February 11, 2013
Predator Hunting: Save a Songbird, Thank a Coyote
By Phil Bourjaily
I ran into one of my writing colleagues at SHOT Show and he invited me coyote hunting. I said thanks but I had never shot a coyote and wasn’t very interested. Coyotes are not made of edible meat and I give them a free pass, I told him.
He said “I don’t. I put them in a hole in the ground where they belong.”
That’s a common attitude, but in truth, coyotes get blamed for all kinds of crimes they don’t commit. I don’t how many times farmers have told me our low pheasant numbers are the work of too many coyotes, when in fact, our pheasant crash is the result of bad weather combined with too much intensive farming.*
There are good reasons to hunt coyotes: it’s challenging. Fur prices are up. In general, it’s good that we kill some to make the rest keep their heads down and so they maintain a healthy fear of man.
Shoot coyotes because you value them as game animals or to keep them away from your livestock or because you don’t like them hanging around your house. Just don’t assume, as so many do, that you are automatically doing A Good Deed for Nature whenever you kill one, especially in light of the recent study outlining the damage feral cats do to bird populations. You know what eats cats? Coyotes. Apparently coyotes see these Trap-Neuter-Release cat colonies as all-you-can-eat buffets.
For the record, I am not a cat hater. Growing up, we always had cats. However, cats belong indoors where they make cute, affectionate pets. Once cats go outside they become destructive, non-native predators. Happily, they also become coyote snacks.
Given that I hunt in farm country where there are never feral cats far away I am less likely now to shoot coyotes than I ever was before.
*When I hunted quail in Texas a few years ago with Dr. Dale Rollins, one of our Heroes of Conservation finalists and a bobwhite biologist, he kept a .30-30 in the quail buggy in case he saw feral pigs which eat up quail cover like Roto-tillers. We surprised a coyote one afternoon and Rollins never reached for the rifle. “When you have coyotes you have lower numbers of foxes and raccoons that are much harder on the quail,” he said.