visit Project Coyote’s website for more information and updates on the bill in the coming months: www.ProjectCoyote.org
Camilla H. Fox is a wildlife consultant and ecologist and author of numerous publications about coyotes and wildlife including Coyotes in our Midst: Coexisting with an Adaptable and Resilient Carnivore. She is the founding director of Project Coyote, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating innovative solutions to help people and coyotes coexist. Visit www.ProjectCoyote.org for more information.
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1 Terborgh, J., et al. “The role of top carnivores in regulating terrestrial ecosystems,” Chapter 3 in Soule, M.E., and J. Terborgh (eds.) Continental Conservation: scientific foundations of regional reserve networks, (Washington: Island Press, 1999).
2 Crabtree, R. L., and J. W. Sheldon. “Coyotes and canid coexistence.” In Carnivores in ecosystems: The Yellowstone experience, ed. T. W. Clark et al., 127–163. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
3 Berger, K.M. 2006. Carnivore-Livestock Conflicts: Affects of Subsidized Predator Control and Economic Correlates on the Sheep Industry. Conservation Biology 20:751-761.
4 Henke, S.E., and F.C. Bryant, “Effects of coyote removal on the faunal community in Western Texas,” Journal of Wildlife Management 63 (1999), 1066–1081.
6 Fox, C.H. and C.M. Papouchis. 2005. Coyotes in our Midst: Coexisting with an Adaptable and Resilient Carnivore. Animal Protection Institute, Sacramento, California. 64 pp
8 General Accounting Office (GAO). 1995. “Animal Damage Control Program — Efforts to protect livestock from predators.” GAO Report B-261796, October 1995.
9 Fox, C.H. 2006. Coyotes and humans: can we coexist? Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference 22: 287-293.
10 Fox, C.H. 2001. Taxpayers say no to killing predators. Animal Issues 31:26-27.
12 Fox, C.H. 2008. Analysis of The Marin County Strategic Plan for Protection of Livestock & Wildlife: An Alternative to Traditional Predator Control. Master’s thesis. Prescott College, Prescott, AZ. 112 p.