Court bans coyote hunting in five counties

SPORTS_Court bans coyote hunting copy

By FRED BONNER

COLUMNIST

 

When U.S District Judge Terrence Boyle ruled on the red wolf vs. coyote hunting issue, he may have signed the death warrant for the red wolves in North Carolina.

The reason this question even came up in a Federal Court was when the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission decided to allow coyotes to be hunted at night, and some of the pro-red wolf groups felt that this was a direct threat to the red wolves that were now roaming across much of eastern N.C. Several of the red wolves had apparently been shot during the brief time that N.C. allowed coyote hunting at night.

Animal rights groups, such as the Red Wolf Coalition, enlisted the aid of the Southern Environmental Law Group to sue the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to put a stop to coyote hunting in the five core county areas where the red wolves are known to roam. It went into the U.S. District Court in Raleigh and was heard by Judge Terrence Boyle.

The judge’s decision to temporarily ban all coyote hunting in Beaufort, Hyde, Dare, Tyrell and Washington Counties takes effect immediately. The North Carolina Game Wardens, as well as Fish and Wildlife Service Game Wardens are supposed to enforce this rule.

The temporary ban will be in effect until Judge Boyle has a chance to examine even more of the studies on the red wolf vs. coyote issue, eventually deciding if a complete ban on all coyote hunting in the five counties is necessary.

One can’t help but wonder if Judge Boyle even took into consideration the fact that the Endangered Species Act rules for non-essential, experimental populations that have specific protections for private landowners concerning the red wolves. Why didn’t our own NCWRC attorneys file a Motion For Dismissal based on the fact that private landowners have specific protection against the red wolves?

Page 18941, 50 CFR Part 17 of the 1995 Rules Revisions state: “Although some expressed concern about the effect of red wolves on activities on private land, the Service assured them that, because free-ranging wolves are legally classified as members of an experimental nonessential population, the wolves would not negatively impact legal activities on private or federal land.”

This is an agreement specifically between the private landowners of Dare, Beaufort, Washington, Tyrrell and Hyde Counties and the Department of Interior.  The agreement is granted via the Endangered Species Act of 1973 special rules for nonessential, experimental species to be reintroduced in the wild. Accordingly, coyote hunting on private land is a legal activity and cannot be negatively impacted.

In short, the judge’s decision gives the coyote the same protection under the Endangered Species act as the red wolf enjoys. The ban on coyote hunting may end up in a total ban on all hunting in the five counties.

In N.C., coyotes were nearly eradicated because of the damage they caused to other, more desirable forms of native wildlife such as wild turkeys, whitetail deer and bobwhite quail. Coyotes also have a definite taste for domestic animals such as small dogs and cats.

When the coyotes began to return to their native habitat in N.C. several years ago, they again became prime targets for hunters who enjoy the sport of hunting coyotes. Other favorite targets for Tar Heel hunters, such as whitetail deer and wild turkeys, also benefitted from the hunter’s removing coyotes from the area. In fact, the Wildlife Commission decided to have night hunting for coyotes made legal so that hunters could have a better chance at killing even more of these largely nocturnal predators.

Our sister state, Virginia, already had a hefty cash bounty given to hunters who killed coyotes. They also allowed hunters to kill coyotes at night, with no closed season and no bag limits and even with the aid of powerful spotlights. It was a very effective way to remove unwanted coyotes from the ecosystem.

Luckily Virginia didn’t have any red wolves to compete and breed with their coyotes. In fact, the Governor of Virginia once very forcefully told the U.S. Fish ands Wildlife Service to quickly remove one of their wandering wolves from the Chesapeake area.

A movement is currently under consideration that would remove the red wolf project from the N.C. Similar wolf introduction projects by the federal government have resulted in failure and the complexities of this project here dictates that it will also fail. Last week’s decision by Judge Boyle to temporarily stop all coyote hunting in the five county core area could have a huge effect on that ban becoming a total ban on all hunting. If this temporary ban should become a total ban, the results should mean then end of the red wolf project in N.C.