Back in 2006 I wrote a column about a scientific study being done by a University of Calgary professor that involved graduate students finding and examining coyote feces. The purpose of the study was to find out if coyotes were in fact eating domestic cats and dogs. I recall the researcher at the time expressing some doubt that this was actually occurring and could only be proven by a formal science research project. The erstwhile researcher was able to convince some agency that this was of critical importance and duly received a substantial grant. That project was completed. As with most such projects researchers craft them in a way that opens the need for more further research projects. True to form our coyote professor went on to invent other critical projects one involving parasite levels between urban and rural coyotes. I expect there were other such dubious projects. I note from reviewers and critics comments that they seemed to question the relevance of this research being it was done elsewhere. The professor’s respond rationalized it all by stating that it had not been done in Calgary – that’s the standard response when someone tries to apply common sense to what appear to be redundant studies. No matter it’s just taxpayer dollars anyway.
You will now be pleased to know that the busy professor has received another large taxpayer grant to study human/coyote interrelationships in the foothills. The project is scheduled to operate until 2019 – that’s almost 15 years of research into coyotes. As a bedraggled taxpayer you might ponder what on earth your hundreds of thousands of tax dollars has bought you – well you can go to a University of Calgary website in the geography department and find out. You will find out amongst other gems of research that yes coyotes do at times eat pet cats and dogs – but that it is the fault of pet owners not coyotes. You will also find out from another study that the media has been very mean to coyotes – having the gall to portray coyote attacks in such a negative way. You may start suspecting that there may be a bias in the professor’s attitude towards coyotes. She tends to refer to having relationships with coyotes, and that any negative consequence or engagement be called a coyote encounter. She practices something called Compassionate Conservation – that seems appropriate for someone who does not have to suffer the financial consequences of predation. It’s all abstract of course which is why she portrays coyotes as innocent interlopers who just need to be better understood. The reality is most livestock producers understand coyotes and other predators all too well. Coyotes don’t need to be psycho-analyzed – they need to be killed dead when they become a menace to livestock or pet owners.
One can’t help but be seriously amused when reading the recommendations of a past study on coyotes. It involved students reading through over 400 newspaper and magazine stories about how coyote attacks were portrayed. From that research the offended professor scolded the media for making the poor innocent coyote look like an evil-minded predator. She chided that it wasn’t the coyote who put juicy pet and livestock meals out to be eaten. She then all but demanded that the media be required to publish positive stories about the noble coyote and its struggle to adjust to a mean cruel world. Unfortunately for that approach most of the media likes to deal with facts not fiction.
The good professor with her new well-funded coyote research project will now be going outside city boundaries to determine how rural foothills area residents are coping with their coyote relationships. The intent seems to be to change such bad habits as actual coyote control by land owners. No doubt she will blame rural residents for any adverse impacts on coyotes and be demanding fines and policing. I expect the study will be suggesting that anxiety counseling be offered to coyotes that suffer any traumatic experiences with their human relationships. I expect she will recommend that all domestic livestock and pets be either removed from the landscape or put into protective cages so that innocent coyotes won’t be tempted to attack. Maybe coyotes and humans will be offered anger management courses. The outcome of this expensive study is so predictable. Of course once the project is completed it will be recommending that a further project be undertaken for the entire province. Hmmm maybe there will be new jobs for coyote psycho-therapists. Only in Alberta.