by John Breunig of the CT Post

I’m sitting here checking prices for coyote pelts on eBay.

Because that’s apparently a thing some people do.

I won’t be able to stomach this for long, so bear with me. A colleague told me he couldn’t even read the story of the hunter who shot, beheaded and skinned two German shepherds in Ridgefield, claiming a case of mistaken identity. Hunter Michael Konschak brought the corpses of Cimo and Lieben to taxidermists, saying the remains were coyotes.

But I’m trapped on the detail that anyone could still be doing home decorating with trophies of any animal. Hunting for sellers on eBay only makes them seem more pathetic. “$32.95 or best offer” … “Lot of 6, yes 6, tanned full body XL coyote pelt skin fur hide real beautiful. $182.49” … “Authentic large wild coyote head face pelt. Real taxidermy tanned skin and fur. $4.13.”

Four dollars and 13 cents for a coyote head (plus $3.99 in shipping costs).

I wouldn’t blame you for turning the page. I may join you. Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than pelts on eBay is what turns up when surfing the web for similar cases in which hunters killed pets thinking they were coyotes. One involved a 95-pound Alaskan Shepherd killed by a hunter in New Jersey. Coyotes are about one-third that size.

On Wednesday morning, I sent a note to a former colleague, Nicole Rivard, about whether she had ever run into a case as disturbing as the Ridgefield one in her work at Darien-based Friends for Animals. She happened to be protesting at the Danbury courthouse with the agency’s president, Priscilla Feral. Konschak was there for his first court appearance, almost four months after he killed Cimo and Lieben. Rivard asked Feral the same question.

Both responded with the answer I needed to hear. No one should be able to conjure an animal incident worse than this. The details of Konschak’s alleged actions in the arrest warrant sound more like warmup exercises for a serial killer than a hobby.

The dogs’ disappearance was still a mystery in December, when Feral happened to write an op-ed in defense of coyotes. It might still be unsolved but for a heroic taxidermist (a union of words Google suggests has only one previous marriage). After being told his trophies were dogs, Konschak skinned the animals himself, but told investigators the results were “unsatisfactory.” So he is as bad at flaying as he is at hunting. Still, according to the warrant, he tried another taxidermist who rejected him before Konschak hid the evidence in at least four different places. I say “at least” because the heads have still not been recovered.

Feral’s op-ed explored how the reputation of coyotes has been damned by laws that essentially invite hunters to shoot on sight.

“Coyotes serve an important role in keeping prey populations, such as rodents, in check and local ecosystems healthy,” Feral wrote. “The more people complain about the mere sight of a coyote, the more state wildlife agencies will react — all too often with a shoot-first mentality.

There’s no hunting season for coyotes because it’s almost always hunting season for coyotes. Feral feels this has “trashed the reputation of the animal” and would like the laws to change. The Ridgefield incident has only fueled her motivation to put a stop to shooting coyotes “like it’s a video game.”

Feral is known as an unflinching advocate for animal rights. More than once in our conversation Friday, she insists “I am not sentimental.” The night before, Rivard told me that in 10 years she has only see Feral come to tears three times (the second time didn’t even involve animals, but trees being removed outside their Darien office in 2021). The third time was in the courtroom on Wednesday.

Read the full piece here.