End this abuse of Indiana wildlife
The Indiana Natural Resources Commission in March agreed to accept a petition to ban fox and coyote penning in Indiana. This month, it is expected to vote on the ban. We are certain that Hoosiers who understand what happens in fox and coyote pens will join us in urging the NRC to outlaw the activity.
Wildlife penning is a form of animal combat. Coyotes and foxes are placed inside fenced enclosures with no chance of escape. Dogs are turned loose in the pens to run down and kill the wild animals. The dogs are scored on their performance. What is billed as a skill contest or training exercise for dogs is in fact a blood sport.
You will be glad to know that wild animal penning is not widespread in Indiana. There is only one year-round pen in operation, in Greene County. But the activity is commonplace in other states.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is among advocates for putting a stop to penning before it spreads. The DNR regards it as a disease threat and a violation of hunter-trapper ethics.
The NRC is accepting comments through Tuesday on a proposed preliminary ban. They may be sent by e-mail to NRC staff member Jennifer Kane at firstname.lastname@example.org
Certainly NRC members already know all the reasons to end penning. Now is a good time to tell them you know the reasons, too, and to urge them to act.
A new moon balances on a snowy tip of the jagged horizon. On the valley floor below a silver coyote trots through a field of high grass, her nose to the ground. Down a small embankment she enters the woods and pauses at a stream flowing fast from a late snow melt in the higher mountains.
Her acute hearing catches a small splash as she watches a deer with a fawn scrambling soundlessly up the stream bank and into the woods. Silver coyote is looking for easier prey. After a long, cool drink she wades across the stream and towards the next field. Clouds are beginning to invade the moonlit sky. Not a lot of time for hunting tonight, she must get back home.
Leaping atop a large boulder she surveys the field below. The gray in her thick, heavy coat glows like a halo in the moonlight around her. Her vision is keen but it is her nose in the chilled breeze that detects the impending weather change, and the scent of something unusual to her. The aroma is not of her intended rodent hunt tonight, it is different. Curious and hungry she is drawn.
Silver coyote follows the scent along the edge of the woods, distracted briefly by a mouse in her path that she pounces and eats while she continues towards the intriguing aroma awaiting. She is closer; nose to the ground she begins to circle in on it, incensed by this new smell…. Snap!
The sound that comes from her is part shriek, part howl and it travels far. Every animal in earshot startles, staring in the direction of the scream. Four coyote pups tucked safely in their warm den begin to whimper. They know their mothers voice.
Silver snaps back at the vicious animal holding her paw in its rigid jaws. If she knew what an alligator was she would swear she’d stepped into one’s mouth. She is confused, frightened, and a white-hot pain surges through her paw each time she tries to fight back. It rattles with a metal tail, but she knows it is not snake. It is not animal, except for the morsel of food still wedged into the ground beside her. She has lost her appetite. It begins to snow.
Dawn arrives and the coyote lies alone and vulnerable at the edge of the field. Her swollen paw is caked with dried blood, but fresh blood surges above her paw where she has been gnawing at it to free it of the sharp teeth. Silver is desperate to return to her den; she never hunts farther than she can hear her pups, and she has never left them for this long. She is hungry, cold, and no longer feels her bloodied toes.
The snowy day passes slowly, quiet except for her occasional howl. Another night arrives. The coyote remains, restless and trembling on her bloodied patch of snow and mud. Her pups, back in the den where she safely left them are also cold and hungry now. While night passes her pups’ cries rip at her heart. Silver is too weary to sing to them.
She does not know what a human is but senses immense danger as one approaches late into her third day of being trapped. She no longer hears her pups’ whimpers and is desperate to get to them. Silver knows she must first get away from this impending danger. She does not understand this mans language but he is mocking her as he approaches. She only wants to run, back through the stream and to her cubs. If only on three legs, she is poised to try.
Silver coyote snarls as the man approaches. One lunge backwards and the sting sears through her infected foot causing a low painful cry from deep in her throat. She cowers in fear and confusion now, looking right and left, towards home. Frantic for any chance to run she barely caught a glimpse of the club that knocked her unconscious.
When Silver awakens she is dazed, confused, and very aware of a new fear. She is in a dark foul smelling box and there is a loud, constant noise. Half jumping up, half being bounced off the metal ground, she instinctively reacts to the growls from other coyotes that surround her. Trying to stand and defend herself is not possible. Like her, they smell of blood – and that odor that only intense fear can cause. Her head throbs from the blow of the club and stifling stench of this place.
The cramped animals are too tired, too hungry and too confused to fight each other. They only want to be out of this bad smelling rumbling box and be free. For days they are bounced along, bedded on their own feces. More scared and angry animals are thrown in on top of them, and at two stops some are taken out. But not Silver. It is another day of terrifying traffic and human noises before they stop again and the doors open. She and the remaining coyotes, along with two foxes, see some woods and all are determined to get to them. Hungry, thirsty and limping from their trapping and traveling wounds, they scramble for the only safety they know with jeers of humans behind them. They do not look back.
The smells of this new “forest” are horrifying. Their senses are overloaded by odors of dogs and many dead animals, especially of dead coyotes and dead foxes. Like all sentient beings they retain an urge to survive and so they seek water and shelter where they can hide and lick their wounds. But there are few places to hide here. Absolutely no place Silver finds smells safe to her. Exhausted she collapses next to another coyote resting under a shady tree. Before she sleeps she sings to other coyotes, but they have no answers either.
The hounds begin to bray. The animals hear them and know full well they are not far away – not nearly far enough away. Some coyotes are rested enough to start moving quickly. Others just can’t. Like Silver, their infected wounds and days of no food or rest have taken their toll. But as the dogs grow closer Silver and her new friend struggle to their feet and proceed to move away from the direction of the dogs. Survival means at any cost, and Silver knows she must somehow run…
She can’t run fast enough. She desperately seeks a place to hide; still there is not one to be found. In her panic she crashes into something she has never encountered – a fence. She limps along the fence line as quickly as she can, looking for a way through it, or over it, or under it. Seeing a small gap along the bottom she investigates it, yelping when it shocks her. She tries again, again is shocked. Down the fence she warily continues. By the time Silver reaches the fenced corner, the dogs have reached her.
Two dogs, then five… she snarls and growls. Silver is dog, like them, and now all the dogs are growling and snapping. Teeth gnash and lash in every direction, the braying of the hounds is deafening and distracting for her. She keeps her back to the fence as they try to surround her, wanting to fight her. She has no idea why. Every strand of matted fur she has left on her back stands straight up. Now there are eleven dogs. They jump and snap at her throat when she faces off others that approach. The roar of their brays grows even louder when again more dogs arrive. When one of the dogs snaps at her wounded paw she cries out and lunges for his face, tearing the dogs left eye… but that was the opportunity the dogs were trained to watch for. At once all 26 dogs now were on her and she was buried under them, pinned and being bitten by over 1,000 teeth tearing at every inch of her. Still she struggles to fight, to survive, although she knows she has no chance to escape this fury and never did.
When Silver had no fight left in her the dogs went away, still braying and onto the scent of another animal. She laid there in a stained sandy muck of her own blood, too tired to even pant in the hot southern weather she was not accustomed to. In shock and in immense pain she remains through the night, still holding on, still listening for her pups she left in a far away den. She wills herself to be free again, if only in Spirit.
In the hearts of those who will stop others from taking her journey, Silver’s song will be answered.
Please tell these remaining States to stop all Wildlife Penning activities. Tell all States to stop the dog training practices which result in the brutal killing of our wildlife that is abused as "Live Bait". Please do not stop telling them until they change. If we are expected to respect hunting then we have every right to expect humane methods. Those partaking in inhumane, cruel activities believe they have a right to “hunt any way they please” but they do not. They have simply had their way for too long. We are all equal stakeholders but we must get more involved to be heard and to right many wrongs.
Alabama Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources: (334) 242-3486
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission: (501) 223-6300
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: (850) 488-4676
Georgia DNR: (404) 656-3500
Indiana DNR site for formal comment, IN DNR Facebook page: (317) 232-4080
Iowa DNR: (515) 281-5918
Kentucky Dept. of Game & Wildlife Resources: (800) 858-1549
Facebook Page for KY
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: (919) 707-0010
(NC has banned all rescue and rehab of many native wildlife species)
Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation: (405) 521 3851
South Carolina DNR: (803) 734-3886
SC Facebook Page
Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries: (804) 367-1000
Wisconsin DNR: 608-266-2621
For more information on Fox-Coyote Penning, and the brutal truth of training-hunting with dogs, please visit Project Coyote, and Florida’s effort to raise awareness for the June 23 public meeting with FWC in north Orlando.
Wildlife penning – informing video
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Caring for cats – Ending the trade
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