Modoc Coyote Hunt Raises Concerns About California’s Lone Wolf

California only has one known wolf, and now wildlife activists are worried that he will die in a storm of bullets.

A wolf from OR7's pack in Oregon. (Oregon Department of Fish and Game)
A wolf from OR7′s pack in Oregon. (Oregon Department of Fish and Game)

The Pit River Rod and Gun Club is holding a coyote hunting contest in Modoc County where the wolf — whom biologists have dubbed OR7 — was spotted last year. In the process of killing coyotes, the activists fear, hunters will accidentally kill the gray wolf.

Hundreds of participants will compete to see who can kill the most coyotes in the event from Feb. 8 to Feb. 10.

No one can legally hunt a wolf in California, but coyotes are fair game. In fact there is no season and no limit on the number a hunter can kill in a day. And the wildlife protection folks have a problem with that as well.

Rain Brings Temporary Relief At California Wildfires
A coyote walks through a burned forest east of Lake Arrowhead, Calif. (David McNew/Getty Images)

“At Project Coyote we believe that killing coyotes or any animal as part of a contest is ethically indefensible,” said Camilla Fox, the organization’s executive director.

Steve Gagnon of the Adin Supply Company, a co-sponsor of Coyote Drive 7, responded that it’s part of a way of life. “What we have here is part of our heritage,” he said. “It’s been going on for years and years.”

Many ranchers in the area support the hunt because coyotes kill livestock, he said. “We just had a cow die and a pack of coyotes ate the calf as it came out, and killed the cow as well.”

Gagnon said he wasn’t sure what is the record number of coyotes an individual hunter has killed in the contest, but he thought it was fewer than 10.

The activists are hoping that the presence of OR7 in the area will lead government agencies to prohibit the hunt, which has taken place annually for the last seven years.

After leaving an Oregon pack in December 2011, the wolf wandered into California, where no wolf had been seen in 90 years. Wolves once ranged throughout the United States, but were driven into extinction in many states. Wildlife agencies have been gradually reintroducing them.

It’s possible that some other wolf has trekked into California from Oregon without detection, and could be prowling the forest outside Adin, Fox pointed out.

The Bureau of Land Management has warned organizers that the hunt cannot take place on public lands, but Gagnon said hunters were already planning to focus on ranches anyway.

This video by Pronghorn Productions shows a coyote and a wolf side-by-side.

 

But Karen Kovacs, Northern Region wildlife program manager for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said OR7, who wears a collar with an radio transmitter, is currently in Northeastern Tehama County. That would put him less than 100 miles from Adin as the crow flies, and OR7 moves about 15 miles per day in that measurement.

Last year during the hunt, the wolf was in Modoc County, Kovacs said, and even then the department did not forbid the coyote hunt. Instead, her department worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Fish and Game to warn coyote hunters about the wolf. “We all participated in providing a greater presence on the landscape to physically talk to people for the duration of this hunt,” she said.

Wildlife protection groups say they’ve stopped other hunts, however. In New Mexico, state officials warned hunters not to shoot coyote on state lands. And in North Carolina a court order put a stop to coyote hunting at least temporarily after seven red wolves were shot there.

“A wolf and a coyote to a 15-year-old with a gun are going to look exactly the same,” said Oliver Starr, the owner of a pet wolf in Woodacre, Calif.

He argued that there are better methods for protecting wildlife than hunting coyotes. When coyotes are killed, other coyotes have larger litters and juveniles are more likely to attack livestock, said Starr, whose only family was once in the cattle business. He suggested that ranchers could use deterrents such as noise makers and guard dogs instead of guns.

“Coyotes and foxes kill rats and mice,” he said. He pointed out that the rodents can spread hantavirus and suggested hunting their predators could be responsible for an outbreak of the disease in Yosemite last year.

Kovacs agreed that coyotes occupy an important niche in the natural food chain. But she said hunting doesn’t pose as much of a threat to them as development. “Human activities like damming up reservoirs and all of that probably has a much bigger impact than the removal of coyotes form a small area.”

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  • truthpurveyor

    Mr. Gagnon says killing coyotes is “part of our heritage.” Slavery, torture and genocide were part of our heritage too, but we have learned the error of our ways, and now deem these practices unacceptable. Coyote killing contests point out why states need to provide protections for coyotes, which help our ecosystems.

    —Gagnon claims, “We just had a cow die and a pack of coyotes ate the calf as it came out, and killed the cow as well.” This is a piece of propaganda that hunters and the agriculture lobby like to use to demonize the coyote, a beneficial predator that eats tons of rodents, insects and carrion. It’s time that all of us who appreciate wildlife stand up to those who want to blast away at anything that moves in the woods.

    —The death of the gray wolf would be unconscionable, and the deaths of hundreds of coyotes at the hands of bubbas with guns are not “fair game,” as reported. The coyotes have only their high intelligence and speed to escape.
    —BTW, someone should tell reporters that those who speak out for wildlife are not necessarily “animal rights groups.” We are ordinary people who refuse to buy into the good ol’ boy mentality that any animal which occasionally inconveniences them is a dead animal. Farmers: get some decent fences, guard dogs and good husbandry practices and stop killing America’s wildlife.

    • David

      There is a reason states don’t have seasons for coyotes, because their numbers are so high. Often so high that states pay people to fly around and shoot them in helicopters.

      Clearly you don’t know much about ranching or the impacts coyotes have when their numbers are too high. Please explain what a decent fence is that will keep coyotes from digging under that is economically feasible?? Do you know what coyotes favorite meal often is? They like to eat newborn calves that are still trying to stand up, or they will eat the calf as it is being born. They do even more damage to sheep since they are smaller and more vulnerable.

      This is merely a means of population control, and isn’t about just killing for fun.

  • Cani Lupine

    Okay, I’m fully supportive of hunting, but a CONTEST to see how many coyotes you can kill? That’s not right at all. When you hunt, you’re becoming a part of nature’s balance. Any responsible hunter would respect that balance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/budpg William Huard

    I’m waiting for ethical hunters(the few that are left) to speak out against these mindless killing contests…….These bloodthirsty degenerates that participate in these contests prove that hunting and hunters need to clean up their act……Most of us are more than willing to continue to take more of their heritage away because they cannot be trusted to treat wildlife ethically…….What possibly could these contests have to do with stewardship of resources………We just saw in the NRM how a few outfitters and Ranchers just killed ALL the collared wolves outside of Yellowstone…….Science? Who cares about Science to a moronic SLOB hunter………Killing anything that moves is all they are about….. Disgusting

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Beatrice-Marot/100000119996550 Beatrice Marot

    TREAT NATURE AND HER PRECIOUS ANIMALS WITH LOVE. COMPASSION AND RESPECT. Please stop senseless killing. Have reverence for animals. They are our companions and contribute to the beaity and diversity of our earth. KILLING INNOCENT ANIMALS IS NOT SPORT. PLEASE BE KIND.

    • Albert J

      You must be one of those people that only eat meat from animals that committed suicide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lori-Cote/1605245816 Lori Cote

    I’m not an äctivist”, I am merely a sane person who feels these yeehas do NOT have the right to dictate which of MY wildlife deserves to live. Their motto is “help rid Northern California of coyotes” and have some fun at the same time. Who the hell said Northern Californians want to be rid of coyotes??? Hello, where are the other 95% who DON’T hunt??? Speak up for God’s sake

    • James A.

      its more like 95% of Northern Califorians hunt, FYI

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.bruffey Chuck Bruffey

    Sure we can trust a bunch of drunk rednecks to tell the difference between a wolf and a coyote. Where is the environmental report that allows wanton killing of coyotes also? Time to invoke CEQA and stop this hunt and all coyote hunting in California permanently.

    • Albert J

      Well thought out post. “A bunch of drunk rednecks.” Keep up the good work!

  • truthpurveyor

    “David” claims those of us who oppose these coyote killing contests must not know much about farming, because coyotes HAVE to be gunned down in the woods to help farmers.
    David, read this excerpt from the August 18th Marin Independent Journal about ranchers in northern California. They have adopted NONLETHAL methods of preventing predation by coyotes. These methods, such as fences that extend underground, are cheaper, and work FAR better than shooting, trapping and poisoning coyotes:

    “Since 2000, the Marin County Department of Agriculture has overseen a
    cost-share program that helps ranchers employ nonlethal predator deterrents
    including guard dogs, llamas, better fencing and other methods of “predator
    proofing” livestock. This innovative approach replaced federally subsidized
    lethal predator control and has become a model for nonlethal predator control
    across the country.”

    Again, your example, David, of coyotes killing calves as they emerge from their mamas is an overused ploy by the agriculture lobby to play on public sympathy. Don’t fall for it! We need only think about what happens to steers at 16-months-old when they go to the slaughter house.

  • April Lane

    For those who think these ‘hunters’ can tell the difference between a wolf and a coyote, tell that to the coyote hunter in Kansas who killed the first full-blooded grey wolf that crossed into the state in 90 years-he thought it was a coyote too. (Dec. 2012) Stop this and ALL predator ‘killing contests’!!!

  • kingajo

    some people just don’t get it until the coyotes are in their back yard goin after spot or fluffy. Happens all the time. and yes the coyote is a very smart animal and is actually difficult to hunt. takes alot of time and patience. and as stated the numbers are why most times there are no limits or seasons.

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