For the week of March 17, 1999  thru March 23, 1999  

Snowmobilers chase down and kill coyote

Identification of trespassers sought by F&G

Express Staff Writer

A trail of snowmobile tracks and fur indicate that a snowmobiler intentionally hit and killed a coyote on private land in the Sawtooth Valley on Friday.

Brad Andres, caretaker of a ranch about five miles north of the Alturas Lake turnoff, said that between noon and 1 p.m., two snowmobilers left a groomed trail system and chased a pack of coyotes across the ranch’s land. He said the animals were chased onto a neighboring ranch where one of the coyotes was killed.

"It is obvious what (the snowmobilers) were doing," he said. "They were just harassing the hell out of these poor animals."

Tracks in the snow served as evidence of the snowmobilers’ actions.

Several sets of coyote tracks crossed a hill separating the two properties, and snowmobile tracks crisscrossing the animal prints indicated pursuit.

However, the chase ended near the Salmon River where all but one of the coyotes managed to cross the frigid waters, escaping from their pursuers.

One of the animals was hit by one of the two snowmobilers, who had looped around in a semi-circle to take aim at the straggling animal. A tuft of fur was left in the snow there, but that wasn’t the end of the pursuit.

The animal’s tracks indicated that it managed to get on its feet and again turn toward the safety of the river. The snowmobiler’s tracks also looped around and hit the animal again. The carcass remained there as of Friday afternoon.

Andres said landowners’ efforts to keep snowmobilers off private property supplement the adjacent wintering wildlife areas on public land where mechanized recreation is not permitted.

It is important for wildlife to have areas to winter unimpeded by recreational harassment, Andres said.

Although Friday’s incident was illegal because it occurred on private property, it is legal to kill coyotes by any means at any time of the year, Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer Lee Frost said. He said all anyone needs is a hunting license, and kills are not required to be reported nor carcass removed from the site of the kill.

"With coyotes, particularly, it’s the old anti-predator mentality that is so prevalent in the western U.S. that says ‘the only good predator is a dead predator,’" Frost said.

At this time of year, coyote kills serve no purpose, he added. After February, the quality of coyote fur deteriorates and is not sellable.

The only reason to kill a coyote right now, he said, is just to go out and kill something.

But the kill found by Andres does represent an illegal act. The snowmobilers trespassed and disturbed wildlife on private land.

The trespassers have not been identified. Fish and Game conservation officer Gary Gadwa investigated the incident but was not available for comment.

The owners of the ranch where Andres works wish to remain anonymous, he said.

Forrest Hymas, proprietor of Smiley Creek Lodge, which rents snowmobiles, called the killing unacceptable.

"We’re always disappointed when someone from our sector of the sports world does something like that," he said.

He said that most snowmobilers respect private lands and don’t use their form of recreation to kill wildlife.

A winter recreation map, recently released by the Sawtooth Community Winter Recreation Partnership, indicates wilderness, wintering wildlife areas and private lands. The area covered extends from Smiley Creek in the upper Sawtooth Valley, through Stanley, to Lowman.

The map clearly points out areas where snowmobiling is permitted and where it is not.


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