Whether we are talking about family, friends, or community – respect for each other is one of the key elements to keeping relationships healthy. As we humans become more numerous, we have to work harder to share spaces and live together in harmony. And much as we like to think we are all rugged individualists, we do need each other.
Wildlife provides one source of tension, as evidenced by a column last month about Wile E. Coyote, which illustrated some of the frustrations experienced by landowners who had some unhappy experiences with local hunters.
I myself have some mixed feelings in this department. I got my hunting license when I was 17 and have kept it, and recertified ever since, in spite of the fact that the only things I really shoot are orange and made of clay. My kids hunt, my friends hunt, my neighbours hunt, and I have enjoyed many meals made from wild game.
On the other hand, I feel landowners’ frustration who feel disrespected by hunters who flout the law and don’t ask permission before traipsing across their property. Last fall, we assisted in having charges laid against hunters who did not have permission, yet were so determined to obtain permission, they followed me from farm to farm in the middle of harvest to the point where I felt very irritated and uncomfortable. Most hunters, though, are respectful and appreciative of landowners who allow them to hunt.
So, we’ve got all that out of the way. I was interested to read the column, suggesting that “Citizen groups appear to be forming and to be advocating for legislation to outlaw GPS-collared dogs.” The author’s suggestion that stakeholders should work together to better understand each other and come to a mutually satisfactory solution is a good one.
Some of my neighbours, who also read the column, wished to offer another perspective to some of the points raised. I sat down with a group of long-time coyote hunters, who collectively, had about 150 years of hunting experience in Huron County.
All agreed that it is absolutely essential for hunters to be respectful and establish a good relationship with the landowners. “The big thing is respect of the property and the landowners,” said Bob Pegg. When asked how many landowners say no to hunting, all agreed that the vast majority welcome the hunters, largely because wildlife, left unchecked, can unfortunately cause a lot of damage.
The discussion lead to the use of GPS collars on hunting dogs, which is legal in Ontario. “GPS collars are dog savers for us,” said Pegg. The hunters agreed GPS collars don’t help them kill more coyotes, but they do help them keep their dogs from being killed on the road or lost.
“We make an effort to stop the dogs and we can do that better if we have GPS collars – we can stop our dogs if we know they are heading to a place we know we aren’t allowed to hunt,” added Mike Van Veen, a dog owner and hunter. When it comes to killing coyotes, “We fail more times than we win,” he added.
A lot of hunters believe they have a right to track an animal onto private land if it is wounded – but they don’t, added Pegg. The Migratory Birds Convention Act says a hunter must “immediately make every reasonable effort to retrieve a migratory game bird that has been killed or injured” – what does that mean? The reality is that if a wounded animal dies on your land, it is yours, he noted.
While many of us have fond memories of the cartoon version of good old Wile E. Coyote, real coyotes are no laughing matter for many farmers and other rural folk. ` The coyotes we are dealing with are a relatively new addition to the Ontario landscape, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources. They are a cross between western coyotes from the prairies and eastern wolves. They have no natural predators, so letting nature run its course means allowing these animals to increase in numbers to the point where they get sick and die.
“If something doesn’t control the coyotes, nature will set in and they will develop mange and then die from hypothermia in the winter,” said Ron Cook, who hunts in the Belgrave area. Humans, by our actions, have changed the ecosystem immeasurably whether we hunt or not. “The only way to let Mother Nature run things herself is to take humans off the planet,” added Cook.
This summer we had coyotes living on our farm. Regularly at night we heard them calling. Then they started coming a little closer to the house. On two occasions, we had them practically in our yard in the middle of the afternoon. The first day saw them attempt to lead my elderly Labrador retriever out from the safety of the yard.
Two weeks later, one of my family members came running in – a coyote was attacked to a deer that had run almost onto the lawn. We rushed back out – the coyote was long gone, but the deer lay crying in the field. As it attempted to get up, I could see that it had been ripped open and its innards were hanging out, its back haunches chewed apart. Although we all know that is just what happens in nature, when you actually witness it, it becomes a lot more real.
So I have to say, there are times when letting nature take care of things just doesn’t cut it. Yes, I got my gun out and we hunted those coyotes because I don’t want them that close to my family and pets. We haven’t had any livestock kills ourselves, but I know of others who have. Wild animals also carry disease, which can be passed to humans, livestock, and pets. When the raccoon populations swell and they get sick, I have seen them on my deck, paws on the door just waiting for someone to unwittingly open it. They die a slow, unpleasant, natural death.
I am not a hunter and two months later, the score is coyotes: 100, Kate: 0. So we rely on people who know what they are doing to keep the coyote population to a level that is workable for all of us living in the same community. I called the Huron Perth Trappers Association, who quickly came for a visit and assessed the situation. Trapping coyotes is difficult and we haven’t had much success.
Hunting coyotes with dogs is one of the more successful ways of controlling these highly intelligent animals. When predatory coyotes become a problem, there is a subsidy available, administered through the municipality, and hunters are called to deal with them. “It seems to work – we’ve worked on a few of these cases and we have managed to get the problem coyotes out,” said Cook.
It is a discussion that I’m sure will continue. Many people rely on experienced hunters to help them when wildlife becomes a problem. Respectful consideration of all sides of this issue and learning from each other, as suggested by Mr. Kenny, is the key to coming to a good solution for all involved, including the coyotes. ◊