Coyotes the least of our worries

November 24th, 2006
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From the op-ed pages of the Calgary Herald, November 21, 2006 (this is the original, slightly longer version):

[Incidentally, the original headline was: "Where Coyotes and Crooks Run Free", which we thought was more apt. The published headline was almost the reverse of our point.]

We know about environmentalists’ portrayal of animal species – except maybe rats and mosquitoes – as vulnerable, threatened, endangered, fragile, “at risk” and perched on the abyss of extinction from hunting, vehicle carnage, pesticides, “eroding habitat” and other human-induced calamities. So why is it that people trained, paid and equipped to control animals can’t eliminate an individual specimen of a given species?

Like many North American urban centres, Calgary has a coyote “issue”. The Herald’s Don Braid recently wrote about a breakfast-table encounter in our city’s northwest. A “very healthy, well-fed looking” coyote poked its head and forelimbs through an open window of a home. Seems it liked the smell of toasting bagels as much as the average Tim Hortons connoisseur. The animal wouldn’t scram right away, and had to be repeatedly threatened.

This wasn’t the first in-your-face behaviour by the wily canines. Last year, a couple of children were attacked by coyotes. Over the years there’ve even been urban encounters with cougars and bears.

As discharging private firearms is frowned upon within city limits, this should be when our public agencies worked their magic. But as Braid noted, the “animal control officers” told the bagel-toasting taxpayer they’d simply have to learn to live with coyotes. These provincial employees, tasked with handling such matters in our city, claimed there was nothing they could do. Instead, they dispensed Oprah-like advice: putting out garbage only on the morning of collection, or keeping watch over house pets.

How does this paralysis jibe with one of the key premises of the environmental movement, that the slightest incursion into wildlife habitat threatens entire populations? Humankind wipes out whole species through casual inattention, but is incapable of dispatching one coyote? How about trapping, poisoning or shooting?

Municipal bureaucrats collude in this nonsense, dispensing pure environmentalist propaganda. Coyotes, the city’s website claims, “are part of our urban wildlife”. Mere humans have a “responsibility” to “share” the “special places” of Calgary. One of the website’s “Frequently Asked Questions” is, “I’ve seen coyotes moving through my yard a lot lately.” That’s sharing!

While the city claims coyotes mostly eat “mice and rats” (in rat-free Alberta?), it admits having heard “reports” of attacks on people.
It gets bizarre. To the question, “How can I prepare my child for potential coyote encounters?” city bureaucrats offer the following: “Responsible parenting means keeping your children informed about all the dangers of living in an urban society.” We’re not making this up. In one stroke, our bureaucrats would have us believe that Calgary is an anarchic war zone deadly to kids, and that coyotes are an intractable problem intrinsic to urban life.

Outside cities, anyone is allowed to shoot coyotes anytime of the year, on any private land, without a hunting licence. Coyotes are under better control in the remotest rural boonies than in the heart of Calgary.
Our government organs’ defeatism infects other departments as well.

Last month, a cyclist peddling through the Fort Calgary area at 10 p.m. was forced from his bike, pepper-sprayed, kicked and punched unconscious, then robbed. While sad, not exactly stunning in a large city. The reaction of police and city officials was, however.

The victim, Bill Westin, was allegedly told by police that “there wasn’t a lot they could do” and “perhaps he shouldn’t have been riding his bike after dark” in the area. The Herald’s Sean Myers reported Westin’s further allegation that police seemed barely half-willing to investigate. Even worse was the police’s open defeatism: they were providing a virtual road map to areas where it’s open season for criminals.

Far from standing up for crime victims and taxpayers, alderman Druh Farrell merely mused, “It hurts to admit there are parts of the city I feel uncomfortable going to but, frankly, I feel more safe in New York than [in] some parts of Calgary.” To clean things up, she said, “It’s going to take more than just extra police.” OK, but as is true of chicken soup – it couldn’t hurt.

While our police “service” appears uninterested in going after criminals, it has no problem with certain other tasks. Driving around on virtually any weekend you’ll soon cruise past a radar trap manned by half-a-dozen strapping officers wielding pricey gadgets and shiny cruisers. Bill Westin, don’t peddle too hard!

Which leads to a simple question. If animal control officers won’t control animals and police prefer ticketing taxpayers to chasing crooks, why have them? Bloated municipal and provincial bureaucracies should at least feign doing their jobs. When the bloat stops even faking it, one wonders about the future of civilization.

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