Coyote Cruelty

I’m interrupting my series of posts on my trip to Yellowstone to write about coyotes and the cruelty they suffer at the hands of Wildlife Services and individual trappers.

This week, gruesome photos taken by  Jamie Olson, a Wyoming federal wildlife specialist with Wildlife Services, went viral on the web. The pictures show coyotes caught in leg hold traps as Olson’s dogs, one a large Airedale, attack. The photos were never meant to be revealed to the public, Olson said, they were taken to show his dad. Millions  have viewed the pictures but Olson still denies any wrongdoing. In yesterday’s Missoula Independent,  he is quoted as saying,  “I would never have my dogs chew on a coyote.” Olson said of the animals-rights groups  up in arms over his actions, “I understand their concerns and I’m sure their agenda is solely driven for their love and desire to keep animals safe. I don’t begrudge anybody that. But they’re really taking that stuff out of context, and it’s affecting my job.”

I’m using my imagination to try to visualize any other context than the obvious in this image of two dogs standing over the body of a trapped coyote.  No matter how it is seen, the death of the coyote was needlessly cruel.

Olson had organized a Coyote Classic to be held in Billings, Montana next weekend. Participants were to pay $300 a team to shoot as many coyotes as they can. Olson cancelled the event suddenly, citing an inability to publicize his event due to the election.

A similar Coyote Killing Contest, this one sponsored by Gunhawk Firearms, is to be held in January in Los Lunas, New Mexico. Please like this Facebook page, as they are garnering support to stop this event.

Footloose Montana‘s Facebook page has covered the Olson story and suggests that we support WildEarth Guardians in their efforts to request a congressional investigation of Wildlife Services. The link to their petition is here.

KC York, Footloose Montana Board member, explains that this type of cruelty is “…legal in Montana, killing trapped animals can be done by any means. Olson represents trapping. If this is what a professional does, how can we stop the average trapper? And what goes on out there that we don’t see?”

Predator Defense has been working hard on this issue too.  Executive Director Brooks Fahy told me that Olson’s wanton coyote killing is “Symptomatic of Wildlife Services.” The Facebook page of Predator Defense asks that readers, “Join us as we redouble our efforts to ask for Congressional oversight hearings on the USDA’s Wildlife Services agency. Call or write both the chair of the committee involved, Republican Representative Darrell Issa (CA-49), and the ranking committee member, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings (MD-07), and urge them for oversight hearings:
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
202-225-5074 voice
202-225-3974 FAX

Predator Defense Films has recently produced several educational videos, including three on coyotes. Please enjoy them and share widely. The world needs to see coyotes not as vermin but as the worthy and intricate species they are.


13 thoughts on “Coyote Cruelty

  1. I am of the opinion that most Americans dont realize just what function Wildlife Services preforms in the U.S. today. I am also disturbed that Wildlife Services is above the law and fails to be transparent in their daily missions. I firmly believe its time for change at this government agency! Beckie….thanks for focusing attention on this sick individual & agency.


  2. Here’s the letter I sent to USDA and APHIS concerning this issue and the role of Wildlife Services in general:

    Dear Honorable Sirs,

    I was horrified to read about the co-curricular activities of your employee Jamie Olson. And even more disturbed to learn he is also involved with a coyote killing contest currently the subject of widespread public protest. I studied under Marc Bekoff and know how disturbing he must find these acts. Coyotes are highly intelligent. At least as smart as dogs. They form strong social bonds to their mates and offspring and they perform a critical role in the environment.

    While I don’t agree with the methods or actions undertaken by wildlife services in general, I understand the role your agency is intended to play. It is a delicate line to walk to serve two competing sets of interests but that is the line you must adhere to. When a representative of your agency takes obvious glee in performing what more than half of your “clients” (the taxpayers that don’t want wildlife killed) consider to be a solemn and terrible act, it brings shame upon everyone in your entire agency by association.

    Following upon the explosive series by Tom Knudsen in the Sacramento Bee, and the repugnant behavior by Idaho Forest Service Employee, Josh Bransford, posing with a trapped wolf struggling in a circle of blood, the last thing you want is more controversy. It is one thing to take action deemed essential for the preservation of life or livestock, it is quite another for one of your employees to delight in causing horror, pain and suffering.

    I believe I speak for many tens of thousands of people when I say that Jamie Olson should be terminated and charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty. Further, your agency should publicly condemn the upcoming coyote hunt.

    Longer term Wildlife Services needs to learn that existing as “a killing business” as Carter Niemeyer now describes it, is stone-age thinking and a failing approach to solving the problem. We know better now. Wildlife services has the unique opportunity to lead the way to showing how yours and other agencies can grow into being a coexistence business; a smart and ethical agency devoted not to the gleeful pursuit and slaughter of animals, but to the sensible application of the best science, and the deployment of the most successful and low impact techniques to allow humans and wildlife to more peacefully coexist.

    There are legions of smart and dedicated people that would applaud a more modern approach and a genuine chance that the best and the brightest now studying biology would be interested in working for such an agency. The challenge, and I think it is one that you must overcome or risk becoming an agency targeted for dismantling, is to change the entire culture at Wildlife Services. You’ve got to get rid of the gun toting sociopaths like Jamie Olson, that would do what you pay him to do for free all day, every day. If this is what Olson does with laws in place, imagine the horrors he’d visit upon animals without those protections. You must replace them not with sport-killers but with highly trained wildlife experts that are interested in the science of human wildlife interaction and the furthering of our understanding of our impact upon the natural world.

    You need to clean house of these bastions of old-world thinking. Your agency must adhere to a higher ethical standard with respect to the handling of wildlife, not be representative of the worst-of the-worst. And please don’t try to act as if Olson’s behavior is an aberration within your ranks. I recently witnessed footage of one of your agents threatening media in the Mexican Gray Wolf recovery area before releasing hounds in a not so subtle attempt to drive them off. Another example of the culture of bad behavior was the paw prints on the leased Piper Cub; your agency’s idea of fun as you demarcated the death of some 51 wolves.

    There’s a systemic illness infecting your people that needs to be cured. I hope for the animal’s sake that you’ll wake up and take notice because there’s a better and smarter solution to most of these problems.


    Oliver Starr, a taxpayer and a voter.


  3. I think Marc is right, the general public has no clue about Wildlife Services (unless they read my timeline on Facebook, I bash it rather frequently). I did call Rep. Issa and the other members of the House that are looking into Wildlife Services. Each staffer was surprised that I did not live in the home states of the Representative that I called. I said that this is a nationwide problem, it’s not isolated. Many people across the country do not approve of Wildlife Services and want it shut down. Hopefully more people will also do this. Thanks for this article, Beckie, and for the contact info. Now people HAVE to use it!!!


  4. Kristi….My personal experience with Bill Clay, and this goes back as far as 2004, is that he’ll protect his employees at all costs. He will go only so far as “we’ll educate them and let them know that this behavior is inappropriate”….End of story. NO disciplinary action, no time off etc.
    This battle needs to be fought, same as wolves, as a political issue.
    Coyotes are just as valuable as wolves to our ecosystems, yet many who are shocked by the wolf slaughter, don’t even mention coyotes even though they have the same social structure and family values as wolves.


  5. Thanks, Jerry, I figured it would be about as futile as anything regarding trying to hold someone accountable for the horrible treatment of wolves and coyotes. He’s been there since 2004? He’s been there long enough, time for some new-thinking individuals…hopefully in our lifetimes. I’ll check out the Eastern Coyote website. Thanks for posting that, Jerry.


  6. Thanks everyone for these thoughtful comments. It is amazing to me how little people understand about several issues in this topic. First of all, coyotes. Many see them as only vermin, animals that deserve no better than to be shot or trapped. As Jerry points out they are valuable to the environment and have a highly developed social structure. And so many are unaware that trapping even exists, let alone that a government supported agency called Wildlife Services kills thousands and thousands of animals yearly. This dialogue is great, and we need to spread it to the public. Keep talking and keep writing!


  7. Although I did not hold out a lot of hope in writing to Clay, it is still important to register our anger and outrage that is “killing service” is being funded by our tax dollars. We have to keep educating people that Wildlife Services is in the business of killing wildlife; I agree that so many, many people simply are unaware this is happening. Also don’t forget to contact Tom Knudson at the Sac Bee, thank him for the article and ask him to keep following the story. We all know this is only the tip of the iceberg.


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