Of Pheasant Farmers and Our New York State Wildlife

A woman called me about a neighbor that raises pheasants.  He gets them through a pheasant raise and release program. He likes to raise and release ASIAN (that is the key word here…) Ring neck pheasants, a non-native species that USED to inhabit and breed in New York State fields back in the early to mid 1900’s.  Asian Ring neck pheasants are considered a game bird and are a favorite of the hunters. Back in the 1900’s there were large tracts of open land, largely unmolested by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, roads that cut through them, new houses and sub-divisions, hay and corn and other grain plantings. Because of the large tracts of open land, the released birds were able to breed and populate these areas.  However, things changed – they changed a lot since then and most of these fields are now used by man for farming, housing, driving on, etc…  So basically, the habitat that this Asian bird needed to survive and reproduce is gone.  Yet, every year in New York people raise thousands of these birds and release them, hoping that THIS time they will take hold and re-populate the area.

I see pheasants now and then.  Despite the fact that much of my free time is spent walking the outdoors, the only pheasants that I  ever see are pecking gravel along side of the roads.  One can pull over and catch them sometimes.  Why is this?  Because they have no survival instinct left in them – they know nothing about predators from any direction – hawks from overhead, raccoons and foxes (and of course, coyotes) from the ground.  I see pheasants squashed on the road too, so avoiding cars are not in their arsenal either.  Why do people still raise and release these birds in the hopes of there suddenly being a large natural population that they can once again hunt and come home with a bag full?

So what is my point and what is the coyote connection here?

My point is this: The fore-mentioned lady called me because she is upset that her neighbor protects his pheasants with a full array of traps set around the pens and property and that he also places a deer carcass on the property so that he can lure coyotes and foxes to the carcass and then shoot them- year round.  That is of course, if they make it through the maze of traps. Every year I hear about another pheasant “raiser” who **protects** his pheasants with tall posts with “foot-hold traps on them so that  owls and hawks that fly over and perch on the post are caught by the traps, condemning them to a slow hideous death.  Owls and Hawks are  federally protected birds and if the person gets caught, they are in big trouble.  However the guy with the indiscriminant ground foot-hold traps and the deer carcass for his hunting pleasure year round is perfectly within his legal rights.  I see a big problem with folks luring our New York State wildlife in to kill them-any time of the year, and in the name of pheasant re-introduction.  The way the law reads,  even though there is a coyote hunting season and a trapping season, if you feel that you or your property are threatened in any way,by any animal, you can take that animal in any manner, at any time. ANY manner. ANY time. That door is wide open. Scary, HUH?

What cost to our wildlife are these pheasant breeders and raisers?  How many mammals and protected birds are killed every year by folks in “Pheasant Denial”.  Attempting to raise and release pheasants is akin to raising and releasing domestic chickens and hoping that somehow a wild chicken population will take hold and we can “harvest” them and their eggs joyfully. Pheasants have little sense of survival, as do chickens,  and their release will only feed domestic dogs and wild predators a nice plump, slow and easy to catch meal.

Pheasants need large unmolested tracts of field land to nest- if they survive all of the odds and nest, they are doomed as well.  Unfortunately, most of the large tracts of fields are cut for hay. The hay cutting season just happens to coincide with the nesting season of the pheasants.  The effects of tractors and hay cutting machines on a nest of eggs is catastrophic.

So, it is great that there are still things for kids and people to do that are good, safe, healthy, wholesome and keep kids off the streets and close to the outdoors- No doubt I am all for that, why must it include the killing of wildlife attracted by the sights and smells of this (and other)  fowl that have no chance of survival upon release anyway?  Safer enclosures for the pheasants while they are in captivity is simple.  Educating the children (and adults) of the many risks involved in raising and releasing a non-native fowl with a very slim chance of survival is necessary.  Predation of a basically defenseless bird is a simple, undeniable fact.  To purposely kill predators  that are preying on such a defenseless  bird is senseless.

The Eradication of Hal From Central Park

Does anyone know how much money  New York City spent to eradicate Hal, the  lone , harmless coyote from Central Park?  Choppers, police overtime, sharp shooters?  Are the choppers and their pilots free and do the police and sharp shooters do this on their own time?

I have never been to New York City, so  tell me, what level criminal gets this kind of attention?  In other words, what crimes would one have to commit in New York City to have choppers and a police posse  looking for them ?

Again, I have never been to New York City. I would love to visit.   Are there rodents there?  Mention was made of the possibility that Hal ate some rat poison- if he did, how did he scarf it up while he was running for his life from officials for two days- is it that prevalent  and easy to find in the park?  How long does it take Rat poison to kill a coyote?  A week ? Surely it wasn’t part of the diet fed by the rehabilitators.  We generally stick to the meat group when feeding wild canines. If Officials had left Hal alone, they could have had free and effective rat control.

Isn’t a park supposed be a place where people can catch a glimpse of something beautiful, wild and and free?  Why hunt it down and kill it?

Who trained the dart gun shooters?  It doesn’t sound like these guys were very qualified.  There  are several basic rules for shooting an animal with a dart gun

The first basic rule is: Never shoot the animal in an area where it might get lost with a dart in it.  It was reported that Hal eluded officers after he was shot the first time.

The second basic rule is : Don’t dart a panicked animal.  In other words, don’t shoot an animal that is full of adrenalin- the reason is that adrenalin counters the effects of the drugs used, rendering them ineffective.  Chasing with choppers overhead and officers on foot qualify for an adrenalin rush for most.

What will happen next time a coyote wanders into the park- and it is sure to happen.   Will they learn from their mistake and leave it alone or hunt it down with real guns this time?

Hal, may we learn from our mistakes, appreciate our New York State wildlife and  treat it with  more respect.

Chicago Study Says Coyotes Help Control Suburban Goose and Rodent Populations Naturally

A six year coyote study in Chicago was recently completed and is continuing.  The Chicago study brings to light  some  good information to pass along to your towns who are implementing rat control, goose control – and coyote control- all at tax payer expense.

See link http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/urbcoyot.htm

There is some very good information in this study, regarding personal pets and the fact that people blame coyotes when their pets disappear, whether or not the coyote was really to blame.

Cars,  domestic dogs, Great Horned Owls, diseases, neighbors who are tired of roaming pets in their yards…. are all reasons why pet dogs and cats don’t come home.  Yet people point the finger at the easiest target to persecute- the coyote.

“…Gehrt bases his 2,000 estimate on the 350-400 “nuisance” coyotes trapped each year in the region. Coyotes get reported as nuisances when pets disappear, whether or not they’re responsible.

“There have been no attacks on people yet,” he said. “But if someone tries to protect their pet, the coyote may stand its ground and growl and bark.”

Problem coyotes are a small minority. “We’ve marked over 200, and five became nuisance animals,” Gehrt said. ….”

The major findings include:

  • Coyotes help control Canada geese populations. It appears that coyotes are helping to curb the booming Canada goose population in urban areas by eating the eggs from the birds’ nests.
  • Most coyotes pose little threat to humans. The problems generally start when people feed coyotes, even if that feeding is unintentional.

“A coyote may eat the food that’s left outside for a pet,” Gehrt said. “It’s not uncommon to see a coyote pass through an urban or suburban neighborhood.

“But most coyotes aren’t thrilled about being seen by people,” he continued. “Urban coyotes are more active at night than their rural counterparts, so humans don’t see a lot of their activity. In many cases, coyotes are probably doing us favors that we don’t realize – they eat a lot of rodents and other animals that people don’t want around.”