by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Coyotes, Bounties and Bill Murdoch
On the CBC there is a phone-in radio show called “Ontario Today” that is on over the noon hour. Last week it asked the question of whether there should be a bounty on coyotes. What one provincial member of Parliament (MPP) said was just so dumb that I ... well ... I’ll get to that in a moment, but first a bit of background.
(Photo by Simeon Eichmann)
We have joined forces with the Animal Alliance of Canada and the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre to oppose the fact that, in eastern Ontario, the Osgoode Township Fish Game and Conservation Club has, for the second consecutive year, run a contest called the Great Coyote Cull Contest that awards the coyote hunter whose ballot is chosen in a draw with a Mossberg pump action shotgun. We oppose this on the grounds that under Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, it states, “... it is an offence to hunt for gain or to induce another person to hunt for gain.” Our lawyer, Peter Copeland, has written a letter to the Minister of Natural Resources, Linda Jeffrey, urging that her ministry (MNR) enforce the law.
That’s bad enough, but the question “Ontario Today” was asking was should there be a bounty on coyotes? A bounty has been proposed by Bill Murdoch, Conservative MPP for Bruce, Grey, Owen Sound. That constituency is rural and Murdoch, who is not in government (the Liberal Party governs Ontario, but an election is pending), loves to demonize “urbanites” while playing on the fears of rural voters. He is about as right wing as it gets in Canada. Given that the terms “right” and “left,” as they pertain to politics, may be somewhat differently nuanced in Canada relative to other democracies, for current purposes I am identifying the “right” as providing simple solutions to complex issues while generally favoring instincts and gut feelings over facts, while being suspicious of facts and logic as the purview of a smugly self-righteous and unrealistic elite on the “left.”
While I’m the last one to uncritically accept all we’re told by an MNR biologist, the one interviewed by “Ontario Today” was quite correct in patiently explaining that there is, in North America, a 150-year history of bounties being offered for killing coyotes, and what has been demonstrated again and again and again is that bounties don’t work, and can be counter-productive in terms of resolving conflicts between coyotes and farmers. He explained the well-studied and documented phenomenon of compensatory reproduction. When numbers of coyotes are reduced, remaining animals produce more young who, lacking competition, have higher survival potential, thus negating any reduction resulting from bounties.
He also explained that bounties don’t target the animals who are most likely to be responsible for livestock losses. Indeed, use of baits tends to select against the carrion-eating coyotes and those who take small prey, as opposed to the more predatory ones who cause the losses.
The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. That’s what Murdoch wants to do by taking money from Ontario taxpayers such as me and giving it to farmers who lose sheep to coyotes.
(Photo by Tabercil)
What made me really question the man’s overall IQ was what he said at the end of the show, as though playing his trump card. It had been pointed out by a caller that there is really no end to the species of wildlife who at some time annoy someone; should we kill them all?
Aha — there is something different about coyotes, Murdoch explained: They, unlike crows, geese, blackbirds, raccoons, squirrels or whatever, kill people!
Um ... yeah, at the rate of maybe a bit less than one per century on average.
I’m on the mailing list of the U.S.-based Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting. It tracks hunting accidents reported in the North American media, and while the organization undoubtedly misses some, it found that for 2004 and 2005 there were 133 fatalities. Many were non-gun accidents, or hunters shooting themselves or each other, but at least some involved innocent people minding their own business being shot. Clearly hunters with weapons are a far greater threat to human life than coyotes, and replacing a statistically remote likelihood of a threat to human life with a much greater threat makes no sense.
Is this guy simply incapable of rational thought? Or is he aware of the inanity of his position and does not care, choosing arguments he believes, possibly with good reason, are most politically expedient? I’m pretty sure I’ll never know, but if the latter, I hope that the voters of his region are not as dumb as he thinks.