“They Never”, “They Always”

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Jim Beers, retired Refuge Manager, Special Agent, & Wildlife Biologist U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Jim Beers, retired Refuge Manager, Special Agent, & Wildlife Biologist U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

A pack of “five to six” coyotes just killed a full grown horse, ironically owned by the County Sheriff’s Department, in a paddock between Detroit and Flint, Michigan.  The local “wildlife technician” said he “can count on zero fingers the numbers of times coyotes have taken down a large animal”.  He also said, “If you make a lot of noise and wave your arms, they are going to run. Usually when they see humans, they’ll book it.”  While he understood some people may get a bit panicky about the recent attack, he added, “They really have nothing to fear about being attacked.” He is correct, “usually”.

Coyotes ran down and killed a young lady hiker in an Eastern Canada Provincial Park a few years ago.  Coyote bitches with pups have, on numerous occasions, attacked small, unattended children in New England’s settled landscapes – most likely as food for pups.  The former Governor of Texas shot a coyote approaching him as he jogged a couple of years ago.  These are but a few of many recent incidents and certainly but a very tiny portion of such incidents historically.

My point is not to disparage either coyotes or “wildlife technicians”.  My point is about wildlife fantasies and government agendas as coyote numbers grow and coyotes infest (the correct word) cities and suburbs and as wolves, grizzly bears and mountain lions (“panthers”, “cougars”, “puma”) are increased and spread in the settled landscapes of the Lower 48 States by government decrees based on dangerously false premises.

Coyotes are like foxes.  They eat what they can, when they can.  They get rabies and can be extremely dangerous to humans, domestic animals and other wildlife when so infected.  Coyotes in one sense might be characterized as foxes on steroids.  They are bigger, more fearless, range more widely and they kill and eat dogs and cats as quickly as they will a mouse or a rabbit.  To a coyote, especially one with pups to feed, a one or two-year old child unattended in a rural or suburban yard is more often than not merely a vulnerable and easily taken down meal for the pups.  To a pair or pack of coyotes (coyote “packs” are an increasingly noted phenomenon) a jogger or dog walker or hiker has exactly the same fascination that they would have to a pack of dogs gone wild; that is to say curiosity, an urge to investigate and chase and even drag down just like your neighbor’s dog that chases cars or kids on bikes.

Two years ago in Montana I was told of two separate instances; one of an adult doe mule deer struggling across a road with a coyote’s teeth firmly locked on the front of her neck and trying to drag her down, and another of a coyote trotting alongside an adult mule deer for at least four hours exhausting her in order to kill her. In both instances the observers were 3rd and 4th generation ranchers that had never before seen such behavior.

In different areas and under different circumstances coyote behavior will vary greatly, just like the watchdog in your kennel and Aunt Mary’s little Chihuahua that is always being kissed and pampered on the old widow’s lap are as different as night and day.  When coyote food competition becomes greater; or wild food disappears; or coyotes “Learn” that cows, calves, sheep, wintering deer, and even full-grown horses are more vulnerable to a pair of coyotes working together and even more vulnerable to a “pack” of coyotes: coyotes will, just like the two neighborhood dogs that get loose and kill chickens and lambs and chase sheep into fences or over a drop-off will do for “fun” or “a natural chase reaction” or whatever the next expert tells us is the “reason”.

Wolves are coyotes on steroids just like coyotes and foxes, only multiplied by a factor of three or four.  They are not only much bigger, such bigness (as with grizzly bears or big football/basketball players) often encourages behavioral development of invincibility and the imagined ability to take whatever appeals to you.  In the case of these large predators this is passed on to offspring and reinforced by injuries and death to adults that do not conform. I apologize here for my anthropomorphisms but I am writing here for the general public and trying to make this understandable.

Wolves carry all the diseases and infections that coyotes and dogs carry plus they are not privy to all the shots Aunt Mary provides for her little “snookums”.  Wolves travel in large (larger than coyotes) groups routinely and they (daily, weekly and monthly) cover much larger areas in their wanderings.  Wolves are more fearless or less reticent (take your pick) than coyotes and therefore are quicker to habituate (hang around and become dangerously comfortable) to human homesteads and human activities.  Wolves kill, eat, roll in, sniff carcasses, contract a wide range of ailments and infect each other and other animals including humans over a much wider range than other predators. In turn they frequent homesteads and communities during the night to an astonishing degree.  Additionally they gambol about in groups much like bats that spread infections amongst themselves and others like wildfire thus making them extremely effective vectors of those diseases and infections.  Wolves routinely and, depending on where they grew up and what they find available, consistently kill and injure cows; calves; sheep; lambs; dogs; adult moose, elk, deer; and the young of these game animals.

Why anyone doubts that unarmed, young, elderly or lone humans cannot occasionally spark the same emotions in wolves as those animals and therefore lead to the same result can only be an example of the imagination controlling the mind and common sense.  The total federal protection and forcible (by government laws and draconian penalties) spread of wolves in recent years in The Lower 48 States has allowed for an expanded wolf presence and wolf densities (in settled landscapes) far quicker and more thoroughly than the coyote population explosion east of the Mississippi River in the last five decades.

Historically, worldwide Wolf Attacks on humans are countless, legendary and documented from centuries before Christ in Greece right on down to the young lady schoolteacher jogger killed and eaten on the Alaskan Peninsula a couple of years ago and the young Canadian man run down and killed in Saskatchewan a few years back.  There are US Army Reports after the Civil War of rabid wolves invading Forts and biting everyone they encounter before being shot.  Early 20th century biologists reported the belief by settlers in the previous century that the lightening spread of smallpox through Indian villages was either because of or greatly enhanced by wolf packs that quickly “Learned” that dead and dying Indians were helpless and vulnerable and therefore susceptible to wolf depredation and – just like wolves that feed on lambs or a moose cow and her calf while she gives birth – they look for and investigate similar surroundings in their wanderings.  In the case of those dying Indians; that would have been the other villages that the wolves had previously avoided for fear of human retaliation.

Grizzly bears and panthers are as problematic in settled landscapes as are wolves.  Grizzly bears are notoriously cantankerous and more liable to attack and kill an unsuspecting camper, hiker, hunter, or even kids in a rural yard the same as they do to livestock than any other animal in the Lower 48 States today.  Panthers are likewise notorious for not only killing stock but for killing kids and adults on hiking trails, while biking, camping or simply hanging out near a rural homestead.

The dangers and destruction cited above will only increase annually, just as these animals are doing, as these animals are:

–       Given more protection like prohibiting Hunting and Trapping seasons meant to restrict such animals’ numbers and distributions to areas and densities tolerable to the local communities WHERE THEY ARE TO BE ALLOWED TO EXIST.

–       Subjects of more laws and regulations forbidding efficient Control methods like traps, snares, dogs, denning (killing young), aerial shooting, etc.

–       Propagandized in the media, schools and government-financed propaganda as, “necessary”, “good for the environment”, “beneficial”, “harmless”, “native species”, etcetera.

–       “Live-trapped” in cities and suburbs when they are problems and people are told they will be released into “the wilderness” that is in truth some rural roadside in the darkness where the animal either begins molesting the currently predator-rich local neighborhood or starts meandering back to from whence he came and disrupting other communities along the way.

–       Allowed to reach densities that exhaust various wild food availability and then shift on to the available domestic foods like stock, garbage, dogs and whatever else looks edible in and around the human habitations from backyards and school bus stops to playgrounds and suburban walking trails and fringes that they formerly avoided.  The old saw about predator populations going down after they exhaust (i.e. kill most of) their food supply like on Isle Royale National Park in Michigan (re: moose) doesn’t apply where livestock, dogs, garbage, vulnerable humans and uninhabited (by wolves) areas are available for predators experiencing more frequent hunger pains to begin shifting to.

–       Slated to encounter an increasingly disarmed rural Americans if the current federal politicians, bureaucrats, big-city Mayors and Governors with big city political’ supporters have their way about gun control.  Like Fido in your home, when he is never disciplined and taught to avoid offending the humans in the home –first he gets on the bed, then he takes food off the counter and then food off the table and suddenly he is seriously growling at you for getting in the way of what he wants.  Today people run into their home or car if they can when encountering a dangerous animal and one that is conditioned to see fearful humans and is no longer fearful since he is never threatened or challenged in his increasingly bold moves toward humans.

–       Painted as desirable in uncontrolled densities where local communities neither want nor will tolerate the damages and dangers attendant with the decrees of remote central government bureaucrats working on behalf of rich urban factions and individuals with more hidden agendas than, as my Mother used to say, “Carter Has Little Liver Pills”.

Now if you doubt this, let me tell you why you do.  The government bureaucrats and their nefarious “partners” and supporters from rich moguls to academics and the media have a stake in what you have been told for the past 40+ years about these animals.  Consider:

–       A lady is killed one night recently behind her cabin in N Wisconsin wolf country.  She told her companion that her neighbors’ (black) Labrador retriever was in the yard and she was going to return it to the neighbor.  Much later that night her body, obviously attacked and injured viciously by an animal and minus an arm, is found.  Papers are curiously uninterested.  State biologists and a Sheriff conclude (without a DNA check of the neighbor’s mild-mannered Lab or the lady’s clothing) that the Lab did it.  Case Closed.

–       Two years ago, two ladies park their car in a National Park remote parking lot in Idaho wolf country and leave their dogs in the car as they go for a hike.  (Q. Now how far might two older ladies be planning to hike if they leave their dogs in a car?)  They go missing and search parties with dogs find their remains after extensive searching.  The remains are sent to a Coroner several Counties away from the site by federal and local law enforcers.  The Coroner’s Report is sealed.  Newspaper reports are published that the ladies died of “exposure” though both the daytime and nighttime temperatures were mild.  Case Closed.

–       A child on a Sunday Church Picnic/Hike outing in Colorado disappears as he runs back and forth between two groups and is never found.  Members of each group remember a mountain lion above them on the slopes as they hiked.

–       Every time a grizzly bear kills a camper or a hiker or a hunter or a horseback rider, etc. we are told of how THE VICTIM misbehaved or was ignorant of his surroundings or was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

–       I have stopped counting the time in places like California or Oregon or similar big-city run states where panthers are protected either by statute or prohibition of efficient hunting methods like dogs that a body is found, a cougar is the suspected culprit but they can’t quite be sure nor can they go after it anyway since no one trains, feeds and maintains dogs that track panthers or any large predators for that matter anymore.  It has been the same with government lies about “compensating” livestock owners for losses to wolves and grizzly bears.  First, they are seldom sure enough to say it was wolves of grizzlies or maybe dogs or a mountain lion (or gosh maybe hyenas or jackals?)  Second there is never enough money when payments are authorized to compensate the owners fully: there is only a proportion of whatever is available.  Third, the government/environmentalist budgets dwindle, understandably, once the wolves and grizzlies are established and the landowners are instructed to “learn how to coexist with them” even though as men have known down through the ages, that is impossible in settled landscapes.  Would you think poorly of me if I suggested that perhaps the federal government and all their nefarious allies in this business might ultimately desire to “un-settle” these “settled landscapes”?  Forgive me, what was I thinking?  I must just be a mean-spirited old man.

Allow me to answer for the “wildlife technician” whose advice about a dearly beloved horse (without meaning to be sarcastic, there are few animals that could pluck heartstrings more than a horse in one of these fairly densely-settled landscapes) that began this article.  Since my career is long over and I am no longer dependent on the good graces of powerful environmental lobbies or bureaucratic bosses that meet with and contribute to animal “rights” organizers, here is what I would say to the residents of the Detroit/Flint area about the demise of this horse:

Good Folks of SE Michigan, lend me your ear.  We have an increasingly dense coyote population in our area.  These animals are utilizing woodlands, parks, unused odd spots, distressed properties and unkempt homesteads while raising their young and looking for food constantly in our midst.  Government and Private Control efforts, while available for a minimum of the coyote complaints like the recent death of a horse on a farm near the Lapeer/Oakland County border, cannot begin to keep up with the human/coyote conflicts we are experiencing and see lying ahead.  The answer is a continuous, year-in/year-out coyote hunting and trapping season by residents and others in and around our area.  Our goal should be to keep the coyote population at a consistently lower level and to even exclude them from certain areas as best we can determine as we go about this effort.  We are asking the Michigan DNR to send us a biologist and a Law Enforcement planner to recommend seasons, methods, and coyote estimating procedures to meet and maintain our goals.  We are also exploring ways to get a surcharge on the hunting and trapping licenses as well as any furs sold from the area of our (4?, 6?, 8?) Counties area to finance this ongoing Local coyote control program intended to not only protect our horses, other livestock, dogs, cats, other wildlife but even our children.  Reducing the numbers of coyotes in our area reduces the likelihood of encounters with children or domestic animals in particular.  Such a continuing control program will, hopefully, contribute to coyote behavior that is at once more reticent around humans and their property and safer in the long run for the good residents of our fair countryside and urban neighborhoods.  Any questions?

If the “wildlife technician” were to say something like that, he would be looking for a job driving truck and wondering how he would pay for his daughter’s wedding.  He, like me when I was working for “the wildlife”, does what he has to do.

That said it is axiomatic that the fewer coyotes in any area, the fewer conflicts and complaints (i.e. harm to residents).  Wolves and grizzly bears DO NOT BELONG IN SETTLED LANDSCAPES and those responsible for RE-INTRODUCING them into The Lower 48 States with neither State nor Local concurrence are guilty of a great wrong that will one day be no longer deniable.

The presence; the absence, the control; and the tolerance of coyotes, wolves, grizzly bears and panthers is – under the Republic established by our Constitution  and under many (it should be ALL) State Constitutions – is a LOCAL matter to be determined by LOCAL COMMUNITIES AND THEIR GOVERNMENTS.  It is the role of State governments to protect this Local Authority and prerogative from ALL threats, up to and including the federal government in all its’ increasing manifestations.  The federal government no more belongs telling Local Communities what predators they must tolerate than it does telling us what food our kids eat in school lunches or what health insurance we must buy under penalty of law.  This is NOT a “usually” true statement, it is The Truth.

 

Jim Beers