If you're offended by a southeastern Oregon coyote derby that offers a prize for bringing in the most sets of ears, you've got good reasons to be.
Coyotes are pack-oriented wild dogs who are part of the balance of nature. They control rodents, which are a nuisance. My wife and I wish there were more coyotes in our neighborhood.
Killing coyotes doesn't reduce their numbers; it increases them. When coyotes are killed, more coyotes breed and have larger litters. Coyotes also fill vacated habitat from surrounding areas.
Yet Jamie and Angel Roscoe are promoting their coyote derby in Klamath, Lake, Harney, and Malheur counties.
The final head count and prize ceremony will be conducted at 4:00 PM PST in Silver Lake, Oregon. Most dead coyotes (just bring in sets of ears) wins. Prizes will be 1 Varmit rifle per team member of 1st place team (TBD caliber and make and model), 1 spoting scope or rifle scope or pair of bino's per member of 2nd and 3rd place teams. Entry fee is $50.00 per man, or $100.00 per team.
Yesterday my wife heard about this disgusting event from Brooks Fahy of Eugene's Predator Defense, an organization that we've supported and been involved with for quite a few years.
She emailed the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
To Whom It May Concern,
Please stop the planned coyote killing contest. It is scientifically ill advised, not to mention ethically. If there is already a coyote problem, it will only make it worse. There are far better ways to raise money for good concerns, and such heartless, wildlife destroying contests set a very bad example for children. This planned contest is barbaric and crass.
Well documented scientific studies have proven that killing coyotes disrupts their social structure leading to large sudden increases in their populations as any left in an area quickly fill the gap by having much larger litters. Additional females come into heat and produce young when an alpha female is killed (rather than just the alpha female in a pack producing young which normally is the case), so rather than one female in a group producing young, numerous females in each group can produce large litters, which survive due to the plentiful food sources left available due to a sudden reduction in coyotes sharing the area.
Coyotes have a helpful role in the environment in that they control voles, rats, mice, etc. While they do contribute to killing of livestock, this mainly happens when ranchers do not take adequate measures to protect their livestock themselves.
I live in a rural area near the Ankeny Wildlife refuge. Residents in our area live with a steady population of coyotes in the area, and found that whenever someone in the area has shot some coyotes, populations of voles, skunks, and mice seem to explode. The coyotes soon return, and are never gone for long. Our neighbors have learned how to protect their livestock with llamas or donkeys.
Ethically, such contests teach children and young adults a reduced valuing of the lives of living creatures. Hunting prey animals, such as deer for food, is one thing, but killing intelligent canines which survive with complex social structures is another. Encouraging such killing in a contest form may lead to a disregard for other canine species such as the pet dogs so many of us see as part of our families, and spend a lot of money and care for.
Please do not allow this barbaric contest!
Laurel got a terse response from Carol Turner of ODFW's Wildlife Division.
Thank you for your email. ODFW is not involved in the coyote derby event in SE Oregon. What the organizers are planning is legal. Coyotes are classified as predators, not game animals, and there are no regulations that prohibit coyote hunting.
Which didn't appease my animal-loving, cruelty-hating wife. She responded with...
Dear Carol, thank you for your reply. I still believe that ODFW should intervene in this manner and notify the parties putting on the event that it is unsportsmanlike and ill advised, in that will be one more thing to turn those already not advocates of hunting even more against the absurdity of killing intelligent animals just for fun. Coyotes are not prey animals but intelligent predators who help the balance of nature, and killing a few in a pack upsets their whole social structure.
Killing coyotes to protect livestock is barely accepted by the general non-ranching public, but killing coyotes just for sport and especially for barbaric contests is especially deplorable. Not discouraging these contests will eventually lead to a public backlash to ban coyote killing for any reason.
We pay state taxes also, and I am an Oregonian. I expect ODFW to better manage wildlife in Oregon for all, not just for hunters who want to kill our wildlife just for barbaric fun.
New research is already available and being disseminated by reputable biologists about the helpful and necessary role of natural predators in maintaining a balance of nature down to the level of micro organisms. It is time that ODFW begin to respond to this new scientific knowledge with better policies.
Perhaps ODFW cannot presently legally stop such contests, but they could intervene and discourage them. Perhaps the State needs to seek to establish regulations to disallow such hunts.
Please let me know the name of the administrator of ODFW (and the most accurate mailing address) so that I can send a more official letter to him/her about this issue, as it likely may arise again in the future.
A coyote derby in Nevada aroused similar opposition. Hopefully the time is coming when these sorts of cruel, needless killings of top ecosystem predators will be viewed as the senseless wrong acts that they are.
The organizer of this bloodsport believes that killing a bunch of coyotes is going to honor a friend of his who died of cancer. I don't agree. But each to his own.
Jamie Roscoe can do his thing. My wife and I will do ours: try to have coyote derbys outlawed in Oregon -- and ideally the entire United States.