“Killing Coyote: The Undeclared War on Coyotes in the Western U.S.”
Wild Rockies Networker, Spring 2001
by Aaron Coffin
KILLING COYOTE examines in depth the undeclared war on coyotes throughout the western mountain states of the U.S. Filmmaker Doug Hawes-Davis has combined startling visual images with varied and thorough interviews to reveal this failed and wasteful attempt to suppress coyote populations.
Coyotes have long been a target of livestock ranchers trying to protect their herds from predation. With the passage of the 1931 Animal Damage Control Act (ADC) and the formation of the federal agency ADC Wildlife Services, the range battles have escalated into a war. Livestock ranchers say they would be out of business if not for ADC, but critics claim it is another taxpayer subsidy to the industry. Using both leg hold and cyanide poison traps, as well as aerial gunning, Wildlife Services killed approximately 80,000 coyotes in 1997, a typical year. When ranchers, trophy hunters and all others are included, total coyote deaths per year may approach a half a million.
This assault on coyotes has claimed other victims, especially through the use of traps, which are indiscriminate, killing everything that comes their way. Endangered kit fox, California condor, red tailed hawk, wolf and even family pets have been killed by ADC traps or gunning. Furthermore, the attempt to control coyotes seems a failure since populations are very resilient. Coyotes have response mechanisms to the mass assaults, including increased breeding frequency and pup survival.
Coyote hunting competitions are also profiled, revealing an activity where cash prizes are awarded for the highest kill count. The psychology of these hunts is explored, where hunters obviously get a big thrill from killing coyote.
Excellent editing, camera by Drury Gunn Carr and Franz Camenzind, numerous sources of historical footage, plus a fine soundtrack by Ned Mudd make Killing Coyote a highly recommended video.