San Francisco Chronicle, February 6, 2013
Coyote advocates push to stop hunt
A parade of angry citizens and coyote advocates showed up at the Fish and Game Commission meeting in Sacramento on Wednesday to demand that state officials stop a planned coyote killing contest in Modoc County, but commissioners said that current regulations do not allow them to interfere with the annual hunt, which is legal under state law.
More than 6,000 people have signed an online petition, and 20 wildlife conservation organizations wrote letters condemning the three-day Coyote Drive 2013 scheduled to begin Friday in the woodlands around the rural town of Adin, in the far northeastern corner of California.
The speakers who crowded into the commission meeting depicted the contest, with awards to hunters who kill the largest and most coyotes, as a "savage" and "medieval" indiscriminate "slaughter" of California's "native song dog."
They also complained that the hunt's sponsors, the Pit River Rod and Gun Club and Adin Supply Outfitters, failed to set boundaries, meaning hunters can scatter across county lines killing wildlife, possibly including California's lone wolf, OR7, and any other wolves that might have crossed the state line undetected. Wolves are a protected species under state and federal laws.
"Your commission and commissioners have had clear mandates from the people in the past year against bloodlust and violence," said Maggie Rufo, a volunteer at WildCare in San Rafael, referring to last year's regulations against the hounding of bears and bobcats and the controversy over the killing of a mountain lion by former commission President Dan Richards.
"All this so-called contest does is make hunters look bad," Rufo said. "It's not sport to go out and kill as many animals as you can in a day. It's not hunting. It's cruelty, and it's cruelty as entertainment."
The seventh annual hunt is being touted as an attempt "to manage coyote populations in the Big Valley area."
The idea is for two-person teams to fan out into the hills and forests to gun down coyotes. The team that exacts the largest death toll wins. A silver belt buckle will also be awarded to the team that comes back with the largest dead coyote.
Margo Parks, of the California Cattlemen's Association, said it is crucial that ranchers maintain their right to manage coyotes, which she contends are responsible for the vast majority of livestock deaths.
"We believe that the ability to hunt these coyotes is very important for the livestock community," said Parks, who also criticized conservationists for bringing up wolves. "Talking about OR7 is a poorly disguised excuse to further chip away at hunting rights in California. He is far away in Tehama County."
The problem, according to conservationists, is that hunting coyotes does not reduce their population. Studies have shown that coyotes breed more often and have more puppies when the pack leaders are killed. That's because the leaders, or alphas, in a coyote pack are the only animals that mate. When the alpha is killed, all the previously celibate underlings can then mate.
"We do not sanction this hunt. We have no permit or approval that has been offered for this hunt," said Commissioner Chuck Bonham. "I personally don't view coyotes as varmints. They provide an important ecological role."
The commission asked its legal staff to clarify its authority to regulate hunting contests, but, other than promising that wardens would be there to monitor and educate the hunters, it seemed nothing would be done to stop the upcoming hunt.
© 2013 Hearst Communications, Inc.
This article originally appeared here.
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