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Governor of Texas v. Coyote

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The Associated Press< reported yesterday that Texas Governor Rick Perry is boasting about cutting down a coyote with a single shot while out for a morning jog in February with his puppy. The coyote got crosswise of the Guv because he stared a bit too long.

This is a new one to me: the crime of staring. Apparently, it carries the death penalty in Texas. Coyotes are intelligent, curious animals, so a report of them observing humans isn't a surprise. What is surprising is that not only did Perry dispatch the coyote without any moral regard, he went on to wisecrack, "I did the appropriate thing and sent it to where coyotes go." The Associated Press reports that Perry simply left the dead body of the coyote where he shot it, with Perry quipping, "He became mulch."

The Texas governor's actions come as more cities in the Denver metropolitan area are realizing that the best way to address conflicts with coyotes is to examine our own behavior. Flare-ups with coyotes can almost always be traced to irresponsible human actions, including allowing dogs off-leash, setting pet food outside, and not capping garbage bins. The good news is that it's easy to clean up all of these problems and coexist peacefully with coyotes.

Colorado cities such as Centennial, Aurora, and Denver have been successfully implementing public education and hazing to address problems with coyotes. Hazing involves discouraging coyotes from approaching by yelling, blowing whistles, and using other methods that don't harm the coyote but teach him/her to steer clear. Kudos to Broomfield, which appears to be heading in the same direction. WildEarth Guardians has coordinated over 100 volunteers in employing the education and hazing approach successfully in the Denver metropolitan area.

Rick Perry could learn from us Coloradans. Maybe the Phoenix Coyotes could also weigh in.

Contrary to Perry's reported rationale that "I did the appropriate thing" by killing the coyote, the appropriate action would have been to haze the coyote away. Coyotes are important in controlling smaller predators and sustaining more biodiverse ecosystems. In addition, scientists have found that killing coyotes can result in a boomerang effect, where remaining coyotes may breed more and produce larger litters.

Killing coyotes on sight, as Perry did, does not resolve any conflicts, but may encourage either the boomerang effect or the ingress of neighboring coyotes. His action and subsequent words show a fundamental disrespect of wildlife and nature.

Worse yet - for a macho gun-toting Texas politician - Governor Perry's actions and words were the ultimate in cowardice. Perry killed a 30-pound animal that was simply observing him and his dog. Without a second thought, Perry killed a fascinating, singing animal that likely shared intimate social bonds with other coyotes and played an important role in his/her ecosystem. Let Governor Perry know what you think of that.

We take Perry's actions as a cry for help, so we're sending along a plastic whistle, an offer to pay for assertiveness training classes, and a copy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' song, "True Men Don't Kill Coyotes." 90-pound ladies in tennis shoes can scare away coyotes, Governor Perry, and so can you. Next time, leave your gun at home.

2010-04-28-20100222_Chatfield_coyotecomingatyou.jpg
Chatfield Coyote, photo by Dick Vogel