Column - Fear is still alive and wellThey lurk outside your door waiting to attack anything that dares set foot outside. They are vicious monsters whose diet consists of mostly small children, cattle and pets. They’re coyotes, and they’re bloodthirsty killers that will stop at nothing to destroy, maim and eat everything in their path – or at least that’s what many people like to believe.
By: Lowell Anderson, Alexandria Echo Press
They lurk outside your door waiting to attack anything that dares set foot outside. They are vicious monsters whose diet consists of mostly small children, cattle and pets. They’re coyotes, and they’re bloodthirsty killers that will stop at nothing to destroy, maim and eat everything in their path – or at least that’s what many people like to believe.
Although a recent article in the Echo Press gave us some insight into the reality of coyotes and their habits, there were still many people who commented on the story online who think they alone know the real truth. Almost all of them either have a friend who was eaten by a coyote, or personally saw a pack of coyotes kill and devour a full-grown elephant.
If you didn’t read the comments, let me just say that the level of utter hatred and contempt toward these animals was of the type formerly only shown to President George Bush. For these predator-haters, there is only one desirable outcome: the total elimination of all wolves and coyotes.
It’s really sad to see so much hatred and misunderstanding directed toward an animal that is such an important part of the ecosystem. There is no doubt that coyotes can cause problems and do sometimes become pests, but so do deer, dogs and cats. In fact, despite complaints by hunters that the coyotes are eating all the deer, Minnesota is actually badly overpopulated with deer and could use a few more predators. In the meantime – while the DNR tolerates high deer populations to try to please hunters – the deer are eating forests, crops and gardens, as well as damaging many vehicles in roadway collisions.
What’s puzzling is that the same person who ignores these costs, has a fit if he suspects an animal has been killed by a coyote or wolf.
It’s disappointing to see that the same attitudes that almost caused the extinction of the timber wolf a couple of generations ago are still with us today. Obviously, times haven’t changed much – that same unreasonable fear of predators is still alive and well today.
Yet, we are predators, too, and in order to eat a steak or chicken leg, someone first has to kill an animal. The fact that we kill food to eat doesn’t make us evil any more than a coyote is evil if it takes advantage of an easy-to-catch meal.
As the ultimate predator, we have already driven out most of the original predators that lived throughout the state. Where the wolf responded by going deep into the woods, the success of the coyote has depended on it learning to live with humans.
Although this causes an occasional problem, it doesn’t mean we can’t live together and respect each other. But first we have to clear up a couple of misconceptions.
First of all, those who choose to live in the country are not guaranteed the right to be free from all threats to their property or livelihood – an occasional animal pest may have to be dealt with, just as human troublemakers have to be dealt with in cities. But that doesn’t mean we should declare an all-out war on predators, as some people have. If some people had it their way, there would be no such thing as bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, eagles, hawks or owls.
Second, a healthy environment does not consist only of “peaceful” plant-eaters; it also has to have a good population of predators of all types. Although there is a small danger of predators having negative interactions with humans, that’s the price we have to pay if we want a strong ecosystem. A healthy environment does not consist only of large populations of deer and pheasants with no predators, any more than a clean lake that’s surrounded by homes and lawns is a healthy lake.
Despite the fact that there has never been a documented case of a wolf attacking humans, the fear of these animals almost led to their extinction. Even though coyote populations are not threatened, the same unreasonable fear surrounds them. It’s time to deal with these fears and realize that predators are an important part of the balance of nature.