Across the country there continues to be controversy about how to handle the coyote population. Reports of coyotes attacking small dogs, killing livestock and threatening people have communities searching for solutions.
The fact remains – coyotes aren’t going anywhere. We need to learn how to coexist with them.
At the center of the debate on how to deal with coyotes is trapping. Steel leghold traps are used by many communities, but not without opposition. As far away as the small town of Maumelle, Ark., people are expressing their anger to local officials over trapping. Many communities want to ban trapping and are seeking alternatives.
Traps are not the answer. First, they don’t control population size. A stable pack has only one alpha pair and they are the only ones who reproduce. This is how nature keeps the population stable. When one or more of that alpha pair is killed, other pairs form and reproduce.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has done research that shows that “when coyote populations are aggressively controlled, i.e., through trapping or hunting, the surviving coyotes end up breeding at earlier ages, having larger litters and experiencing a higher survival rate.” The disruption of the pack hierarchy also often serves to attract outsider (single, transient) coyotes. All the above factors work towards replenishing the population, often quickly, even when many coyotes are killed.
The town of Westport, Conn. is the only municipality in my state that bans hunting and trapping. Residents know that removing food left outdoors (like accessible garbage or pet food left outside), supervising pets, and hazing, where one essentially jumps up and down and yells at the animal, are all humane and effective ways to prevent problems with coyotes. They are also concerned that birds, deer, raccoons, cats, and even small dogs can be caught in the steel jaws of a trap.
Furthermore, these traps (whether padded or unpadded) are inhumane and cause extreme suffering. “Wringing” or “wring-offs” are terms used by trappers when a caught animal twists a caught limb off. This happens with enough frequency that trappers have a name for it.
On September 5th, Westport’s Representative Town Meeting (RTM) committee will vote on reinstating trapping in Westport. Residents are urged to contact members of the committee and urge them to vote “No” on this ordinance. Or, Westport voters could simply email RTMMailingList@westportct.gov, being sure to include their name and address so their opposition is heard by their RTM representatives.
The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is behind this effort to bring trapping back to Westport. Sadly, DEEP’s promotion of trapping is largely for political purposes - hunting and trapping revenues are diminishing – and has nothing to do with effective animal control.
All of this seems to have come about in response to a new bill proposed by the Representative for Greenwich, Conn., The Hon. Fred Camillo that would allow local municipalities to decide whether or not they want to allow trapping. DEEP blocked his bill from having a public hearing.
I believe that residents of every town in America should have the right to vote on whether to allowing trapping. We need to educate people on how to live with coyotes. This is what Animal Control Officers should be doing as opposed to lobbying for leghold traps.
Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey have joined with other states to ban or severely restrict the use of leghold traps. It is quite evident that trapping is neither viewed favorably by the public nor does it control wildlife populations.
Coyotes provide balance in our eco-system and we should do whatever possible to protect them.