Science matters. When governments ignore expert opinion to pursue populist policies it’s because they think optics matter more than facts.
The coyote bounty was brought in by the Dexter government in response to a fatal attack in Cape Breton, and a public perception that encounters with hostile animals were on the rise. Independent biologists were, generally, opposed to the idea. A year later, Simon Gadbois, a canine expert, is still not a fan. The scientist from Dalhousie University is quoted in a Canadian Press story stating, “…the data is not saying anything about if (the bounty) worked or not.”
What’s the life of a coyote worth? Last year, twenty bucks. That was the incentive offered by the provincial government to trappers. The question is, will the bounty continue into the upcoming season, which runs Oct. 15 to March 31?
Coyotes invoke a lot of hostility these days. Parallels could be drawn to public perception of wolves a century ago: dangerous vermin – good riddance. Human-animal conflict will not disappear, however. Whether it’s coyotes in Nova Scotia or bears in B.C., the problem isn’t the animals, it’s us.
We can bulldoze the natural world and kill its non-human occupants. Or we can recognize that living where wild animals roam requires flexibility on our part. Livestock will need protection and parents will need to take precautions when their children or pets are in the backyard. In short, we’ll need to see the natural world for what it is: dangerous, exciting and wonderful. A place where wild canines – distant cousins of our beloved, panting best friends – still run free.
John MacDonell was the Minister of Natural Resources when the decision was made. He told the CBC he brought in the bounty to reinstill a fear of humans in the animals and to protect people from aggressive coyotes.
At least one biologist, Gadbois, is saying there’s no evidence in the aftermath that trapping makes coyotes avoid people or controls their population. But regardless of how well it did or didn’t work, the very idea was wrong-headed in the first place. Let’s exterminate absurd policies, not our province’s wildlife.