JACKSON — A Jackson Hole woman’s effort to criminalize running down and running over coyotes with snowmobiles was shot down last week by a legislative committee.
Local wildlife activist Lisa Robertson has had the ear of Rep. Mike Yin, of Teton County, who last legislative session unsuccessfully sought to prohibit killing, injuring or torturing predatory animals using snowmobiles. He tried again last week to bring the bill to an interim committee in Thermopolis, but the lawmakers declined in an 11-to-2 vote.
Sen. Glenn Moniz, of Albany County, scolded bill proponents for grandstanding “one idiot who put a video on YouTube.”
“I think in the process of trying to fight this, we need to tell the whole story,” Moniz told gathering members of the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee. “Coyotes are considered a predator. ... We have a predator board that regulates predators in the state of Wyoming.”
A native mesocarnivore, coyotes can depredate domestic livestock, especially lambs and calves. They’re classified as “predators” that can be killed indiscriminately, along with red fox, skunks, stray domestic cats, raccoons and nonpredacious porcupines and jackrabbits.
Coyotes in particular are killed intensively. The federal agency Wildlife Services dispatched 5,645 alone during 2017, the last year statistics were available.
Because of the absence of regulations, people kill coyotes with tactics typically illegal for other species, such as using aircraft, electronic calls, and, occasionally, running them over with snowmobiles. Graphic videos Robertson and others have posted online of so-called “coyote whacking” have gone viral, drawing the ire of hunters and nonhunters disgusted by a brutal tactic that belies fair-chase ethics.
“This type of slaughter is legal in Wyoming,” Robertson told the committee in Thermopolis. “Our native carnivores are exceptions from common-sense protections under Wyoming law.
“My question is,” she said, “when will we tackle this black eye on our state, on hunters and on each of us who call Wyoming home?”
Indirectly, legislators said not now, and not in this venue. Committee members encouraged Robertson to go through the Wyoming Animal Damage Management Board rule-making process, to which she responded that she already had.
Yin also pushed back.
“I also respectfully disagree with the chairman about what we can do as a committee,” he told fellow lawmakers. “I think we can all take a stance and say that there is a line somewhere.”
Rep. John Winter, of Thermopolis, told Robertson that he thought no one in the room approved of coyote whacking, but voted down considering a bill. Only Sen. Liisa Anselmi-Dalton, of Rock Springs, seconded Yin’s motion.
Yin told the Jackson Hole Daily in an interview that, with the bill failing twice, he’s “unfortunately” likely going to drop the effort.
“I’m ultimately disappointed in the Legislature,” he said.
“I think this is something that reflects poorly on the state of Wyoming,” Yin said, “and letting people get away with it is really not the right answer.”