We often wonder how or why coyotes became such villains in our modern society? Maybe it was the Road-Runner cartoons with Wile E. Coyote chasing the fast, smart and incredibly agile Road-Runner around with armloads of dynamite or make-shift traps that always seem to backfire. Actually, they, along with other predators, have been vilified for centuries. But in the American West, it has been this way ever since the landfall of the Americas by European settlers. Any predator at that time was considered a foe that had to be eradicated for the farmer or rancher to subsist in a formidable environment. The eradication worked on certain predators such as cougars and wolves, hunted almost to extinction. But ironically without those predators, the coyote flourished with no competition and no predators preying on them. The coyote is considered a generalist, which means it is highly adaptable. They compensate for their declines by simply increasing offspring.
Even native Americans saw the coyote as a “trickster” or, even as a “teacher of wisdom” depending on the tribe. Either way, he has been around for a long, long time and has captivated the minds of people for centuries.
Fortunately, a new mindset is starting to take hold amongst the new generations of people in the United States. Not so much in rural areas where people still have to contend with coyotes, but in urban and suburban areas, where the coyote is often less seen. The change of heart is seemingly ever-increasing. Not only is the mindset beginning to change, but research is finding that these predators, like the coyote, actually serve a greater purpose in the health of the environment. Thereby refuting the long-held belief that people must simply eradicate the vermin.
Most people in rural environments are strong individuals and adhere to a code of individualism, strength of character and independence. They often have strong traditional values and ideas of how to manage their farms or ranches, usually the same way they have always done it. Simply put, you just kill the things that are causing you problems. But now that we know that these animals serve a purpose in the world, we are having to find ways to coexist with them instead of eliminating them. This is being accomplished by many groups hoping to change the antiquated mindset of killing. Managing livestock of sheep, goats, chickens or cattle with night penning, guard dogs, flashing lights, etc. are proving to be a solution to the problem. Not exactly easy, per se, but a solution.
Unfortunately, state and federal land managers don’t see it the same way. Mostly because they are heavily influenced by the ranching, farming and hunting communities. They still want to live in the wild west and don’t want to deal with anything that is an inconvenience to their operation. Predators are an inconvenience if you have animals. Especially when those animals are domesticated and not used to defending themselves. That’s where the rancher comes in. The responsibility of being a rancher is to protect your herd, but not by killing everything. In fact, this usually exacerbates the problem and has been shown by several studies to be so. Disruption of the social structures of wolf or coyote packs can have an actual increase of predation of livestock. The same with cougars. Without adult supervision, young cats do not know what appropriate prey is. It sounds odd, but it is true. Adult cougars teach their young how to avoid humans and what is suitable prey. Cougars mostly feed on deer.
Often times, the board commissions are made up of individuals from the groups mentioned earlier, with an intent of eradicating the things that cause them grief. Either through federal programs that kill at the behest of their constituents (farmers and ranchers) or through bounty programs where tax-payers pay for the wanton killing of animals that are not even causing problems. Or simply ignoring the despicable acts carried out by individuals with psychopathic tendencies, that not only kill the animal, but often torture them first.
We are working on enlightening the public to what is happening behind the curtain of the wildlife boards, because most people do not even know that these types of things go on, even on our public lands. Our goal is to prevent the needless killing of innocent animals and to only deal with the individuals that are actually behaving badly and ignoring practical methods of dissuasion.
Coyotes have been made the villain for too long. We believe that in times of the past, they were difficult to manage without modern technology or modern thinking. Either way, the time has come to initiate a change of mind in how we perceive these animals. Are they clever, like Wile E.? Very much so, but we think we can still out-smart them, just like the Road-Runner. Beep-Beep!