Coyotes could get culled

  • Coyote

    Michael H. Francis
  For the last decade, biologist Alan Clark has watched the number of endangered Columbian white-tailed deer decline at a national wildlife refuge dedicated to protecting them. Now, with only 60 deer surviving on a 2,000-acre section of the southwestern Washington refuge - half the number there should be - Clark says the situation is critical. He's come up with a controversial, temporary solution: kill some coyotes on the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge.

Clark says the coyotes are the number one cause of death for white-tailed fawns. If he can suppress the coyote population over the next three years, Clark thinks the deer survival rates will soar, boosting the population back to normal levels. Today, the endangered white-tailed deer survive only in pockets of southwestern Washington and Oregon.

The plan has its detractors. Brooks Fahy of the Predator Defense Institute calls the plan a "typical knee-jerk reaction to a complex problem." He blames weather and inbreeding for the population dip and suggests relocating white-tailed deer from another, healthier population. "Killing coyotes is nothing more than a Band-Aid effect," says Fahy. "It is not solving the problem."

"It's not a natural situation," Clark admits. "We don't want to kill coyotes, either, but we're responsible for protecting the deer."

A decision should be made soon, says refuge manager James Hidy, since the trapping should be done before the coyotes and the does start giving birth this spring.

*Sarah Dry

High Country News Classifieds