Coyotes Managed for Hunters and Trappers
To The Editor:
Virginia Fuller’s recent op-ed succinctly explained that the Division
of Fisheries and Wildlife’s new coyote hunting regulations prove that
Massachusetts’ wildlife is managed by and for the state’s recreational
hunters and trappers. Thomas O'Shea, assistant director of wildlife for
the Division was quoted in the Springfield Republican saying "The proposed
hunting season will neither decrease nor increase the population." (Coyote
hunting season extended - 7/31)
It is well known that coyote populations cannot be reduced through
hunting and trapping. The average coyote’s litter size is four to seven
pups, but when hunting and trapping drops their populations to an
unnaturally low level, litter sizes explode up to as many as seventeen
pups (Nebraska Game and Parks Commission). The canines breed faster than
they can be killed.
While hunting can never solve real or imagined coyote related problems,
non-lethal approaches can. Simple measures such as not feeding animals
outdoors, securing trash containers, and keeping one’s property clean of
rotting fruit and dense weeds and brush will help minimize any potential
human/coyote encounters. To learn what you can do to protect wildlife from
hunters and state agencies who intend to harm them, please visit
Joe Miele, Vice President
Wildlife Watch, Inc.
P.O. Box 562 New Paltz, NY 12561
VIRGINIA FULLER When hunters control the hunted
By Virginia Fuller | September 4, 2007
THE MASSACHUSETTS Division of Fisheries and Wildlife recently issued
new coyote regulations. And even though a wide variety of wildlife
advocates had urged otherwise, the hunting season is to be extended by
five weeks, making the season on coyotes and foxes the longest for any
game animal. The new rules also put coyotes on the list of "nuisance"
wildlife to be controlled by Problem Animal Control agents.
Perhaps the new regulations are a response to human-coyote encounters
and a step to reducing coyote population in the state? That is not the
case. Marion E. Larson, a wildlife biologist for the state, said in a
Springfield newspaper that the longer season isn't being proposed as a
population control measure, but rather a way to provide more chances for
In fact, she said, hunting has little effect on the numbers of coyotes;
more trapping or hunting pressure may even increase their birthrate. Since
MassWildlife and its board have admitted that the extended hunting season
will not bring down the coyote population, the new rules are designed
solely to satisfy hunters.
Hunters have too strong an influence over wildlife policy in
Massachusetts. At one point, state law demanded that a majority of the
Fisheries and Wildlife Board be sportsmen. That requirement was removed
more than a decade ago, when the Wildlife Protection Act became law by a
2-to-1 victory in a 1996 referendum. But although qualified nonhunters are
available to provide balance on the board, no governor has appointed such
a member. Barely more than 1 percent of Massachusetts residents hunt. The
number of trappers is so small as to be barely measurable. Yet this
handful of sportsmen writes the regulations for killing our wildlife, or
"harvesting" them, in hunter-speak - even though the vast nonhunting
majority would prefer to enjoy our wildlife without seeing a gut-shot deer
or a bobcat in a box-trap.
MassWildlife is overseen by a seven-member board appointed by the
governor. It has not evolved much since its founding in 1866 and is stuck
in a frontier mentality. If you search its website, you will find members
with ties to Ducks Unlimited, the Professional Hunters Association of
South Africa, the Ruffed Grouse Society and National Wild Turkey
Federation, Safari Club International, and the National Rifle Association.
What you will not find - despite the 1996 Wildlife Protection Act - are
more nuanced voices that do not cater to the hunting lobby.
The agency's activities are mainly supported by revenue from the sale
of fish and game licenses; returns from federal taxes on hunting,
trapping, and fishing equipment; and various bond initiatives. With the
stranglehold that presently is in place, those of us who do not hunt and
therefore do not buy licenses or equipment have, at present, no input into
the management of the wildlife that belongs not to a chosen few but to
every man, woman, and child in this state.
The taking of an animal's life is not a form of recreation on a par
with bowling. The time is long overdue for the composition of the board to
reflect the fact that Massachusetts citizens have evolved from their
gun-toting image of a century ago. These days, the vast majority of us
value our wildlife, seeking connection to it not through killing but by
exposure to it, walking in the woods and scanning our skies and our
The huge margin of victory for the Wildlife Protection Act indicated
that the public holds a far more benign attitude toward wildlife than do
those in charge of policy. The next opening for a Fisheries and Wildlife
Board member is scheduled for September. It's time for some thoughtful
changes. Governor Patrick has a superb opportunity to make them.
Virginia Fuller is former president of the New England Wildlife Center.