To the coyote hunters of Maine: I walk your trails, and you walk mine, but we do not walk the same path.
Every trap you set is a threat to my security. Let me know where you have placed them. Every coyote killed is an attack on my freedom. I want to know where you killed it, what it was doing before you ended its life, what you knew about it before you decided it was your right to take it. I want to know exactly how you killed it.
Was it male or female? I want to know how you displayed it and what you did with every ounce of its remains. I believe I have a right to know these things: all the details of every coyote killed. Perhaps we who care can name and mourn them this way.
If you kill for coyote sport or to protect deer that you, in turn, hope to kill for sport, I want to know if you’re good at your game. Who makes the rules? How do you know who wins? Is there any other game you play that involves killing somebody? What is your favorite animal, and would you kill it?
Does it really seem far-fetched that every single coyote in this state is an animal I love and want to defend? Can you fathom how deep the grief of knowing that hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent in Maine to “control” the predatory behaviors of an animal that has no interest in “game” or “sport” or “rules”?
I am shaken continuously by my state’s obsession with violence and cruelty toward wolves and coyotes. It’s a genocidal bloodletting that scars our land over and over again. We cannot heal ourselves or even begin to recover our communal sanity until we begin to treat all life with reawakening awe and respect. No coyote has ever stacked a pile of kills anywhere. They’re lucky if they can ever finish or find a meal.
We who defend our wildlife have compiled countless charts showing the importance of predatory animals in wilderness regions. We have shared your photos of cruel inhumanity as you trap victims and torture them. We’ve burst into tears of true rage and utter despair, having seen the carcasses of coyotes piled year after year at our roadsides and your hunting lodges.
You read the stars and chart a course that is wholly inconsistent with my own. We who defend wildlife have always looked to meet with you — speak with you — but so rarely have we stood in your way. When we hear howls, we say prayers to the air and the earth, that the singer might survive, that the fences might fall and the guns wither.
Perhaps it is your weaponry, your sense of ownership, your way of giving orders that has kept me from feeling I could share that space during “your” season. Perhaps I should follow and track you on your hunts — am I allowed to do that? Could I warn your targets when you are near? Can I spring your traps with stones and sticks before anybody gets hurt? What laws are there against that? Would they protect me?
I’ve seen Maine state poacher hats. I’ve been approached by hunters on preserved land who have “given me advice” with rifles in hand to “watch and be sure (I) stick to the trails and wear bright colors so (I) can be seen.” I’ve been intimidated or angered too many times, and I have not done much more than pray for change.
Remember, coyote hunter, I live next door. I’m sometimes in the woods with you. You’ve been on my trails, and I’ve been on yours. Tell me the whole story: How did you become a killer of coyotes? How can I help you to stop? When will you know you’ve killed enough?
Joshua O’Donnell lives in Brunswick.