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Know the West

Photos: Inside the controversial sport of coyote coursing

This subset of coyote hunting involves trained dogs and is relatively uncommon in the West.


Photographs in the new book, To See Them Run, offers a glimpse into the Great Plains culture around coyote coursing: a sport that involves athletic hounds trained to run down coyotes. Along with images by Scott Squire, the book includes vignettes of the collection's main characters by writer Eric Eliason.

The sport, writes Eliason, is “an uncommercialized and never-before-studied vernacular tradition.” Although coyote hunting is widespread across the country, coursing, a subset of hunting, is relatively uncommon. 

Many states allow coursing and offer bounties  in Utah it's $50  for each coyote carcass. Coyote hunting contests are held in several Western states, including New Mexico, Idaho and Montana. In 2014, California became the first state to ban coyote killing contests, which sometimes includes coursing.

Opponents of coursing say the practice perpetuates unnecessary cruelty and wildlife abuse and isn’t effective in population control. Yet proponents of the sport say it helps tamp down coyote populations and protect livestock. Available science is spotty and backs up neither in a convincing way, as High Country News reported in a February 2016 story on Wildlife Services.

In To See Them Run, no photo shows the end of the hunt, when the greyhounds catch their prey, side-stepping the controversy entirely. In the end, that’s what is most unsettling about Eliason’s book, which keeps the gore of an otherwise bloody sport out of view. The book provides a unique perspective on the culture to a familiar reader, but for the reader that comes to Eliason’s collection to better understand the sport, it will leave them wanting. — Paige Blankenbuehler

To See Them Run: Great Plains Coyote Coursing
By Eric A. Eliason Hardback, $40.
University Press of Mississippi, 2015.