The Animal Doctor

DEAR DR. FOX: Coyote and fox killing contests occurred last month in Minnesota. These wildlife killing contests are cruel, ineffective, and do not reflect the state's tradition of sportsmanship and respect for the outdoors.

Hunts like this are unregulated, with no rules and no limits. There is no place in a civil society for these contests. These types of tournaments are disastrous to wildlife and the balance of ecosystems, and they glorify violent behavior by encouraging killing simply for the sake of killing. Organizers of these events often claim that they are helping to control predator populations, when in fact this is not about controlling wildlife populations. This is a nonsensical, savage contest to see who can kill the most wildlife.

Minnesota deserves better than this. -- Maureen Hackett, M.D., president and founder of Howling for Wolves, Minnetonka, Minnesota

DEAR DR. HACKETT: Minnesota is not the only state having such competitions, according to conservation nonprofit Project Coyote, an organization founded by my daughter, Camilla.

As a veterinarian, I appeal to all parents and citizens in communities where such activities are sanctioned: Stop them for your children's health and for your own.

According to Project Coyote, "Wildlife killing contests are a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine, a foundational judicial principle mandating that governments hold natural assets, including wildlife, in trust for the general public and future generations. Allowing a minority of the population to slaughter coyotes en masse at the expense of the majority of people who value the intrinsic, ecological and aesthetic value of native carnivores damages the reputation of state wildlife management agencies and sportsmen alike."

My concern is the potential spread of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases and flea-borne sylvatic plague that are carried by rodents. Foxes and coyotes, along with various raptors, keep the rodent numbers in check, thus reducing the chances of ticks carrying the infection to humans and to deer.

Instead of a hunt, perhaps a community could have a photo contest and offer cash prizes for the most photogenic live, free red fox or coyote. Let's put respect and understanding over outmoded traditions and questionable customs, such as the sport of competitive killing. What does that teach children? And what does it say about the state of humanity in those living close to the last of the wild?

(For more information on these hunts, visit howlingforwolves.org and projectcoyote.org.)

ONE GREAT STATEMENT FOR THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: They are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth." -- Henry Beston, "The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod."

(Send all mail to animaldocfox@gmail.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)

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