More misunderstanding in Wyoming

When legislation is considered about how to avoid stock depredations by wild predators, it can become mired in looking at short term solutions. Killing coyotes, foxes, wolves, mountain lions, and bears en masse, doesn’t really solve anything. It is a very temporary ‘fix’. Let’s take a moment to ask ourselves why we opt for widespread slaughter of coyotes when the body of scientific evidence indicates  this can often increase the population.

Coyotes play a crucial role in North American ecosystems, and their removal or reduction can have significant impacts on the environment. Coyotes are known to regulate populations of small mammals, such as rodents, which can have negative impacts on the landscape if left unchecked. Coyotes also help to control the spread of disease by reducing the populations of those same small mammals that are often carriers of disease. In addition, coyotes can serve as a food source for a wide range of predators, including eagles, bears, and mountain lions.

Interestingly, there is research to suggest that coyotes actually reproduce in larger numbers when their populations are subjected to high levels of mortality. This phenomenon is known as compensatory reproduction, and it has been observed in a number of species.

One study, conducted by Dr. John Way and colleagues at the Eastern Coyote Research Center in Massachusetts, found evidence of compensatory reproduction in coyotes in response to predator control programs. The researchers found that as predator control efforts increased, coyote populations responded by increasing their reproductive output. There have been many other studies that show similar findings.

We understand the devastation of losing stock and the impact on livelihoods. Perhaps looking at how the coyote responds to adverse predator control is the first step towards coming up with a solution that honors human interests AND the natural world.

Legislative News

The most challenging aspect of advocating for wildlife is the uncertainty of whether our efforts are making progress or if we are losing ground. This is particularly relevant when it comes to recognizing that every species plays a role in the ecosystem. 

Requesting consideration for the ecological impact of large carnivores is not just about emotions.

 The term “emotion” is often used to belittle individuals who have a different perspective on wildlife and its relationship with human presence. 

However, we are an emotional species at every level, not just those who advocate for a non traditional approach to managing our precious wildlife resources. The 10th Amendment of the Constitution assigns responsibility to each state This responsibility is actually held in the public trust for all people, similar to clean water and air.

It is hard to comprehend  the “sport” hunting of mountain lions, which is allowed in 14 out of the 16 states with breeding populations. It is important to understand that “sport” hunting is a hobby, and while some hunters may eat the meat of the animal they hunt, this is not their primary motivation. In states where bears, lions, and wolves are classified as Trophy Game and there is no wanton waste statute, nothing is required to be taken back except proof of the animal’s sex and a tooth for data recording. Often only parts that can be hung, mounted, or walked on, are retrieved.

In Wyoming, hunt areas have reached their “harvest mortality limits” for lions quickly, and hunters who use hounds have lobbied to continue chasing lions until the end of the season, even after the limit has been reached.

This extended chase season is not a harmless alternative to killing. It is in addition to the long days and weeks of pursuing lions from September 1st until the limit is met.

The Cougar Fund has grave concerns about adding to the already harsh mountain lion hunting opportunity.

Mountain lions are a keystone species

A keystone species is a species in an ecosystem that plays a critical role in maintaining the balance of that ecosystem. Its presence and impact on the ecosystem are much larger than would be expected based on its abundance. The loss of a keystone species can cause significant changes to the ecosystem, potentially leading to a cascade of effects that alter the balance of the ecosystem and the interactions between its species.

  • Hounding mountain lions can disturb the balance of the ecosystem by driving lions out of their territory and leading to competition for food and resources and intra-species conflict.
  • It can also cause significant stress to the animal, especially female lions who may have young not traveling with them and become separated.
  • It can lead to the death of the animal, either from the hounds themselves or from the lion’s inability to find food or shelter after being chased out of its habitat.
  • This practice can  be cruel, as the animal may be tracked for long distances and chased for hours before finding refuge in a tree or cave. (Most hunting occurs when an animal is unaware of its fate)
  • The hounds can also kill kittens that cannot climb to safety.
  • Being chased by hounds is not a hazing tool; lions are simply cats that climb to escape, a remnant from a time before humans when they had to escape large canids on the landscape.
  • Lions are often near where they can find food, so constant hounding will also affect the winter range of ungulates during their most vulnerable time of the year.
  • Chasing lions through the end of March coincides with the critical last two months of deer pregnancy, when the doe’s health is vital for the viability of the fawn.

Let’s remember when we hear that a season has closed and there is a problem because there are hounds that can no longer be trained or exercised but have to be fed, is that having these hounds is a choice, a hobby.  Should our wildlife really be expected to pay for those choices?