There was a time when the Endangered Species Act was regarded as a solid, non-partisan tool applauded by all. Well thought out considerations and care were put into the application of a species with clear intentions and goals. There was real tangibility, reason, and consensus as we maneuvered endangered species through the process of recovery. It worked, and all differing value-sets would rally to see it through.
Gone are the days, I suppose. The misuse of a powerful tool is always dangerous, and in the case of the ESA, the danger is amplified. Especially in a sense that species with real struggles will no longer have the bipartisan support or unconditional love the ESA once garnered. This is due to the hijacking of this tool by activist groups who use it to achieve politically motivated outcomes or worse, as a revenue generating avenue for their organization. This diminishes the credibility and effectiveness of the once mighty ESA.
In the latest ploy, a group of environmental activists has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list coyotes in regions where the Mexican Wolf is currently recovering. Their reasoning is that coyotes and Mexican gray wolves look similar, and wolves are being mistaken for coyotes by hunters. These regions, located in Arizona and New Mexico, have no limit or licensing requirements for coyote hunting. Said groups are using an old clause in the ESA called “similarity of appearances” to stop coyote hunting, citing this will reduce mistaken identity as the group claims an epidemic of hunter mortality on the lobo.
Cold, hard facts:
- Coyotes are not endangered nor suffering population wise within specific regions of concern.
- The Mexican gray wolf is celebrating six consecutive years of population growth, nearing 200 wolves between Arizona and New Mexico.
- There is no hard data to support that Mexican gray wolves being mistakenly killed by coyote hunters is in any way “an emergency” or “epidemic.”
- Mexican gray wolves and coyotes are responsible for livestock depredation in both states.
- The petition is now in the hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and it’s their decision whether or not to consider it.
Switching from facts to opinion, it is my belief that there are few competitors to the coyote when it comes to the species’ adaptability and undeniable grit. Coyotes live anywhere from downtown Los Angeles to high desert backcountry to the eastern seaboard. There isn’t a night around my fire at home where the silence isn’t broken by the eerie cries of these robust critters.
I can’t help but wonder if a petition like this doesn’t come from a place of selfish greed. Surely, the usual suspects such as The Center for Biological Diversity must understand that in a developed world of large cities, freeways, railways, reservoirs and the like create limitations on habitat and prey bases. Leaving any species unmanaged from either side of the spectrum; through hunting or through recovery efforts, both of which are vital, has dire consequences that we’ve already remedied through our conservation efforts over the last century.
To leave a species like the coyote, a prolific breeding and adaptive species, totally unchecked under the guise of protecting the Mexican gray wolf seems ludicrous, even for them. However, they need revenue like anyone else. They will undoubtedly be sounding the alarm for donations to save the lobo from evil coyote hunters, but will leave the inconvenient truth of Mexican wolf recovery success out of their pleas.
As hunters, we have a long history of matching wits with wiley coyotes in the American West. Coyote hunting brings with it tradition, management, and the ever important sharpening of skills to the modern outdoorsman; making you, the reader, a stakeholder in this fight.
There is an ally in our corner, however. Never underestimate the power of the American cattle associations that also have steak in the game.
Allying with these cattle associations will more than double our voice in this battle, ranchers are already speaking out against the petition and they have real pain to bring to the table. Ranching lobbyists’ are the sledge hammer that hunters can partner with to pound the shallow argument to rid New Mexico and Arizona of coyote hunting. The depredation costs to these ranches to mostly sheep, but calving season for cattle as well, brings a weighted argument that makes the activist efforts much more difficult. Support them here, and we will be enjoying the next coyote hunt together.