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How do we justify the slaughter?

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Dear HCN,

Michael Milstein's article on coyote control really hit home with me (HCN, 4/18/94). During March of 1992 and 1993, aerial gunners, hired by the Prescott National Forest in Arizona, flew past my home and took down the coyote population in the surrounding hills by some 200 animals each year. The nightly caroling abruptly stopped and it took months before new coyotes moved into the vacated landscape.

During the summer of "93 there were three fawns with the small antelope herd near my house, up from only one the year before. This success may have been a result of the gunning, or it may have been due to the return of spring rains, which made the Chino Valley green and signaled the end of the drought. There was one fatality: My neighbor watched as a stray dog loped across the road and took down one of the fawns.

But there is more to this story, a side I have never seen addressed in the arguments concerning coyote control. Gunning is conducted in March directly before fawning or lambing season. This provides as much time as possible for the young to develop speed and agility before coyotes expand back into the area from other regions. What fails to be addressed is the corresponding birth of coyote pups.

Coyotes have their pups, usually two to four of them, in late February and early March, and as a result they hunt more heavily during the ensuing months. When 200 adults are "controlled" by gunning, potentially up to 400 pups are left to die of dehydration and starvation.

We concern ourselves with lambs and antelopes because both are eventually intended for our dinner plates, and we justify the thinning of coyotes based on sustained yields of livestock and game animals. But what justification can we give for tiny pups huddled helplessly with no easy or humane end?

Jessica Kuntz

Colorado City, Colorado

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