“Knowing him changes you.” ~ Larry, a Wisconsin trapper who adopted a coyote pup
It was June of 2016. I had a call from a Wisconsin trapper – and it was déjà vu all over again. Larry, a Wisconsin trapper and cattle rancher, had adopted an orphan coyote pup, then 4 years old. A DNR warden had shown up at their door to tell Larry’s wife, Cheryl, “We will be back to pick up your coyote to kill him.”
In February 2013 I wrote about a similar situation. Rick Hanestad and his two children had sought and found a coyote den after the mother was killed by a turkey hunter. She had been nursing, so they knew she died close to her den. A year later, with his then 7-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son bonded to the coyote as a family pet, a boundary dispute brought a warden to the door. When he saw the coyote, he said he would return to kill him. Rick went into full-time rescue of his family, calling his state representative and the local media, and a week into his ordeal, was told that I write this Madravenspeak column and called me.
I knew the law. All over Wisconsin, there are fenced hounding facilities that permit the running of dogs on rabbits, raccoons, bobcats, baby bears, foxes and coyotes. Tom Solin (since retired) was head of DNR special investigations in 2000 when I was on the Conservation Congress. He set up the Captive Bear and Cougar Committee to establish more humane enclosures for captive wildlife in the state. He told me that coyotes should never be put into hounding enclosures because there is no safe place for them to hide from packs of dogs that are taught to be vicious. They cannot climb trees. He told me they would be torn apart on the ground, as they still are.
The Legislature passed laws including allowing captive coyotes in fenced enclosures as dog bait. I knew that hounding enclosure profiteers were taking living wildlife directly from our woods, from trappers. Trappers provide baby raccoons, foxes, bobcats, rabbits and coyotes to hounding enclosures for that torment.
To ensure the safety of his coyote, Rick Hanestad got his fur farm license and fenced the required 144-square-foot enclosure. To this day Rick takes his beloved coyote along to Nascar races, where he competes.
When I heard from Larry and his wife in the summer of 2016, both were frightened that he would be killed. Larry's wife, Cheryl, had bottle-fed him, and she was crying. So, off the top of my head, I said, “Bring him to me and I will find a safe place for him to stay until you get your license, fencing, and have assurances for his safety.”
Larry and Cheryl were out the door with their coyote, named Chester, before I could give them an address. I had to call them on the road. The situation reminded me of the underground railroad with safe havens for fleeing slaves. By the time they arrived at my door, I had found Chester safe haven. Larry, who raises cattle, and has trapped much of his life, got out of the SUV, and gave me a big bear hug, saying, “Thank you so much, Patricia – nobody else would help us.” He was near tears.
As he opened the back of the car to show Chester sitting in a transport cage, he turned to me and said, “Knowing him changes you.”
Larry told me that children lined his porch to meet Chester when he was a pup.
I thought they would bring a dog house or shelter, but we drove to the location together, and they staked him out on a chain on a central pole.
Chester was not tame for anyone but his family. During many visits, he remained non-aggressive but aloof. It was July and we had some pretty heavy downpours, so I talked my tenant into helping me haul treated posts and tarps and we spent four hours building Chester an enclosure. He was afraid of the flapping tarps so we dismantled it. Coyotes actually like the rain, as explained in this great resource to learn more about coyotes.
Genie Metoyer, who is a second-term elected Waushara county delegate on the Conservation Congress, visited Chester with me many times. Bless her vegan heart, she brought him sausages and bones and various meat treats. He took them directly from her hands without harm, but remained elusive. He is beautiful and dignified. We never petted him.
As soon as Larry and Cheryl had assurances from the DNR that they could keep Chester after they built a 144-square-foot enclosure and paid a $539.50 fine and $43.73 to the DNR for the coyote, Cheryl emailed me that they would be coming to get him. “We miss him so much!”
A new trapper can kill as many coyotes as he or she wants for $5. Hunters kill coyotes any way they want year-round.
It is time for us to be changed by coyotes. They deserve so much better.
Actions: The Urban-Canid Project of UW Madison seeks support and volunteers, live-trapping foxes and coyotes in the urban Madison area, to study how they move and survive in the city. The site gives an email address for your request to participate in the study: firstname.lastname@example.org
Coyotes and foxes (and all wildlife) have similar emotional and family bonds as dogs and people. Learn more about coyotes here.
Wildlife lovers can help create a Wisconsin bear sanctuary and education center 35 miles north of Madison. The Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic website has more information. Please help.
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