By refusing to act on former Councilwoman Margaret Radford’s suggestion that armed vigilantes be permitted to shoot coyotes within the city limits, City Council struck a telling blow — for common sense.
Both Radford’s original suggestion, as well as the police department’s subsequent interpretation of her proposal, were not just flawed, but magnificently illogical.
The proposed ordinance called for the city to permit any resident with a firearm, a reflective vest and a lust for coyote blood to hunt down and shoot “aggressive animals” between dusk and dawn. Shooters would have to promise to hold fire unless within 50 feet of the unfortunate beast, and to act carefully and responsibly.
We are fortunate to live among wildlife. Despite urbanization, wildlife and humans share a common environment. Those of us who hike, run or bicycle early in the morning will often see foxes, deer, raccoons, coyotes and, more rarely, bobcats and mountain lions.
Coyotes were here long before we arrived, and they will doubtless be here long after we have departed. The coyote evolved in North America 2 million years ago and roamed the Pleistocene landscape with dire wolves, saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths.
Of all the animals of that era, only coyotes and pronghorns remain — the true natives of the Pikes Peak region.
Coyotes are predators of opportunity, usually timid and secretive. Even coyotes that lose their fear of humans rarely become dangerous. They are omnivorous, but usually prey upon small animals such as squirrels, mice and rabbits.
Smithsonian Magazine reported during March 2006 that coyotes den, raise their young, scavenge and hunt in Washington, D.C.’s Rock Creek Park. National Park Service biologist Ken Ferebee told a reporter that, “I don’t see it as a bad thing for a park. I see it as good for keeping animal populations in control, like the squirrels and the mice.”
People with small pets might reasonably be concerned. Although coyotes are comparatively small, rarely weighing more than 45 pounds, they are versatile, competent predators. A coyote can jump more than 12 feet, and briefly run more than 40 miles per hour.
Cats and small dogs are at risk, unless pet owners take sensible and obvious precautions to protect them.
In all the history of human-coyote interaction, there has been only one reported fatality. An unattended toddler in California was attacked by a coyote during 1981 and subsequently died.
By contrast, between 1982 and 2006, 264 residents of the United States and Canada died and 1,323 were maimed as a result of attacks by domestic dogs.
Does this suggest, then, that we ought to authorize armed residents to shoot dogs on sight, since they appear to be at least 264 times as vicious as coyotes?
The ordinances which forbid the discharge of firearms within city limits are so self-evidently logical and sensible that we find it difficult to believe that both Police Chief Richard Myers and Radford would consider suspending them for the benefit of coyote hunters.
Even the highly trained marksmen who qualify to become snipers in our armed forces occasionally miss their targets. Those of us who are hunters know only too well that missed shots are more common than we might care to admit — especially to our fellow hunters!
So, let’s treat coyotes with the wary respect that they deserve, and live in harmony with our natural environment — after all, the coyotes were here first.