Some things are too anachronistic to defend.
Contests that reward those who kill the greatest number of wild animals fall in that category.
This isn’t an anti-hunting screed. It’s anti-excess. It’s about moving beyond the view that some animals are inherently so worthless that contests should celebrate killing them.
The California Fish and Game Commission last month banned killing predators for prizes. Now, New Mexico is looking at banning such contests, which are legal in every other state, including Arizona.
2013: 669 coyotes killed in N. Arizona
These contests go beyond allowing people to target specific animals, like coyotes, that are causing a problem. This is making a game of killing.
In December, a coalition of 10 environmental groups called for a ban in New Mexico because it has the highest rate of such contests in the nation.
Last week, the Las Cruces Sun-News urged the state to take a look at laws that lead to “senseless slaughter” after the discovery of 39 coyote carcasses in two desert areas near the city.
Jim Paxon, special assistant to the director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, said by e-mail that neither the department nor the Game and Fish Commission has taken a position on these contests. Hunting season on coyotes is year-round, but you need a license, he said.
Coyotes are prolific. In the wild, they eat rabbits, squirrels, rats and mice, carrion, bird eggs, acorns, seed pods and insects. They also prey on pronghorn and deer fawns and young livestock.
The first list of menu items shows why they are important to the ecosystem. The second shows why they are not popular with ranchers and hunters.
Ranching is an honored tradition in our state. But our understanding of ecosystems has evolved since the days when predators were systematically wiped out for the sake of cattle.
The effort to reintroduce the Mexican gray wolf is an example of a more enlightened view that recognizes the value of predators in the ecosystem.
Randomly targeting coyotes can hurt efforts to reintroduce wolves. A federally protected gray wolf that had been radio-collared in Wyoming was recently killed in Utah by a hunter who said he mistook the animal for a coyote. Utah adopted a $50 bounty on coyotes in 2012. Tests may determine if the wolf was the one spotted near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in November.
Hunting is also an honored tradition in Arizona.
Hunters may favor culling coyotes to increase the survival rate of fawns so there will be more game.
Paxon says Game and Fish develops “site-specific” plans when predators become a problem. For example, a recovery plan for pronghorn antelope includes reducing the number of coyotes in known fawning and nursing areas at certain times of year.
In Arizona, wildlife belongs to everyone. Management decisions should be made strategically for the sake of the entire ecosystem. The state has professional wildlife managers to deal with predator issues in the wild and in urban settings.
But shooting large numbers of animals for entertainment serves no good purpose. It is reckless, cruel slaughter. Arizona should ban such contests.
This editorial was published in the AZ Republic.
The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers. Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience.
- Carnivores have an important, valuable role to play in ecosystem health-the slaughter of wolves and coyotes does a disservice to us all and is counterproductive for our wildlands.
- Predator killing contests should be banned-indiscriminate killing for fun does not represent the values of the majority of Arizona residents.
- The illegal killing of endangered wolves is too often accompanied by the claim that the shooter thought the animal was a coyote. This was the case recently when an endangered gray wolf in Utah was killed.
- The McKittrick policy, which lets killers of endangered wildlife off the hook when they claim they didn’t know what they were shooting at, must end.
- Treating coyotes as varmints that should be killed on site is hampering wolf recovery. The coyotes and endangered wolves deserve better.
- Allowing the senseless slaughter of large numbers of wild carnivores is scientifically, ethically and morally indefensible and promotes disrespect for life and nature.
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for publishing the editorial.
- Do not repeat any negative messages from the article. Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
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