An outrageous review

  Dear HCN,

I read Hal Herring's review of the documentary, Killing Coyote, in the July 31 issue of High Country News with great interest. So much so, in fact, that I bought a copy of the video. Mr. Herring describes a visit by Doug Hawes-Davis to the Logan Field Station of the National Wildlife Research Center. He trumpets the visit as: "the first (by) journalists to film the research facilities of Wildlife Services and interview the veterinarians and exterminators who devote their lives to destroying coyotes." He goes on to describe purported research activities as: "what Hannah Arendt called the "banality of evil" ... tightly bound coyotes being injected with the latest birth control potions, or being dragged from their pens by people who look like you and me." Mr. Herring also quotes one Wildlife Services staffer (me, as it turns out) as saying: "We fail a lot ... but that doesn't mean we are going to stop."

To say the least, I was fascinated. What a macabre film and what a patently bizarre review! Hawes-Davis' crew was only one of many to film the Logan Field Station during the summer of 1999. Just prior to Hawes-Davis' visit to Logan, an NBC Nightly News crew collected extensive footage for a story on the range expansion of coyotes into the Eastern United States. In fact, film shot by the NBC crew was used by Hawes-Davis to portray "... tightly bound coyotes being injected with the latest birth control potion," after being "... dragged from its pen."

In fact, the coyote on film was terrified. He and several of his mates were victims of an attack by animal-rights activists the day prior to the NBC visit. The incident was reported to the FBI and extensively covered the following week in the Logan Herald Journal (Aug. 5, 1999).

The activists used a high-pressure water hose to force hand-raised animals from their pens, and then attempted to start a range fire which, if successful, might have damaged our research building, and surely would have burned many of our animals in their pens. The male in question had an extensively injured foot, and the "birth control potion" described by Mr. Herring was actually a sedative so that we could examine the animal. Several other animals "liberated" in the attack were so seriously hurt that they had to be put to sleep by the caring people who had raised them from pups.

To describe film of animals injured by terrorists in the name of nonviolence and animal rights is obscene, and to use it to accuse Wildlife Services of cruelty is burlesque. As Hawes-Davis knew - because we told him and because we gave him our publication list - the Logan research facility only conducts investigations into nonlethal methods of predator management. And that, by the way, was what my comment on film referred to, i.e., "...We fail a lot (in the development of new non-lethal methods), but that doesn't mean we are going to stop."

To condone gross misrepresentations of this kind, or even to acquiesce in their distribution, is unethical, immoral and wrong. For anyone that cares about the American West, our wildlife, and the preservation of our wild lands, this film and High Country News' review of it are, in my mind, clearer examples of "... the banality of evil" than anything captured by Hawes-Davis on film.

Russ Mason
Logan, Utah

Russ Mason, leader of Wildlife Services' research station in Logan, Utah, is a professor of fisheries and wildlife, biology, and psychology at Utah State University and a professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania. His comments do not represent an official government position.

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