What’s the best way to control the wildlife population?

Hunting.

That is something it appears some people don’t understand.

Hancock Fire Department canceled its annual coyote hunt, scheduled for next weekend, under pressure from the village mayor.

A Change.org petition garnered more than 20,000 signatures in six days. Organizer Jennifer Christman accused the department of “murdering innocent living sentient beings for a fundraiser,” asking readers to sign the petition to “let (the department) know there are many ways to raise funds that does not include death to any living, breathing beings.”

In a Dec. 30 statement issued five days after the petition launched, department officials claimed the village mayor issued an “Executive Order” calling for the tournament’s cancellation.

“I did not demand that they cancel it,” village Mayor Carolann McGrath told The Daily Star. “I can’t tell them what to do or what not to do. I have no control over that.”

The fire department is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, separate from the village, according to third assistant chief Blaise Bojo, who said the mayor has no authority to direct the decisions of the department.

McGrath, who took office in April, said she wasn’t aware of the tournament until Friday morning when she received several dozen emails decrying the hunt as cruel and inhumane and asking her to cancel it.

Referring to the tournament as “the Killing Event” and “a stain on our community,” McGrath told the fire chiefs in a Friday email obtained by The Daily Star that “it is imperative that this event be cancelled immediately,” and requested confirmation that it would be.

Bojo said the department and its members were subject to threats and harassment from “organizations and individuals for the protection of animal rights,” contributing to the decision to cancel.

What the petitioners (and the mayor) don’t seem to understand is that while coyotes are “living, breathing beings,” they are not cute, cuddly animals. They are vicious hunters. They generally hunt small animals and can take down larger animals such as deer when hunting in packs. When living near humans, coyotes have been known to go after small pets, and at times have attacked young children.

The only natural predators of these predators are hunters and trappers. The coyote population is in no way in danger. In most of New York, coyote hunting is allowed day or night from Oct. 1 to March 29 with no limit. That tells us the state Department of Environmental Conservation wants to see the population decrease. Otherwise limits would be put in place.

The department last year made a “a decent amount” on its inaugural coyote hunt, according Bojo. To participate, hunters signed up to potentially win a prize based on the size of the coyote they brought in. All registrants and donors of this year’s event were to be issued full refunds.

These types of contests aren’t unusual. Think of local “big buck” contests or fishing tournaments. They generally draw people who will be hunting or fishing anyway.

It’s a shame that the tournament was canceled. It could have been a good fundraiser for the department and a good way to control the local coyote population.

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