On Sunday night, deer bodies lay broken and crumpled on southbound Route 202, the ever-broadening roadway that runs past the King of Prussia Mall, continuing along the south edge of Valley Forge National Historical Park and into West Chester.
It's weird to see multiple dead deer on this road at one time. Although deer live in the area, and several deer-crossing signs mark their presence, they usually avoid this road because it's so busy and heavy with roadworks.
Another deer, with a striking, piebald coat, moved along the north edge of the road, not far from the bodies of two of the dead ones.
Why so much disorientation on this night? Could it be that-as this is the first week in November-the Valley Forge officials have started shooting their deer again? It's the same time they began the killing in the past two winters. (The previous winter, 2009-2010, a lawsuit brought by Friends of Animals and the local group CARE, with legal work contributed by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver, successfully put the kill off.)
Heavy-handed control of deer in Valley Forge National Historical Park was and is a questionable example for the National Park Service to set. Now, townships in greater Philadelphia, like many nationwide, recommend systematically shooting deer as population control, while neglecting to mention the large number of natural predators humans kill.
Coyotes can be hunted or trapped virtually all year in Pennsylvania, and the coyote kill has increased from 1,810 in 1990 to a five-figure annual number. Thus, not only deer, but also their chief regional predators, the coyotes, are increasingly regulated.
One justification for hunting deer is the notion that the land's capable carnivores are all gone so humans must play predator. There's an aspect of inconvenience, then, to the discovery that coyotes are capable predators if we'd permit them to interact and work in groups--but we don't.
In plain words: Were coyotes allowed to regulate the deer population, there would be less of an excuse to hunt.
How Can We Address This Outrageous Disdain for Coyotes?
The Pennsylvania chapter of Friends of Animals established a Coyote Coexistence Initiative, and by writing about it here, we both perpetuate it and ask for your support. As Jeff Gammage described it in a Washington Post article: "The initiative seeks to promote respect for coyotes as important players in the environment and to reduce what has been a dramatic increase in the number of coyotes killed in Pennsylvania."
Meanwhile, photographs of animal abuse and suffering which were posted on a Wildlife Services' agent's Facebook and other Web pages have been stirring anger among advocates of free-living animals. The images show two dogs made to attack a coyote in a leg-hold trap and the employee posing with the tattered carcass of a coyote. More on this here. Paid for with your tax dollars!
Denise Boggs, our ally at Conservation Congress, writes, "I hope you are outraged enough to send a letter demanding this stop and for this sociopath to be fired."
Jamie Olson is the agent with the dogs. Contact:
Wyoming Wildlife Services State Director, P.O. Box 67, Casper, WY 82602
Toll Free: 1-866-4USDAWS
We at Friends of Animals invite our members and supporters to comment here regarding your active communications with agencies and the media. Your contributions will, in turn, inspire others to raise awareness and insist on change.