Letter in Support of Hunting Coyotes, Counterpoint to MSPCA's Carter Luke

from Brian O'Gorman of East Sandwich

Dear Sirs:

A rejoinder to Carter Luke’s Counterpoint to "Letter in Favor of Hunting Coyotes".

It probably comes as no surprise that I am diametrically opposed to MSPCA’s Carter Luke’s Counterpoint to "Letter in Favor of Hunting Coyotes" from June 3rd, which I disagree with on principle and factually. 

The Wildlife Protection Act, the ill-conceived Question 1 of 1996, mob rule wildlife management via ballot initiative, will again be revisited – somewhat extensively as Carter Luke characterizes it.

First of all, trapping with leghold traps.  According to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Best Management Practices Trapping Coyotes in the Eastern United States (BMP) are carefully researched recommendations designed to address animal welfare and increase trappers’ efficiency and selectivity. The extensive research and field-testing used to develop BMPs are well known and described.  Most fish and wildlife agencies that are not hampered with the mob-based ballot based anti-trapping initiatives paid for by MSPCA and others (unfortunately such as Massachusetts) are able to implement BMP for their trapping community.  Prior to 1996 in Massachusetts, trappers would buy a license and take to field and forest to enjoy an outdoor activity, and provide food for their households.  Being independent, self-sufficient, hardworking, providing for one's family, being stewards of the land - these values and life styles are traditionally and distinctly part of the fabric of society and heritage and rural culture of these few Massachusetts trappers (perhaps including some suburbanites in their number).  In this day and age this would be considered a locavore movement that tends to lower the carbon footprint.  Reads like a “green activity” doesn’t it?  Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife would contact licensed trappers to help remedy beaver conflict situations. This system worked very well.  Trappers would make some money from the pelts and beaver glands, perhaps have some meat for the table, bones for crafts, and the Commonwealth would collect revenue from trapping licenses fees.  Residents would be relieved of beaver conflict.  Different jurisdictions and municipalities in Massachusetts had very minimal or no costs involved.  Accordingly, at the time The Northeast Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies stated, “State wildlife experts reminded residents that regulated trapping was not a public safety issue, and warned that if regulated trapping were banned, there would be numerous undesirable consequences in the form of property damage and wildlife habitat degradation.”  The flow devices that Carter Luke mentions as a cost-effective way to handle beaver caused flooding problems have been shown to impact amphibians and reptiles – of which some species could be rare or endangered - that inhabit the beaver ponds, especially when put in place during the winter.  And of course, the flow devices have a significant cost associated with them far in excess of a licensed trappers’ activity and are certainly far from being a completely effective deterrent to beaver/human conflicts.  Carter Luke should do his field work in regard to the effectiveness of flow devices – it is very doubtful that he has.

Recreational trapping as Luke calls it is an incorrect term.  The proper way to describe it as the Northeast Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies does.  As follows, “An important observation has been that trapping in today's society has often been referred to as 'recreational' in the context of a 'sport'. However, the body of existing research indicates that this term is a misnomer and not descriptive of the motives of the hundreds of trappers they studied. People who trap list four or five motives as important: Universally a theme is revealed that for many of these people, trapping is a component of their lifestyle that defines them and has deep meaning, and provides sustenance (food, clothing, money) that provides for their households and well being. Just what is – an activity that is enjoyed by a wide variety of people.”

Secondly, hunting black bear and bobcat with hounds in Massachusetts (before the 1996 mob rule initiative) has origins from colonial times.  This tradition in New England starts at least in Europe, but probably originates in the Pleistocene era, with a variety of hounds bred for the task, mainly long-legged types.  At present where enlightene3d wildlife management exists, during the black bear hunting season houndsmen are able to select against black bear sow harvest, if they so desire. If there were cubs were present the houndmen may act accordingly.  Any cubs that were left if a sow harvest occurred and if the cub weighed at least twenty-seven pounds would probably be assured of a successful winter sleep and survival until spring.  We know that there have been protracted ballot-based initiatives in the State of Maine to outlaw certain black bear hunting practices.  The same determination about sex determination and cub presence in Maine may also be made under a hunting over a bating scenario.  The State of Maine voters (unlike Massachusetts), who have been well informed by professional wildlife managers, have been able to see right through the animal rights ideologues and vote down the absurd initiatives (twice) that attempt to force certain hunting practices on the public.  I am probably correct when I view Carter Lukes’s perception and lack of knowledge of how a bear hunt is conducted and also the black bear’s advantage in the hunt.

Enough already of reviewing the tragedy of Question 1 mob rule passage of 1996.  What we are really focused on is responding Luke’s erroneous and inaccurate statements concerning Massachusetts coyote contests.


Consider the following statements:

In Vermont, from VTDigger  - for illogical and ill-advised reasons, in May of 2018, coyote tournaments were banned with bill H.636.  Even the governor of Vermont Phil Scott, in opposition to the anti-hunting industry, stated  “This bill sends a mixed signal to hunters, farmers and landowners that hunting coyotes is a bad thing when, in fact, that activity is likely a major reason coyotes remain wild and wary of people, which keeps human-coyote conflicts to a minimum.”  Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter has also mentioned that his department did not regard the ban as necessary from a wildlife conservation perspective.  Governor Scott declined to sign the bill.

In Oregon, from Willamette Week, which as of now, has yet to completely ban coyote contests, consider statements such as this -

The Oregon Hunters Association argues that SB 723 violates its members' First Amendment rights."Just because someone doesn't like something," association legislative chairman Paul Donheffner says, "doesn't mean it can be prohibited."Donheffner's legal argument is straightforward: The bill doesn't ban coyote hunting, or even limit it. It merely outlaws contests for entertainment. 

Donheffner says there are over 25 Oregon Hunters Association chapters with more than 10,000 members statewide and that coyote-hunting contests have been their tradition for "years and years." "It's nothing like the mass murder that's been described," Donheffner says, referring to animal rights surreptitious spying videos.

Ranchers say the contests help them make ends meet. "I've had tough times when work was slow or I was injured and unable to work," wrote Seth Franklin, a rancher in Harney County who opposes the bill, in Senate testimony. "But one thing that's kept me afloat time and time again is fur, particularly coyotes."


In New Mexico, from The Sportsmen’s Alliance -

“For New Mexico’s state senators and representatives to pass a law that will undoubtedly cost their tax-paying constituents both financially and emotionally is irresponsible,” said Bruce Tague, vice presidents of government affairs for Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Representatives need to kill this bad bill before it negatively impacts everyone.”

A 2015 USDA report dealing with nationwide cattle losses found that “coyotes accounted for the highest percentage of cattle deaths due to predators (40.5%) and accounted for the highest percentage of calf deaths due to predators at (53.1%). In New Mexico, the percentage of cattle loss due to coyotes in 2015 was 60.5% and the calf losses due to coyotes in 2015 was 49.5%.” Another 2015 USDA report dealing with nationwide sheep and lamb losses found that “coyotes accounted for the highest percentage of sheep losses (54.3%) and coyotes accounted for the highest percentage of lamb losses at (63.7%).”

The National Agriculture Statistics Service reported that predators throughout New Mexico killed 9,900 head of cattle resulting in $5.3 million in losses. The 2010 report also labeled coyotes as the major livestock predator in New Mexico.

Even with a year around season and no limits, coyote numbers are still growing. Coyote contests are cost effective incentive program that involve no tax dollars, and are just one more tool to use that help address a growing problem. They can also help the local economy because they attract hunters from across the state, and even the country, who spend money at hotels, restaurants, retail stores and with local outfitters.


In Montana, from the Great Falls Tribune –

A coyote killing contest, held over the weekend in northcentral Montana and sponsored by a local American Legion chapter, is being attacked by critics for insulting patriotism and disregarding life.

Organizers aren’t standing down, strongly defending the coyote derby as a way to protect the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers from the wily and abundant predators while at the same time raising money for worthy causes.

The Big Sandy American Legion conducted its second annual Coyote Derby from Friday through Sunday.

It drew 146 hunters who killed 191 coyotes.

Teams of hunters in two classes spanned across northcentral Montana hunting on private land, said Lindsay Boyce, a member of the local Legion post who helped organize the derby.

She ranches 40 miles outside of Big Sandy.

“Local ranchers have had a severe problem with coyotes, and calving season is coming up,” said Boyce, explaining the purpose and timing of the contest. “So we put together this contest to help farmers and ranchers, as well as a fundraiser.”

Farmers and ranchers opened up property to the hunters during the three-day hunt, she said.

“Without the local farmers and ranchers, we have no derby,” she said.

This year, $8,000 was raised for the Big Sandy American Legion Post 50, up from $4,500 raised in the first coyote derby in 2017, Boyce said.

Organizers aren’t standing down, strongly defending the coyote derby as a way to protect the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers from the wily and abundant predators while at the same time raising money for worthy causes.

The Big Sandy American Legion conducted its second annual Coyote Derby from Friday through Sunday.

It drew 146 hunters who killed 191 coyotes.

Teams of hunters in two classes spanned across northcentral Montana hunting on private land, said Lindsay Boyce, a member of the local Legion post who helped organize the derby.

She ranches 40 miles outside of Big Sandy.

“Local ranchers have had a severe problem with coyotes, and calving season is coming up,” said Boyce, explaining the purpose and timing of the contest. “So we put together this contest to help farmers and ranchers, as well as a fundraiser.”

Farmers and ranchers opened up property to the hunters during the three-day hunt, she said.

“Without the local farmers and ranchers, we have no derby,” she said.

This year, $8,000 was raised for the Big Sandy American Legion Post 50, up from $4,500 raised in the first year.

With last year’s proceeds, a $1,000 scholarship was donated to a senior at Big Sandy High School, and $1,000 was given to the Montana Veterans Home in Columbia Falls.

With fewer coyotes around to attack livestock, farmers and ranchers will benefit, too, she said.

“Coyotes pick on weak calves,” Boyce said. “That’s our livelihood.”

Critics have assumed “it’s the Big American Legion” behind the contest but that’s not the case, Boyce said.

“The people in our post are the ones that are affected by this, as well as with the coyote problems,” she said.

Larry Dobb of Great Falls, the state commander for the Department of Montana American Legion, sees the controversy as a culture clash.

“It’s perfectly legal in Montana to shoot coyotes anytime,” Dobbs said. “Every ranch truck you see has a rifle hanging in the back window. Basically, that’s what they use them for.”

Coyote derbies in rural Montana are not uncommon, he said.

The state office in Helena was swamped with phone calls and emails calling for the state Legion to stop the local contest after critics attacked it via social media, he said.

He personally received emails and phone calls about it as well.

Most of the complaints came from people living outside of Montana, he said (no surprise).

Under the organization’s constitution, local posts have autonomy as long as they aren’t breaking the law.

“We can’t tell them to stop doing it,” Dobbs said. “They are not doing anything wrong."

In Montana, there is no season or bag limit for coyotes, which is designated as a predator, said Bob Inman, carnivore-furbearer coordinator for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The coyote population isn’t known, but FWP classifies its status as “common, widespread, and abundant.”

“What we know is people have been trying to eradicate coyotes for 150-plus years and have never been able to do it even with using poisons and things that can’t even be used today,” Inman said. “There really is no overt concern for coyote populations ever reaching a point where they're in such decline where we are concerned about their existence.”

How people view coyotes often depends on where they live, Inman said.

“If you’re somebody who is growing livestock for a living, they have one perspective and view that’s very different from somebody who lives in an urban area,” he said.

Clete Ophus, who has 300 head of cattle a mile north of Big Sandy, says his family members have witnessed coyotes stealing chickens from the coop.

“You have to protect your livelihood, your cattle, your chickens, your sheep,” he said.

In New Hampshire, from the Live Free or Die Alliance –

Coyote hunting is allowed year-round in New Hampshire, and there is no limit on how many coyotes a hunter may kill. For a few weeks in late winter, hunters may even kill coyotes at night.

Some outdoor sporting stores hold coyote hunting contests as a promotion, giving cash or gear prizes for catching the biggest coyote or the most.

Supporters of coyote hunting contests argue that the coyote population is very resilient, so there is no harm in a sporting competition. Coyotes also kill livestock and pets, so there is extra motivation to cull coyotes.

                In Maine from THE Furbearer Conservation™ PROJECT -  Outfitters like Smith’s General Store, which is regionally located where weakened deer populations in the Maine north woods are based, continues to promote coyote hunting contests as what owner Aaron Smith, the proprietor, contends is a “common-sense” benefit to leveling the playing field for native prey species.

According to reports, Smith’s has been tagging coyotes since 2008. The contest is held from December to April. As of 2017, the store had tagged 880 coyotes since the local hunting contest’s inception.

“Growth in our deer tagging here at Smith’s General Store from 2009 to 2016 has more than doubled! During deer seasons, when there was a tracking snow, the deer tagging numbers tripled!” Smith told V Paul Reynolds during a 2017 column.

Maine’s hunting community is convinced that the numbers don’t lie. Whether anecdotal or not, it would appear the efforts in Maine are showcasing that coyote removal is benefiting prey species.

                In Nevada, from the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance -

As the legislative session came to a close in Nevada, two bills that were a threat to sportsmen failed to pass in committee and are now dead. Assembly Bill 473 would have banned the use of leg-hold traps and reduced the trap check time to 24 hours, and Senate Bill 487 would have banned coyote-hunting contests.

The trap check provisions in AB 473 would have dissuaded many sportsmen from trapping. Many trappers would fear being unable to check a trap every 24 hours due to terrain or inclement weather, and so would not risk a violation. Likewise, many trappers use the leg-hold trap, which is one of the most commonly used traps in North America, and which is supported by state fish and wildlife agencies, the federal government and Canadian provinces as an effective means to control wildlife populations.

SB 487 would have ended coyote-hunting contests in Nevada at a time when the state is unable to control their population. Just last year the Nevada Department of Wildlife documented more than 1,000 calls regarding coyotes causing a nuisance in urban areas alone. Coyotes are so adaptable they’ve been found frequently in large cities, suburbs and in rural areas. Their unchecked population is a threat to other wildlife, pets, and even potentially public safety.

“We are thankful that both the Senate Natural Resources Committee and the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Mining Committee were willing to hear the concerns of sportsmen and women,” said Luke Houghton associate director of state services for Sportsmen’s Alliance. “We’re also very grateful for the work done by both local and national partners in Nevada.”


In response to the anti-hunting industry having their way in regards to these bans, I personally encourage coyote hunters to visit my woodlot.  They may have gentlemen’s agreements with each other as to has both the largest coyote and the one that bags the most.  That is not my concern.  I have no other interest other than that the satisfaction that coyotes are being legally harvested and would be very pleased if the results were processed into garment or hoods and trim for example, usage in Goose Bay parkas, where the frost proof nature of the fur is appreciated by the wearer.  However, what a hunter does with his or her harvest is none of my concern.

So, additionally, and for some time, as an opposition statement to the anti-hunting industry, I also welcome black bear and bobcat hunters onto my property, particularly those with scent hounds to use in the pursuit.  This is an honorable activity, with a long tradition in breeds of dogs being developed to pursue the quarry.  Some of these dog breeds are still used in bobcat and black bear hunting with a history that can be traced to before the founding of the USA  - Plott hounds, blueticks, Treeing Walkers, black and tan coonhounds, Grand Bleu de Gascogne, Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog, black mouth cur, Catahoula - the list goes on - may still be occasionally found in New England, raised by dedicated individuals preserving a wonderful  tradition and a scent hound gene pool.  However, Massachusetts in their infinite wisdom, bending to the self-righteous will of the anti-hunting industry, disallows hunting of black bear with hounds since the 1996 mob rule initiative.  This was stated with an illogical misplaced sense of pride and arrogant moral judgment by MSPCA’s Carter Luke, and is a non sequitur.

On my woodlot, I also welcome trappers, who are skilled in trapping furbearers with the tool of choice, a leghold trap as appropriately described in BMP for Trapping Coyote in the Eastern in United States. This honorable activity contributes to their enjoyment of outdoor activities, brings them closer to nature, and upon sale to a fur dealer supplies them with cash.  I’ll add, much to the likely dismay of anti-trapping critics, the coyote trapped on my property don’t have missing limbs or have chewed up its own feet from being restrained in leghold traps.   This is absolutely shocking, I know - those of us who understand how these traps really work are all just absolutely astounded from the revelations and the irrefutable observations and facts.  And we all thought that individuals such as Carter Luke, as someone who is evidently has some type of expertise and claims some familiarity with trapping, knew what he was writing about! 

Just how many coyote hunting trips, coyote hunting contests or trap lines has MSPCA’s Carter Luke really participated in?  Please, let’s not have anyone write a response that he doesn’t have to witness or participate in these activities to know that in their arrogant logic it isn’t right.

As I’ve written in the past, no one forces a “hunter hater” to engage in coyote hunting, watch coyote hunting, enter the harvest into a coyote contest – regardless of the number taken because we currently have no limit in the Bay State, and process what the proud coyote hunter has harvested into a useful fur garment or other item. Youth and children and other family members who participate in the contests may learn an important skill set in how to hunt, skin and tan coyote pelts if they are involved.  However, the anti-hunters have determined, in their supposed morally superior belief system, and that undoubtedly includes Carter Luke, that it is wrong and they do not like it. Therefore, no one can do it.  What an arrogant self-righteous egregious assault on the rights of all Massachusetts citizens and most important is opposed to proper scientific wildlife management.  Reflect for a moment the chasm between a rural self-sufficient culture and heritage that hunts coyote versus the urban culture in Massachusetts.  The urbanites want to dictate how coyotes are managed but the rural culture doesn’t care about how an urbanite in the city manage their Norway rat problem!  Oh, I forgot, coyotes that might be present in the city help manage the Norway rat problems are a good solution (according to the anti-hunters assertion without a shred of evidence).  It certainly is not a common sense to approach this Norway rat infestation problems with proper hygiene and sanitation according to animal rights activists.  Go figure on that animal rights logic that any critical thinker rejects without a second thought. 


As reported in the National Rifle Association Hunters Leadership Forum from The Wildlife Society (TWS) representing over 10,000 wildlife scientists and professionals: TWS was concerned enough about the animal rights influence on conservation that it published, “Standing Position: Animal Rights Philosophy and Wildlife Conservation,” just two years ago.

The TWS position paper didn’t mince words. “The conflict between many tenets of animal rights philosophy and wildlife management and conservation philosophy is profound,” it noted. “Established principles and techniques of wildlife population management, both lethal practices such as regulated hunting and trapping, and nonlethal techniques…are dismissed in the animal rights viewpoint.”  This just about sums it up.  The MSPCA has outlived their initial usefulness and are way out touch with a natural world – for example uniformed about basic biological processes and predator/prey relationships, although Cater Luke may object to that assessment.  We can dismiss their archaic world view as hopelessly incorrect.  Too bad they may have insomnia worrying about me enjoying myself coyote hunting, that’s life.




Brian O’Gorman, Resident of East Sandwich, proud hunter, woodlot owner

CapeCodToday.com welcomes thoughtful comments and the varied opinions of our readers. We are in no way obligated to post or allow comments that our moderators deem inappropriate. We reserve the right to delete comments we perceive as profane, vulgar, threatening, offensive, racially-biased, homophobic, slanderous, hateful or just plain rude. Commenters may not attack or insult other commenters, readers or writers. Commenters who persist in posting inappropriate comments will be banned from commenting on CapeCodToday.com.