TWENTYNINE PALMS — Twenty-three volunteers participated in a coyote hunt, killing seven coyotes March 25 and 26 at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.
The coyotes were killed in six areas on base that officials selected based on their distance from human activity.
Participants were chosen in a lottery draw and were then invited by Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs to participate in the event, according to information from the Marine Corps.
“The combat center has established a coyote depredation program in order to reduce the number of coyotes that are unnaturally inflated in the local area due to human subsidies,” Lauren Kurkimilis, deputy public affairs officer at the Marine base, stated.
The elevated numbers of coyote are a safety risk to Marines and their family members and are a significant factor in deaths of the desert tortoise, Kurkimilis said.
In the past year, a Marine was bitten while participating in a training exercise aboard the installation and coyotes have been witnessed entering family’s backyards and children’s playgrounds with increasing occurrence, showing no natural fear of human presence, Kurkimilis said.
Wildlife experts say it’s important not to feed or approach coyotes.
Randi Fellich, volunteer and Southern California representative for Project Coyote, said that unintentional and intentional feeding of wildlife is harmful because the animal becomes reliant on that food source and soon loses its fear of humans.
“This is when people start to notice coyotes as a nuisance,” Fellich said.
The actions aboard the MCAGCC were conducted under the coordination and supervision of the installation’s conservation law enforcement ifficers, who operate under the Department of Interior and are required by law to ensure adherence to California State Fish and Game laws, according to Kurkimilis.
The shootings complied with California Fish and Game Commission regulations, she said, which state that coyotes may be killed at any time of the year and in any number along with English sparrow, starling, weasels, skunks, opossum, moles and rodents.
Nevertheless, the advocates at the Coyote Project said the animals are important parts of the desert.
“Coyotes play a huge part in the ecosystem; they regulate the number of skunks, fox, raccoons and other rodents in the ecosystem,” Fellich said.
“We were very disappointed to learn of this coyote killing contest.”