Coyote hunting competitions were banned in California at the end of 2014, and wildlife advocates hoped to get a similar ban passed in Nevada late last year, but failed to persuade the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission. The commission voted 5-2 against the ban, a vote that seemed to have more to do with the department's opinions on regulatory solutions in general than organized coyote hunts in particular.
"My opposition was really more in regards to I don't believe we're at a point where a regulatory approach is the right course," commission head Jeremy Drew says. "We've tried to deal with controversial topics through a regulatory process in the past and it's been very difficult to get both sides to come to the table and try to find a consensus-based approach."
Despite the ban in California, the most popular hunt in the state just took place again. The organizers made just enough changes to stay within the limits of the law -- sending an outcry through the animal rights community. But while wildlife advocates (led by nonprofit Project Coyote) and hunters made impassioned pleas for and against the ban in Nevada, coyote expert Fred Knowlton, who has studied coyotes for more than 40 years, says humans killing coyotes really has little bearing on the animals.
"I don't believe any coyote hunting expeditions are effective at reducing coyote numbers," Knowlton says. "If everything stays equal -- if you've got hunting going on or not -- you can remove up to 70% of coyotes without affecting the population."
In this episode of the Range podcast, we hear from activists on both sides of the issue, and more from Knowlton, in an attempt to understand the real impact of coyote derbies on the animals.
Range podcast produces stories of the New American West and is co-hosted by reporters Amy Westervelt and Julia Ritchey.