by Christine Schadler, NH Wildlife Coalition
A recent news story reported the rescue of two radio-collared hounds which had chased a coyote onto an icy Androscoggin River. The coyote, caught in open water, “did not survive.” The owner of these dogs apparently lost contact with – and control of – the dogs, a common occurrence with coyote or bear hounding. The dogs were fortunate, this time.
You might wonder why dogs are trained to chase down and destroy other dogs – coyotes are also members of the dog family – so here are some interesting facts:
New Hampshire Fish and Game rules do not preclude anyone from engaging in this ‘sport.’ Packs of hounds are bred and trained to run a coyote to exhaustion and then kill it by tearing it apart. It is gruesome and akin to dog fighting. While dog fighting has been illegal since 1976 and a felony offense in all 50 states since 2008, this very similar activity of hounding coyotes to death is allowed by our Fish & Game. These rules put no limit on the numbers of coyotes a person can kill and at a recent F&G Biennial Hearing, one proud man bragged that he and his hounds had already chased and killed 100 coyotes this year.
This loathsome practice is so far removed from “fair chase,” i.e., giving the quarry a fighting chance, that it should be banned solely on the basis of ethics. Once hounds get the scent of a coyote, the animal is pursued by the pack of dogs until it is cornered and turns to defend itself. But the coyote is at a great disadvantage. Dogs are faster in the long run and have more stamina; they are well-fed and rested before a chase; in the wild, coyotes rest only sporadically and are rarely well fed. Like all wild creatures, their survival is day to day, using instinct and wits. Unlike bears which are also chased by hounds, coyotes cannot climb a tree to escape.
Coyote hounding can occur all year long. Hounds are trained during the summer and give chase through the fall and winter. Coyotes mate January through March, whelp March through June so oftentimes, coyote pups, left stranded when parents are killed, will starve to death. (Hunting is allowed 365 days a year and at night during their breeding season. It is the only New Hampshire predator with no hunting reprieve.)
Coyotes have historically been viewed as ‘varmints’ or ‘nuisance animals. They are, in fact, a valuable predator which arrived here following the extermination of the wolf and the mountain lion. Coyotes feed primarily on rabbits, rodents and vegetation but will scavenge or take the occasional deer, especially during the winter. They are a natural control for species like white-footed mice that carry deer ticks that cause us Lyme misery. If this predator wasn’t useful or necessary in our woods and fields, they would not be here.
So – how is it that the same folks entrusted to ‘conserve and protect our public trust wildlife (New Hampshire Fish and Game’s mission) are so willing to play into the hands of a tiny minority of the population who so callously kill for the sake of killing? This is neither protection nor conservation. Wildlife belongs to all of us. For the sake of wild creatures, we cannot turn a blind eye to this abuse.
(Chris Schadler and John Harrigan Co-Founded the NH Wildlife. Chris holds a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology from Antioch University and is a Wild Canid ecologist. She lives in Webster, NH.)