Thoughts on coyotes

I enjoyed reading Susie Faber’s recent back page article, “Coyotes Prepare for Winter” (The Citizen, Nov. 22). Her ability to identify with the coyote stealing her plums off the tree shows a humane approach to dealing with the human-wildlife conflicts that are ever more frequent with spreading development and the destruction of fields and forest. Her “live and let live” attitude stands in contrast to the labeling of certain species like coyotes as “nuisance animals.” In this group you’ll find, besides coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bears, raccoons, skunks, beavers, opossums, and others. Many predators get this label.

“Nuisance wildlife” is a political/bureaucratic term, not one from science. It points to quiet policy that allows for the easy removal of creatures in the act of reminding us that they live here too, that survival is a struggle for them as it is for us humans. Their crime is that they interfere, or just potentially interfere, with human activities.

Labeling an animal “nuisance” allows landowners to hunt or trap it year round on their property (or hire others to) with no oversight or regulation by the Fish & Wildlife Department. The department collects no data on how much wildlife is unofficially harvested in this way.

Coyotes have it especially rough. In Vermont, they can be hunted and trapped 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and this is not about hunting for food. Short of nukes and night lights (heard of Vermont’s infamous coyote killing contests?), just about anything is legal. Fish & Wildlife do many things well, but their management of so-called nuisance animals is not one of them. I prefer Susie’s way. Did you know that coyotes mate for life and are monogamous? That coyotes limit their own population by keeping other coyotes out of their territory?

Coyotes are smart and really good at co-existing with humans. I hope we are smart enough to meet them half way. More forward thinking leadership from the Fish & Wildlife Department to help apply our rapidly growing knowledge of other species to a new century of human-wildlife interactions is much needed, and would make a huge difference.

Jim White
Shelburne

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