I have never been a fan of contests involving the killing of wildlife where the hunter stands to gain. It just does not seem right to me.
I have no problem if such a contest were held only to benefit antelope fawn survival or where all proceeds are donated to charity.
In a recent editorial the writer stated flatly that, according to biologists, the removal of predators to help prey species' survival does not work. That is misleading because it depends on your definition of “work.” And I have plenty of biologists who say it does work if done in a timely fashion.
It is true that when predators are removed the void is short-lived and the predators re-populate the removal area in short order. But -- and this is a big but -- if timed correctly, just before antelope fawns are being born, antelope fawn survival can increase from single digits to 50 fawns per 100 does.
Why does that matter – as the writer indicated, we should let nature take it course. Ahh, if only we could.
Let’s stick with antelope as our prey species. The antelope at Glassford Hill, Prescott Valley are being surrounded by housing developments. In time, with a few more homes, these antelope will be physically and genetically isolated and would, in time, disappear from Glassford Hill. What will remain in Glassford Hill will be houses and coyotes.
The same thing here. Look at Continental Country Club. When I was a kid, we would see antelope in the Country Club valley all the time. Rare to see them today, but coyotes, they are still there.
The coyote is much more adaptable to human encroachment, as the writer stated. Coyotes have expanded their range -- despite human development -- all the way to New York’s Central Park. Antelope populations, on the other hand, have been reduced due to human development and climate change.
The writer stated coyotes are generalist -- eating rabbits and mice. That’s true too. But it is also true that coyotes, like all predators, are opportunists that eat whatever they can catch.
During antelope fawning -- based on research by biologists -- coyotes hang out in antelope fawning area and eat the antelope fawns as they are birthed. The reasons for this are many, including poor vegetative fawning cover due to livestock grazing and drought making the fawns easy to find by the too-many coyotes. In unmanaged areas antelope fawn survival drops to single digits, which is less than required for the survival of the antelope herd. This is documented by research.
The removal of coyotes just prior to fawning dramatically increases fawn survival to rates that ensure the antelope herd's survival. The result is more antelope and, in short order, just as many coyotes. A win-win.
So, for me, the removal of some coyotes for the benefit of antelope, or for charitable purposes – no problem. For the personal gain of the hunters? Not a fan. But I would never support the effort to ban such contests because the hunters are doing for free what my hunting license dollars would otherwise be used for, to support antelope fawn survival, and they are not harming the coyote population.
The legislative effort in Oregon will ban hunting and fishing contests as well as field trials. I assume the same will be true here if the ban effort makes the ballot.
Wildlife management by the ballot box is a bad thing. To ignore research, science and biologists is always a loser.