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SHREDDED TREE, SHREDDED COYOTE
by Kim Henrick
10/19/09

Image 1 | Image 2

I never saw the coyote, but I imagined the beaten-down animal's struggle against the large juniper tree it was anchored to. Juniper trees, in the few areas around Hungry Mountain that haven't burned in the last several years, provide welcome shelter to many desert animals, but this tree was now a coyote's prison. The leg trap had been placed in a logical nook on the north side of the tree, where long, spindly branches arched over a natural den. A scent pack had been unwrapped and set within the inviting area to entice a coyote in. A piece of scent pack litter near the site was the only sign a human had been there.

Juniper trees naturally shed some of their bark during the year. Long strips of outer bark often fall away from the trunk in thin, arching strings. But what I saw that day wasn't from anything natural. The scene evoked images of a frenzied, desperate animal trying to chew and claw its way to freedom. It was in survival mode and attacked every inch of the nearby branches. It looked as if someone had hacked at the tree's exposed skin for days with a hatchet.

I had seen an illegal trap earlier that week while hiking on our neighbor's property, so I wasn't surprised to come upon this site. My husband and I had been told that trappers only had to check a site every 96 hours, but it didn't mean that much to me at the time. But now it meant that a frightened, hungry, thirsty animal can thrash around helplessly and violently day after day after day after day—for 96 hours or 5760 excruciating minutes. The best case scenario is a coyote gets caught in a trap minutes before the trapper returns to kill it. Who would think a quick death at the hands of a trapper would be preferable to anything else.

We know the trapper. He's a neighbor, a friendly fellow who waves and grades the roads and claims to be a “good” hunter. He moved his traps after we complained to him. Apparently, not getting permission to trap on someone's private property didn't mean he wasn't a “good” hunter. We still reported him to the Nevada Wildlife folks and we got a civil reply, basically: The hunter is not doing anything wrong, now that he's moved his traps. He's following regulations now and we see no problem. We support his activities.

I broke off one of the shredded branches and have kept it close for the last few years. It is a reminder that trapping isn't hunting. It is not a sport. There is nothing fair or sports-like or honorable in torturing a wild creature day after day after day after day. The final blow or bullet or last ragged breath shouldn't be the best moment of a trapped animal's final experience. In fact, it will be a very persuasive person who ever convinces me that trappers are not the most cowardly hunters of all.

 

"We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals."
Immanuel Kant, (1724 - 1804) German Philosopher,Ethicist.