Members of the media now and then take a single fact, an honest fact even, and force it through their filter. It goes in like raw material on an assembly line. Soon it goes through the politically correct part of the machine. It comes out a different color. It then goes on down the conveyer belt and into the media-bias apparatus. All sorts of red and blue lights flash before it comes out twisted. Now it just needs fine-tuning. Some editor or producer takes it off the assembly line and examines it. If it’s a story having something to do with wildlife, then these last adjustments might simply mean adding anti-hunting spin.
Now they put it on the air or in print. Few will notice that they beat and spray-painted the fact into something else entirely they know, as it fits within the bigger narratives they tell. It seems to make sense. This works marvelously for the media most of the time. The real problem for these mainstream media members and their fact-spinning machine is they often don’t even know when their bias is showing.
A recent article in Slate is such an obvious example of having been forced through the media spin machine that it’s a laugher.
“Cities have a coyote problem,” begins the article. “[H]unters are increasingly trying to manage the urban coyote populations that have merged with human communities as the latter has spread throughout the continent. There are plenty of concerns about how wise it is to carry hunting rifles into densely populated cities to shoot canines. But beyond the risks to innocent bystanders and the debate over whether growing urban coyote populations even pose a serious threat to humans, there’s one critical fact that we must keep in mind when deciding if we should hunt urban coyotes: Doing so will likely just make the problem worse.”
They then quote the media company that’s perhaps best known for fine-tuning the spin machine, The New York Times: “Some carnivore ecologists argue, though, that moving the hunt into cities will be self-defeating. They say it replicates the very tactics that have allowed coyotes to prosper despite a concerted onslaught against them. In an adaptation that biologists call fission-fusion, when coyotes come under pressure from hunters, their packs split up into lone animals and pairs, they start producing much larger litters, and they migrate into new areas.”
This article then takes this fact, which as I’ll explain in a moment has some scientific validity, and forces it into its media-bias machine.
The article says, “Rather than retreating into natural environments as cities and suburbs grew, many coyote populations have simply adapted to city life, establishing populations in Tucson or San Francisco or New York City or Washington. As nocturnal animals, they’ve learned to hunt for rats, mice, squirrels and other urban prey at night. They generally avoid contact with humans. This time around, hunters can’t use conservation management as a legitimate reason for their sport.”
The reason this article says hunters are useless, or even a dangerous part of the problem, is the fact that “when populations are pressured, litter sizes double or triple from the norm of about five or six pups… . Trying to hunt down a family of coyotes might reduce numbers for a season, but it essentially creates a scattering effect that yields more families in more places, with higher brood numbers the following year.”
Okay, science has long shown that when a coyote population reaches a saturation point it can breed less. As with wolves, only the dominant pair in a pack will breed. If the alpha male is killed, then more beta males and females might start to breed. A researcher at the USDA’s Wildlife Research Center told me years ago that he found that to decrease a local coyote population hunters would have to kill 72 percent or more of the population.
The thing is, hunted or not, it’s normal for coyotes within a pack to leave and find new territories when they reach a certain age. The dominant male even will force younger males to leave. This prevents inbreeding and it naturally expands the species. So no, hunters are not the cause of this natural event.
Also, neither hunters nor even federally paid Wildlife Services’ (WS) trappers are trying to eradicate coyotes. WS employees target specific animals that are preying on livestock. In this way they teach the local population of coyotes that it’s dangerous to prey on sheep, calves and goats. If any media member doesn’t think coyotes are smart enough to learn this, then they really should go out in the field with WS trappers as I have. If they do, they’ll see for themselves just how intelligent this amazing species is.
Next, this article pushes a big lie that a Google search could have dispelled. The article says coyotes “generally avoid contact with humans.” Sure, they hide in cover during the day and come out at night and prey on not just urban rabbits, but also on cats and dogs. There are even plenty of reported cases of coyotes attacking dogs on leashes.
This gets us to a central point the spin machine washed out of this article: Hunting coyotes keeps them afraid of us. When they are afraid of us they are less likely to boldly attack a dog on a leash or a child. (Google that too as it has happened in states from Massachusetts to California.)
So sorry Slate, you’re take isn’t just ignorant, but you have clearly spun a fact so far that it has become laughably disingenuous. Hunting coyotes does have positive effects in keeping coyotes wild and maintaining the natural balance between them and us.