I feel compelled to comment on the news story of the two dogs killed by a group of five coyotes in the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail. According to a popular Trail Guide, This long-distance linear trail strings through a series of state forests in Chautauqua County. The multiple trailheads allow hikers to vary the hike’s length; established shelters allow overnight stays and stargazing. Special attractions: Changing forest, meadow and pond habitats, agricultural easements, rural and forest views, wildlife, solitude, overnight shelters.
Apparently a cross country skier brought along his two dogs. Somewhere along the way, the dogs met with wildlife (coyotes) and the dogs were killed. Naturally, the press is all over this, with scary headlines and reports of “groups of coyotes killing domestic animals”- naturally this is all designed to make watchers tune in and gasp at the horror of their story, after all, it IS the news. The ones that will ultimately pay the price will be the coyotes- All coyotes.
While I certainly sympathize with any individual who loses a dog in a tragic manner, Coyotes are not to blame here. This is a wildlife area. If the dogs were under their owners control as they should have been, instead of running at large, this would never have happened. Human presence is a strong deterrent to wildlife/ domestic animal confrontations in any situation. I did hear that one of these dogs were partially eaten by the time the owner had arrived on the scene- there must have been quite a elapse of time for one of the animals to have been partially eaten. Why was the owner so far away from his dogs? Did his dogs begin the chase? This is not a case where the owner and leashed dogs were strolling through suburbia or the city and were attacked by coyotes. This is a case where while cross country skiing in a wildlife area, uncontrolled dogs running at large met with a tragic end. Dogs running at large not only often kill wildlife, but can be killed themselves by a variety of means, coyotes being one of them. If we are going to demonize coyotes, then we must also demonize automobiles, people with guns, snares set by trappers, poisons, attacks by other domestic dogs, bobcats and all other means with which dogs running at large are killed. The fact that this attack by coyotes is newsworthy is proof of the rarity of this event. Dogs getting hit by cars, shot, caught in traps or poisoned is certainly not newsworthy because it happens every day, yet people still allow their dogs to run loose. Keep your dogs safe from being killed by one of many different means by keeping them leashed and under control at all times.
The guys who like to hunt and trap coyotes for sport are pounding their chests and looking for praise from the general public frightened by the graphic news story. “See? they say ” See? We told you so!” they brag. “Coyotes are dangerous animals, they are going to eat your children – but us manly men will protect you by killing them!” Little does the general public realize that the surge in the resulting coyote deaths will cause the coyote population to jump in response to the killing. Trying to control coyotes by killing them is like trying to put out a fire with kerosene. They will breed faster and more indiscriminately, having larger litters and populations will then be skewed to the young. Larger litters need larger prey to feed them. Larger numbers of young coyotes will create more trouble, as it is generally young coyotes that are culprits when and if the rare event of trouble arises.
So just what is the solution? If you don’t want your domestic animals harmed, keep them close. Most parks have rules that require dogs to be leashed at all times. A leashed dog doesn’t kill wildlife and a leashed dog isn’t killed by wildlife. Usually, where dogs are concerned, it is the wildlife that ends up dead and mauled by the dogs, this story has a little different twist for once.