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Why hunt coyotes at all?

January 15, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

A recent article about hunting coyotes at night begs the question, "Why hunt coyotes at all?"

I was born in West Virginia and now live nearby in an Appalachian community in Virginia. One thing is clear: nobody is putting coyote meat in the freezer.

I am a member of Project Coyote (, a national organization dedicated to helping communities coexist with coyotes, North America's native "song dogs." Coyotes are now in every state, and hunters and farmers often characterize these animals as nuisances or "varmints." The strong agriculture lobby has tried hard to convince Americans that their tax money should be spent to kill coyotes anytime, anywhere.

However, livestock producers can and should adopt nonlethal methods to protect their lambs and calves against predators, and stop encouraging the killing of wildlife. Highly successful methods of preventing livestock predation include good fencing, night corrals and using llamas, donkeys and guard dogs.

Hunting, poisoning and trapping coyotes does not cull these animals; killing them encourages the production of MORE coyotes. That's because coyotes are a self-regulating species. A small coyote family will protect its territory from transient coyotes. When its pups mature, they disperse to other areas. But if members of the coyote family are killed, outside coyotes will stream in, breed more and produce more pups.

We love listening to coyotes at night on our mountain, but we rarely see them, because they are so shy of humans. Coyotes, the wild cousins of our domestic dogs, are the most intelligent animal in the woods. They often mate for life; they breed only once a year; and both parents care for their young. Coyotes help keep rodents, rabbits and insects in check. Song dogs also clean up the carrion and prey on smaller carnivores such as skunks and opossums that eat young song birds and young quail. Wildlife officials do not view coyotes as a threat to West Virginia's deer herd.

Besides the obvious safety concerns West Virginians should have about hunting at night, we might also ask: Is it ethical to label as "varmints" such intelligent animals that help our ecosystem and then kill them just for kicks?

Becky Pomponio

Willis, Va.

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