Coyotes, elk, and octuplets


Summer nights wouldn't feel quite right if the open windows did not allow me to hear the occasional howling of coyotes. The wild canines provide a sonic reminder that even though I live in town, it's a small town surrounded by thousands of acres of wonderful Big Empty.

But actually, the coyote howls convey no such message. The critter manages pretty well around human settlement. Unlike many wild predators such as the wolf, the coyote has actually expanded its range in the past century, moving into the eastern United States. One even appeared in New York City's Central Park in 1999.

They're also doing pretty well in parts of the West. Upscale suburbs with big lots and greenbelts apparently offer good coyote habitat, as evidenced by recent events in Greenwood Village on the south side of Denver.

There, a coyote attacked a 14-year-old boy last December. He fought it off and was not injured. Since the start of 2008, Greenwood Village has logged 194 coyote sightings, and 20 attacks on animals, most of them pets.

So the town government has approved hiring a contractor who will hunt coyotes in public spaces in the hope of reducing the population. It's a public-safety issue, according to Jim Sanderson, the city manager, because the population is out of control.

Meanwhile, about 80 miles northwest of Greenwood Village in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Park Service has engaged hunters to reduce the elk population by up to 100 cows. The wapiti are destroying willows and aspen, habitat for beaver and birds.

Predictably, there's an environmental lawsuit, this one filed by WildEarth Guardians, which would prefer that the Park Service import some wolves (pretty much eliminated from Colorado for the past 75 years) to whittle down the elk population.

But wait. Couldn't there be a win-win solution? Just trap some of Greenwood Village's abundant coyotes and release them in Rocky Mountain National Park to prey on elk instead of house pets?

No, not really. While coyotes do dine on elk meat, it's generally in the form of carrion from elk that died of other causes. A coyote isn't big enough to take on an adult elk, and coyotes don't hunt in large packs like elk-killing wolves.

So even if the idea is appealing, it's not a solution. Killing some coyotes in Greenwood Village may not be much of a solution, either. As one reference puts it, "The coyote's reproduction level appears to be directly correlated to attempts to control its population. Larger litters seem to be born in areas where intensive efforts at extermination or control have been undertaken."

In other words, if part of the coyote population is removed, the remaining coyotes just have more pups. And the coyotes manage to do this without the bother of a fertility clinics, the course taken by Ms. Octuplet, that California woman whose name I debate using.

On one hand, the more publicity she gets, the more likely she'll get a seven-figure book advance, a TV movie of the week, and her own weekly reality show from the house with 14 children. I can't be the only one who's already tired of her.

On the other hand, with the monetary results of fame, she may be able to pay the medical bills and support the children, thereby saving taxpayers a fortune. So perhaps society would be better served if one jumped aboard this publicity train.

There's no easy answer to this one, just as there's no easy solution to the prolific breeding of coyotes and elk in certain places.

Make Ms. Octuplet pay more taxes
Tukuhnikivats Ahtu
Tukuhnikivats Ahtu
Feb 17, 2009 09:36 PM
Our tax system rewards over-breeders and punishes singles and childless couples. Shouldn't the family who uses more resources pay more instead of the other way around? The government AWARDS people for having kids. Some make a profession out of it. Why not have another kid? More tax breaks, food stamps, and a bigger welfare check. Oh and don't forget to drink and use drugs while your pregnant- if the kid is disabled then you just get another check from disability (just like Ms. Octuplet who is getting THREE disability checks + food stamps+ government-subsidized student loans). I say, don't just do away with tax exemptions for under-age dependents, INCREASE taxes per each child. Who is going to use more resources? A childless couple, or a family of 6? It's obvious but the childless couple is going to end up paying for the resources that the family of 6 will use. Total BS.
Coyotes and octuplets
Feb 18, 2009 08:29 AM
Re an earlier comment, shouldn't the gov't reward families with up to 2 (or even 3) children, and have disincentives for more children? And more pertinently, shouldn't welfare be restricted to the first 2 children (or 3), as well as medicaid etc.? Shouldn't women lose their welfare funding if they continue to have children while on welfare?
Let's not forget the opposite has just happened: the so called stimulus bill (which will only stimulate more reckless spending and more gov't programs) eliminates the welfare-to-work reforms put in during Bill Clinton's administration.
Wolves are the answer
Rob Edward
Rob Edward
Feb 18, 2009 11:35 AM
The problem that the Park is trying to solve with bullets is definitely the bailiwick of wolves; the Park's own biologists admitted that in their planning documents. Moreover, what's happening in Rocky Mountain National Park is a microcosm of the larger ecological death spiral that has taken place in the wake of wolf extirpation. The Park has the legal authority to take the lead (as Yellowstone did) to catalyze a regional wolf recovery effort; all they need now is the need the political gumption.

Riparian habitat in Yellowstone has rebounded dramatically in the nearly 15 years since wolves were repatriated. This rebound is not because there are fewer elk, but simply because wolves keep the elk moving around. Colorado needs wolves--now. What better place to start than Rocky Mountain National Park?
Feb 22, 2009 04:43 PM
Population problems are self solving. Pressure increases and something or someone has to go. Students of demography and ecology pointed out decades ago--you can't do just one thing. DJD
P.S. For example,chimpanzees are not domestic animals. Give'em a few thousand more years and who knows?
Deceiving the coyote population
Don Cuin
Don Cuin
Feb 28, 2009 09:32 AM
Recently I came out of church after a morning of Coyote hunting with all of my camo on. A friend of mine who happens to be the Carbon County Republican chairman asked me where I had been. I said "Harry I have been attempting to imitate our Wyoming Congressional Delegation practices on the local coyote population." Harry "how is that Don." I said "well Harry, I have been attempting to deceive the coyote population that what I have for them is in their best interest, but truly what I had was just to deceive them for my self satisfaction and to enhance my ego as well as for my own economic welfare." Harry just checkled and said "you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time."
Greenwood Village creating hysterics over nothing
Apr 04, 2009 08:29 PM
The City of Greenwood Village is intimidated by its own wealthy residents.

Instead of using common sense and enforcing their own leash laws (which they refuse to do because it will "offend" their residents), they would rather "create" a hysterical situation where it seems as if coyotes are everywhere. Nothing could be farther from the truth and many sightings have been falsified by residents who simply hate coyotes or are afraid of them. I have walked these parks over the past two months consistently and have never even seen ONE coyote! This is much ado about nothing. The City has hired a killer to hunt down and kill ANY AND ALL coyotes he sees, despite the city's claim that he is only going to kill "aggressive" coyotes. Two homeowners in the wealthy area of the Preserve have put BAITED TRAPS close to their homes -- do they really think that will ferret out ONLY "aggressive" coyotes? Or will it entice ANY hungry or curious animal?

These people need to have their heads examined! If they hate coyotes, move to an area where wildlife does not exist!