Ban the open killing season on coyotes in Vermont!

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The goal of this petition is to enact a regulated, closed hunting season on coyotes in Vermont, open from the last Saturday in October through to March 1st. The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife purports to adhere to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which, among other tenets, requires the use of science to inform wildlife management, opposes wanton waste killing of wildlife, and holds wildlife in the public trust. By allowing an open season on coyotes, none of these management tenets are satisfied.

I. An open season on coyotes is not informed by the best-available science
The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department does not collect data regarding the size of Vermont’s coyote population. However, coyotes generally mate for life and breed in January-February, with pups born in April-May (Gompper 2002a). They are weaned at about 6-8 weeks, and learn to forage and hunt with both adult parents. Pups mature at around nine months old, but do not breed until they are two years old, unless the pack leaders are killed. Studies show that wanton killing of coyotes does not ultimately decrease the overall population size, it simply induces earlier breeding and larger litters (Knowlton et al. 1999; Gompper 2002a). It also disrupts the social hierarchy, which can lead to problematic behavior of younger, less experienced, pack members having more aggressive interactions with livestock and domestic pets.

Additionally, coyotes are often blamed for reducing deer population sizes, even though coyote removal generally has little effect on deer recruitment (Kilgo et al. 2014; Gulsby et al. 2015). Thus, enacting a regulated, closed hunting season on coyotes will likely not affect deer populations in Vermont. Furthermore, as numerous studies have shown (e.g., Henke and Bryant 1999; Gompper 2002a; Conner and Morris 2015; Newsome and Ripple 2015), and as the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife states on their website, coyotes provide valuable ecological services. Therefore, the best-available science does not support the current management practice.

II. An open season on coyotes encourages wanton waste of wildlife
The open season on coyotes results in these animals potentially being killed 365 days per year, day and night. They are hunted with hounds and chased for miles until they are exhausted and cornered, and often times injured, before they finally are killed. These coyotes can be left to decompose as waste, and raptors scavenging the carcasses can be poisoned from ingesting lead from the bullet fragments (Fisher et al. 2006). Furthermore, an open season means that female coyotes can also be killed while nursing or rearing young pups, leaving their young to starve to death. Limiting the coyote hunting season here in Vermont should reduce wanton waste by helping ensure that the pelts continue to have at least some value.

III. An open season on coyotes does not hold wildlife in the public trust
Wildlife watching is an increasingly popular activity. Nationwide, 34% of residents aged 16 and older enjoy wildlife watching (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Census Bureau, 2018). Here in Vermont, that number is even higher – a 2011 survey found that around 59% of Vermonters go wildlife watching, and that this activity generates nearly $300 million annually in the state (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014). Informed by the best-available science, public attitudes towards lethal control of predators are also changing (Slagle et al. 2017; Jackman and Way 2018). An open season does not adequately consider non-consumptive uses of coyotes.

Conclusion
Four other states already have regulated, closed coyote hunting seasons, including neighboring Massachusetts and New York, where the seasons run from October to March. Similar management here in Vermont would neither entirely prevent coyote hunting in the state, nor prevent landowners from killing coyotes in defense of property under 10 VSA § 4828. Therefore, under the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, it is crucial that the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife enacts a regulated, closed hunting season to manage coyotes.

Although we appreciate all support, please only sign if you live in Vermont.

The views expressed in this petition do not necessarily reflect those of Vermont Law School.

Literature Cited
Conner, LM, and G Morris (2015) Impacts of mesopredator control on conservation of mesopredators and their prey. PLoS ONE 10, e0137169.

Fisher, IJ, DJ Pain, and VG Thomas (2006) A review of lead poisoning from ammunition sources in terrestrial birds. Biological Conservation, 131, 421-432.

Gompper, ME (2002a) The ecology of northeast coyotes: current knowledge and priorities for future research. WCS Working Paper No. 17, July 2002.

Gompper, ME (2002b) Top carnivores in the suburbs? Ecological and conservation issues raised by colonization of north-eastern North America by coyotes. BioScience, 52, 185-190.

Gulsby, WD, CH Killmaster, JW Bowers, JD Kelly, BN Sacks, MJ Statham, and KV Miller (2015) White-tailed deer fawn recruitment before and after experimental coyote removals in central Georgia. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 39, 248-255.

Henke, SE, and FC Bryant (1999) Effects of coyote removal on the faunal community in western Texas. Journal of Wildlife Management, 63, 1066-1081.

Jackman, JL, and JG Way (2018) Once I found out: awareness of an attitudes toward coyote hunting policies in Massachusetts. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 23, 187-195.

Kilgo, JC, M Vukovich, HS Ray, CE Shaw, and C Ruth (2014) Coyote removal, understory cover, and survival of white-tailed deer neonates. Journal of Wildlife Management, 78, 1261-1271.

Knowlton, FF, EM Gese, and MM Jaeger (1999) Coyote depredation control: an interface between biology and management. Journal of Range Management, 52, 398-412.

Newsome, TM, and WJ Ripple (2015) A continental scale trophic cascade from wolves through coyotes to foxes. Journal of Animal Ecology, 84, 49-59.

Slagle, K, JT Bruskotter, AS Singh, and RH Schmidt (2017) Attitudes toward predator control in the United States: 1995 and 2014. Journal of Mammalogy, 98, 7-16.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2014) Wildlife watching in the U.S.: the economic impacts on national and state economies in 2011.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Census Bureau (2018) 2016 national survey of fishing, hunting, and wildlife-associated recreation.
 


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