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Coyote

A coyote on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

Wildlife columnist Patricia Randolph, who writes a twice-a-month column for us and is a pain in the butt to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources with her unabashed advocacy for wild animals, spotlighted the incredibly cruel practice of organized predator-killing contests throughout the country, including over a dozen right here in Wisconsin.

She talked about a documentary created by Project Coyote entitled "Killing Games."

The column drew a huge audience on The Cap Times' website when it ran in December and became the 10th most-viewed of all the pieces that ran on the site in 2018. That the column and picture of dead coyotes hit a nerve with thousands of wildlife defenders is an understatement.

Randolph described how hunting clubs and bars sponsor the contests and offer prizes to those who kill the most wildlife, typically coyotes but often also bobcats, raccoons, opossums, groundhogs, prairie dogs and squirrels — wildlife that some hunters consider worthless vermin. Anything goes — packs of dogs, ATVs, snowmobiles, playing recordings of baby animals in distress, etc. — when rounding up the animals for easy hunting.

The slain animals are put on display, a winner determined and prizes rewarded.

Randolph, who is a frequent critic of the DNR for concentrating on hunting and trapping and doing little to protect animals, insists that something needs to be done about this cruelty. So do many other folks, some of whom have written letters to the editor since the column appeared.

Another animal advocate, Tom Saler, is also appalled by the contests and last week wrote an op/ed that was also widely read on captimes.com. He notes that tournament organizers sell the competitions as recreational fun and as a way to control the population of predators like coyotes. But, he adds, there's no evidence that the killing spares farmers' livestock, as some assert about the contests.

In fact, Adrian Treves, a professor at the UW-Madison's Nelson Institute, says the opposite may occur among coyotes, for instance. They have an amazing biology, Treves told Saler, and bounce back to compensate for their slain brethren by producing more breeding pairs. By the way, Treves will be interviewed at noon today on WORT's "A Public Affair" about gray wolves, the status of wolves in the Endangered Species Act and the Project Coyote film "Killing Games: Wildlife in the Crosshairs."

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What the response to the revelations about the killing contests shows is that there's a huge number of people out there who are worried about this cruel practice and the loss of our wildlife, and want the governor, the DNR and other governmental agencies to help stop the senseless killing of animals that keep nature in balance.

Let's call on our leaders to make ending the contests a reality.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.