MC Journal, Spring 2001
by Cliff Glaviano, Head of Technical Services; Bowling Green State University Libraries
High Plains Films deserves special commendation for this even-handed treatment of an extremely controversial problem in the western United States. Coyote sightings are becoming much more common in the Western suburbs while coyote predation of livestock is virtually undiminished even though it’s estimated that some 400,000 coyotes are killed each year by Wildlife Services, the control arm of the federal Department of Agriculture, or by hunters. So, what’s going on?
The film opens at a public hearing before the Arizona Game and Fish Commission considering a ban on predator killing contests in the state. For those in the East, a coyote calling (ie killing) competition has some similarities to a fishing derbyË†for the price of an entry fee contestants are put in the running for prizes for the first, largest, and most coyotes killed during the hunt. A hunting competition in Rawlins, Wyoming is featured in the film. Along with some of the finest wildlife (not just coyotes) images available, the coyote contest footage is interspersed with interviews with those interested in either protecting or eradicating the coyote: livestock ranchers, animal rights activists, and Wildlife Services personnel. Predator control is big business: Wildlife Services spends over $8 million annually to kill coyotes from land or by air by gun, leg hold traps and M-44 cyanide killing devices, yet livestock loss to predation remains high and there is no seeming decrease in the numbers of coyotes. The film closes as the Commission brings the proposed ban to a vote and makes its decision. It’s obvious that few, if any, of those in attendance at the hearing have changed their position on contest hunting from that held at the start of the meeting. One wonders if they changed any opinions of the Commission members.
Logging in the West has tripled the original range of the coyote. Since the 1931 Animal Damage Control Act, livestock interests have relied on Wildlife Services or earlier federal and state predator bounties to control coyote populations. Since the “control” is free, ranchers are reluctant to change their ways to include more expensive alternatives like guard dogs or shepherds to counter the coyote threat. Meanwhile, sport and federal killing of adult coyotes has apparently upset coyote pack social curbs on population growth. The situation defies logic and calls for new strategies: coyote kills are at record levels but the coyote population is out of control. KILLING COYOTE is highly recommended for adult audiences. Production values of this film are very high. The photography, editing, color and sound are excellent. The blending of black and white film with color footage is done very effectively. The film deals with an adult topic, depicting violence appropriate to its subject, language appropriate to hunting or other blood sports, and contentious, long-held viewpoints being argued in public or to the camera. The film is also available in two shorter viewing lengths for public performance while copies for home viewing are quite inexpensive.