The bottom line is this: coyotes live among us, and efforts to kill and depopulate them are not effective solutions to conflicts with them, either in the short or long term. Spondylolithesis/ iStock.com
An aggressive group of anti-coyote propagandists is emerging in many communities, as a recent article in the Los Angeles Times indicating the presence of coyotes in about a dozen California locations. The belligerence of these propagandists and their disdain for best practices for dealing with the presence of coyotes in urban and suburban communities should concern us all.
The bottom line is this: coyotes live among us, and efforts to kill and depopulate them are not effective solutions to conflicts with them, either in the short or long term. Kill coyotes, science says, and you’ll have just as many within a year or two. It is a general principle in population biology that when coyotes are removed from a viable habitat, other coyotes find and live there. Research also suggests that when aggressively controlled, coyotes can increase their reproductive rates by breeding at an earlier age and having larger litters, with a higher survival rate in the young. This allows coyote populations to recover quickly even after up to 70 percent of their numbers have been removed.
None of us would deny the importance of ensuring public safety and taking sensible steps to minimize human-coyote contact and potential conflict. But waging war on coyotes (and other wildlife) is never the answer. A new and better approach is gaining ground in many communities where wildlife lives close to humans. It is based on coexistence and intelligent interventions, greater public awareness and understanding, responsible pet care and nurturing, and other measures to minimize the potential for harm to all residents, human and non-human.
This world view does not distinguish between humans and animals; Rather, it recognizes the presence of animals in our lives and encourages tolerance. It emphasizes the need for a deeper understanding of coyote behavior and biology, and it doesn’t default to a “you don’t belong here” perspective that calls for extinction. Instead, it relies on human ingenuity and goodwill to find ways to understand, interpret, and control coyote behavior and recognize when we need to change our own behavior to prevent conflict in the first place.
Successful coexistence requires that we do our best to manage risk factors in our communities and home environments. In many cities and towns, community management plans are directing the response, and governmental and non-governmental organizations are educating residents on how to avoid or minimize contact with coyotes by not feeding them, keeping trash cans tightly closed, and never leaving pet food outside and picking up fruit falling from their trees, and bullying (using deterrence to reshape behavior) any coyotes that seem too comfortable around humans. In Manhattan Beach, for example, officials use door hangers to educate residents, and the city’s app now features a coyote sighting category.
Our responsibility for pets in our care is an important part of an effective response, and it’s likely that some of those in the Times Articles and other reports could be avoided by taking preventive measures such as: B. keeping cats indoors and leashing dogs when they are out.
It’s hard not to see this anger and penchant for killing coyotes as part of a broader demonization of the species. For the past five years, the US Department of Agriculture, through its Wildlife Services division, has killed more than 60,000 coyotes annually as part of its predator management programs. In addition, untold thousands of coyotes are targeted in wildlife-killing competitions – callous, cowardly, and extremely violent. In an attempt to capture the full range of human-caused coyote deaths, Dan Flores detailed it in his 2016 book Coyote Americaput the number of coyotes killed each year (by government agencies, members of the public, killing competitions, hunting, trapping, and human-wildlife conflict managers) at 500,000.
We are working to reform a number of these practices and end them altogether in the case of wildlife-killing competitions. As long as they thrive, they will fuel the antagonism that drives coyote killing in communities not just in California but across the country. We cannot allow a few highly biased individuals and interest groups to undermine successful wildlife management and conflict resolution approaches grounded in science, creative responses, and a nuanced understanding of wildlife behavior.
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