The Utah legislature has passed a boondoggle bill that will appropriate $750,000 in tax dollars to fund the slaughter thousands of coyotes. The bill has advanced to Governor Gary Herbert’s desk for his signature.
Senate Bill 245, fallaciously titled the “Mule Deer Protection Act,” is backed by extreme hunting groups and some in agribusiness. This crowd hopes that fewer coyotes will mean more mule deer for human hunters and fewer livestock losses for those in agribusiness.
Utah should know better.
Research shows that human hunters, habitat degradation, and climate have greater effects on deer herd size than does predation by coyotes. The truth is coyotes typically prey upon rodents and rabbits, which actually increases forage for deer, and for livestock.
The livestock industry, which is notoriously hostile towards native carnivores, also supports this bill. Yet, less than 1 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory is annually killed by all native carnivores and domestic dogs combined.
Coyotes enjoy no legal protection in Utah. In fact, their destruction is encouraged by the state, which has no seasons, no bag limits, and no limit on the method of “take,” including the use of cruel traps or aerial gunners.
Coyotes are important ecological actors. Their presence in systems creates greater biological diversity. Without them, kiss your ground-nesting songbirds goodbye. Coyotes limit populations of smaller carnivores such as skunks, raccoons, and opossums that prey upon birds and their eggs. Moreover, killing coyotes is ineffective. They quickly change their breeding and immigration strategies and make up for their losses. A vacant territory will contain a new coyote in about four month’s time.