The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

Coyote Killing Contests, Wildlife Protection and Public Health

DEAR DR.FOX: I liked your response to the woman who thought hunting coyotes was the solution. I too had problems with coyotes eating my chickens and my barn cat (my other two cats are kept indoors).

The eradication of the wolf has caused more environmental and evolutionary problems in this country than people realize. One that the average person would not even think of is the degradation of streams caused by too many deer eating all the vegetation, which causes sediment to flow into the stream, which kills the fish.

Years ago, National Geographic had an excellent article on the damage to the lands out west caused by over-hunting wolves.

I always tell people to imagine nature as a chain-link necklace. If you break one of the links, the necklace is going to fall off. That’s what happens when we destroy anything in nature. Every living animal, bug and plant is a link in the chain. When we break the chain, nature tries to repair it -- sometimes in ways we don’t like. More coyotes, for instance. -- L.De.R., Naples, Florida

Dear L.De.R.: I like your analogy of the chain-link necklace, or maybe even a chain-link fence, of wildlife’s interdependence. We cause serious problems for ecosystems and ourselves when we break any of the links, which are normally self-healing when there is optimal natural biodiversity. Cattle ranchers have broken that natural fence and put up barbed wire fences here in the U.S., like the thousands of miles of cordon fences funded in part by the World Bank in Botswana. As a consequence, hundreds of thousands of African buffalo, wildebeest, gazelles, zebras, giraffes and other wildlife could not migrate to seasonal feeding and watering areas and died -- all documented on film by my friend, the late Ricky Lomba.

The metaphorical fence was broken by wildlife poachers and illegal wildlife traffickers, and opened up by the new coronavirus pandemic passed on from bats being sold for human consumption in China. Experts say humans should not go where they do not belong, and should keep out of the last, relatively pristine wildlife habitats left on Earth.

President Donald Trump’s political fence along the U.S.-Mexican border, part of which was recently blown down by high winds, is not only a ludicrous waste of public funds but, like the cordon fences in Africa, contributes to the demise of wildlife -- in this case, the endangered ocelot, coati mundi, Mexican gray wolf and other wildlife unable to use their original ranges and reach water and food. For details, see the Center for Biological Diversity’s report, “Trump’s Border Wall Threatens 93 Endangered Species.” (Full story:


Rumors that pets can spread the virus that causes COVID-19 could lead to a second wave of abandoned and abused pets in China, and government-sponsored culling of street dogs has exacerbated fear. While a small number of animals have tested positive for the virus, the World Health Organization says there is no scientific evidence that pets can transmit it to humans. (The Independent, London, 3/15)

(Send all mail to 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.

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