February 19, 2017

Coyote Controversy: Ecosystem Service or Vermin?

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Although there are over 100 self-defenseless ducks on Melissa Hoffman’s ecologically innovative farm, she spoke passionately about the service that coyotes provide for the non-human maintenance of her 1,300-acre crop land. Coyotes help maintain the population of prey animals such as raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels who can devastate farmer’s crop yields in their search for food.

On Friday, February 17, 2017 the Vermont State Senate’s House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, witnessed multiple testimonies based around re-thinking human’s relationships with the historically feared natural predator.

Judy Bellairs of the VT Sierra Club spoke of the intrinsic and spiritual value of a healthy coyote population; the biologist Walter Medwid explained the necessity of predator populations for balanced a balanced ecosystem; and Rob Mullen told of the inhumane hunting methods and disrespectful social media postings of those who hunt coyotes in Vermont.

The problem that all of these concerned citizens of Vermont were speaking about is the lack of research of Vermont’s coyote population as well as the absence of regulation of coyote hunting.

A major theme throughout the pro-regulation testimonies was the image of coyotes as dastardly ‘vermin’ that civilization must be rid of. This mentality leads some people to go out of their way to kill coyotes for fun despite the lack of viable use for food, clothing, or resale as Mullen warned against the similar fate of the American Bison that was driven close to extinction by homesteaders in the 1800’s.

Despite the conviction of all the citizens listed above, Mike Covey, a representative of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs disagrees that this lack of legislation is an issue at all, dubbing the case for increased regulation as “a fringe of opposition”. Stating that he did not oppose research on the health of Vermont’s coyote population, but that legislative dictation of funds towards enforcing coyote hunting protocols is a breach of freedom.

Though it is unclear whether the coyote population is in danger at the moment, Medwid expressed his concerns by saying “Let’s not pick winners and losers, let’s make consistent polices towards all animals.”

Open season for hunting coyotes is 365 days in Vermont, and the Vermont Coyote Coexistence Coalition is calling for a rethought approach to sharing the state with the misunderstood animal. Hunting is a deep rooted tradition in Vermont, but the House Committee seemed to recognize both the importance of the services coyotes provide, and the cultural importance of freedom to hunt in Vermont.

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