Katerina Brumer: We should protect predatory species

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This commentary is from Katerina Brumer of Burlington, a University of Vermont student majoring in animal science with a minor in wildlife biology.

Humans share the planet with many different species of wild animals. Some receive protections as endangered species, such as the Canada lynx in Vermont, while others receive little or no protection at all.

The bobcat, a close cousin of the Canada lynx, and the coyote are grouped in this last category. As apex predators of the Vermont landscape, these animals are essential contributors to healthy and vibrant ecosystems, yet they are often misunderstood and unfairly maligned.

One of the primary roles coyotes and bobcats play is as scavengers by consuming carrion, primarily when their preferred food source is scarce. By eating the remains of dead animals, they clean the forest floor and can help stop the spread of diseases such as brucellosis. This can reduce the spread of disease that could harm livestock, dogs and humans.

This begs the question: why do some farmers shoot every coyote they see, especially in cases where the coyote is causing no harm?

Coyotes and bobcats feed on rodents that can carry Lyme disease, as well as small mammals like groundhogs and other species that can cause crop loss. Many people are surprised to learn that coyotes are omnivorous and eat berries and other plants, which aids in seed dispersal, which is the mechanism by which plant seeds are transported to new germination sites. what we all benefit from.

And for many of us, one of their most important roles is to give us the opportunity to just catch a glimpse of them and enjoy their beauty and the embodiment of what it means to be wild and free.

But despite all these ecological services, there are more than a few in Vermont who would be happy without them here. Too often we hear, “We need to manage predator populations!” Well, science would disagree. Unlike deer and other prey species, bobcats and coyotes do not require human intervention to manage their population levels.

Coyotes, for example, will defend a 4-8 mile territory against other coyotes. This means that the territory naturally limits the number of coyotes. Despite this, coyotes can be hunted all year round, day and night, which is not only against modern science, but also against hunting ethics.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife allows hunting, including the use of hunting dogs, and trapping seasons on both species for a mere $23 trapping license and $28 hunting license — small price tags to kill these animals simply for “sport”.

Hunters are baiting both coyotes and bobcats with animal carcasses, calling them at close range with high-tech game calling devices and also unleashing packs of dogs on them, an activity that has caused so much indignation that a bill, S.281, was introduced last month to ban it (for coyotes.)

When I recently asked Fish & Wildlife why there are seasons on bobcats, they said, “As long as trapping or hunting does not impact the long-term sustainability of the population, we believe this is a legitimate way for people to access a local, free source of clothing and food.

But no one is eating a bobcat or wearing its fur in 2022. I was surprised to learn that as long as an animal’s population can support hunting and trapping, Fish & Wildlife will allow it as a recreational opportunity. Most people would probably assume that if there is a hunting or trapping season on an animal, there is a biological imperative. It’s not always the case. Sometimes the reason is only to provide more opportunities for “athletes”.

Bobcats and coyotes deserve societal attention and respect not only for the benefits they provide to humans, but also for their intrinsic value. Wildlife faces a multitude of threats – from rodenticides and lead poisoning to habitat loss and new diseases, to name a few. In this age of climate change and other known and unknown threats to wildlife, we must act with caution. A good start would be to stop killing just for fun.

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Tags: baiting, bobcats, coyotes, hunting, katerina mist, predatory species, trapping, Vermont Fish & Wildlife

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