The shooting death of Echo, the lone female wolf who had traveled hundreds of miles and was the first wolf in over 70 years to roam once again the lands around the Grand Canyon, is a very sad note on which to end the year. Although it is not certain that the wolf who was shot is Echo, it seems likely. She was shot by a coyote hunter who mistook her for a coyote.
Why do we care about Echo? We care about her because she has a name, a story, and a photo. We followed her story, and it is painful to see it end like this. Yet every other wolf also has a name, though it is not known to us as humans, and a story. Every wolf has a journey and a family. They have a life of their own and close ties with their family and friends. In 2014, a great many wolves have been killed throughout the west.
Every wolf and coyote could be Echo
The numbers of coyotes killed is even greater. Seven thousand coyotes were killed just in Utah in 2014. They are killed in cruel ways, not just by shooting, but by trapping. They have families too, and lives of their own. Every coyote and every wolf could be Echo.
Coyotes and wolves are canids; they are dogs, and genetically there is hardly any difference at all between the dogs who are our beloved pets and the wild coyotes and wolves who are slaughtered in such an unkind way.
Our tax dollars pay coyote bounties
Coyote hunters are paid a bounty by the state of Utah, $50 for each dead coyote. Whose money is paying this bounty? Yours and mine. It is taxpayer money. And why are the coyotes being killed by the State of Utah? The law that provides the money for the coyote bounty is called the Mule Deer Protection Act. The stated purpose of paying bounty hunters to kill coyotes is that this will save young mule deer from being killed by coyotes. The reason for wanting to save mule deer is so that there will be more mule deer available for hunters to hunt. There is no scientific evidence, however, that killing coyotes accomplishes the stated purpose of increasing the population of mule deer. There is already a growing population of 300,000 mule deer in Utah, so even if we are pro-hunting, there is an adequate supply of mule deer, and slaughtering coyotes is not necessary.
Our taxpayer dollars are being used to pay people to kill animals for just one reason: so that hunters will have more animals to kill. Only around five percent of the American public are hunters. Killing wild predators that occur naturally in the wild as part of nature does not represent the wish of the majority of people in Utah or in other states.
Preserving the balance of nature
As predators, coyotes serve a valuable function in balancing the natural eco-system. They regulate the populations of rabbits, mice, pack rats, and many small mammals. Like any wild animal they have an essential role to play in nature. Wolves also are enormously beneficial to eco-systems, they protect and restore whole river systems by moving along grazing animals like deer and elk who otherwise degrade and destroy native vegetation. Wolves also control the populations of coyotes. When we as humans kill top predators, we are starting a chain of consequences that leads to imbalances in nature and the decline and deterioration of the eco-systems, in which we also live.
It is not just an issue of cruelty to animals, though most people do see cruelty to animals as wrong, but it is also a matter of what is in our own self-interest. We also live on the planet earth – we breathe the air and drink the water – and when it is all gone because of our destructive, short-sighted ways of relating to nature, there will be no more, and we, who must also live in the natural world, will also suffer the fatal consequences.
It is only through valuing and protecting all of nature; the trees, the rivers, the air, all the birds, the animals, their natural behaviors, and the wild lands which are their habitats that we also can survive and do well. This includes the predators like the wolves and the coyotes, who are indispensible to the well-being of natural lands in Utah and everywhere.
Time to protect eco-systems
It is time for Utah to take as a sacred trust the charge of protecting and safeguarding all of nature (not picking and choosing which species are to be killed and which others are to be saved for hunters to kill later). This can begin by protecting and valuing the lives of top predators like wolves, coyotes, bobcats, cougars — and bears as well (who are also feared and killed by humans). They must be allowed to live and roam free without persecution. Then we will have a healthier, vibrant natural world in which to live.
How you can help
Write a letter to the Editor of any Utah paper, expressing your views.
A number of newspapers have covered the story of Echo. You may ask that both wolves and coyotes be protected and allowed to live freely in the state of Utah.
Write a letter that is brief, to the point, and polite.
Do not copy and send this entire article, since it is much too long to be considered for publication. Instead send a short letter of your own. You may copy or re-word, and include any parts of this article, if you wish.
If you don’t live in Utah, you still have a valuable voice, but please state in your letter that you are not a Utah resident.
Many thanks for helping Utah’s wolves and coyotes!
© Coalition for American Wildbirds, 2014
Top photo: © Andrej Štojs | Dreamstime.com / This is not a photo of Echo, but another wolf.
Second photo: © Gabe9000c | Dreamstime.com / A coyote.
Third photo: © Scosens | Dreamstime.com / A mule deer.