Recent tragic events in the U.S. have exposed the worst impulses of humans in their violence against animals. One involves owls, the others, wolves and coyotes.

Our federal government suggests we exterminate hundreds of thousands of barred owls, while Wyoming allows people to run down wolves using snowmobiles. Here in Maine, we witnessed the grotesque sight of three dead coyotes hanging from a buoy along the waterway.

How can humans be so incredibly callous and cruel? How do we institute change for the good of wildlife and humanity today, before it gets even darker for us all? Don’t forget that the line that stands between egregious cruelty to animals and violent harm to women and children, especially, is paper-thin.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggests that we exterminate half a million native old forest barred owls over the next 30 years in Washington, Oregon and California. Why? Because they migrated and pose a threat to another owl species, the spotted owl. To kill so many birds is immoral. Even our best wildlife scientists are against such a massively destructive and violent act against wildlife.

Dozens of wildlife and animal welfare organizations, including my own, have written to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, asking her to instead prioritize non-lethal methods to support spotted owl recovery. “The plan to kill barred owls is a colossally reckless action, almost unprecedented in the history of American wildlife management,” our letter states. A former biologist from the U.S. Forest Service noted in the Seattle Times that killing wildlife never works when it comes to controlling population movement of wildlife species: “Once you start killing, you can never stop.”

In Wyoming, a man named Cody Roberts targeted a nine-month-old female wolf in the wild and ran her over with his snowmobile. Roberts reportedly made a spectacle of the animal’s injured body in a local bar before killing her. This man tortured an innocent animal, but in Wyoming, as well as Idaho and Montana, a “predator zone” allows people to kill wolves without limit in any manner. Unless this changes, more wolves will be targeted for this kind of cruelty.


In Maine, residents and visitors around Bremen in Muscongus Bay recently witnessed three dead coyotes hanging from a buoy. This cruelty is accepted because of a loophole in the wanton waste statute for wildlife, which intentionally targets and finances the year-round killing of coyotes by any means. Winners of a “contest” for killing even receive a financial reward for the largest animal or the most animals killed.

An example of hope is on offer in Vermont, where advocates recently celebrated the passage of a bill to protect bears by prohibiting the sale of bear gallbladders and bile used in traditional Chinese medicine. And in Colorado, where a group of citizens launched a ballot measure to stop the trophy hunting of mountain lions using packs of dogs that pin cats into trees where they can be easily shot. The initiative, Cats Aren’t Trophies, would also ban the commercial fur-trapping of bobcats.

In Maine, we also allow trapping and the use of hounds to kill coyotes, something that has no place in ethical hunting circles. Most citizens are surprised to hear that these activities persist. This kind of cruelty offers zero benefits for wildlife or people.

All of these acts of extreme violence against wildlife here and across the country, should prompt us to have a hard conversation about the ethical treatment of wildlife and humanity’s role as steward for the health of our wildlife and ecosystems in modern times.

Part of the conservation should be action. We can all help coyotes in Maine by reaching out to our legislators and those who serve on the Committee for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Let them know you support legislation to protect all wildlife and that you care about the ethical treatment of wildlife, and that wanton killing for sport and prizes, especially, is unacceptable.

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