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Wildlife commission defends coyote hunting

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said Tuesday it will fight a lawsuit aimed at halting coyote hunting on the northeastern coast of North Carolina, where endangered red wolves are also being shot.

Three wildlife groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center asked a federal court Monday to stop an open season on coyotes in the five coastal counties that wolves also roam. The groups charge that coyote hunting violates the Endangered Species Act by causing wolf deaths.

Young wolves and coyotes look alike. Five wolves have been shot since October, and a sixth gunshot death is suspected. For the year, 10 wolves are known to have been or suspected of being shot.

The commission defended its rules on coyotes, which were expanded last year to allow night shooting of the animals by spotlight. It said the rules are in the public interest and do not violate federal law.

“This misguided lawsuit undermines the very law that the Southern Environmental Law Center and their clients claim to be defending,” Executive Director Gordon Myers said in a statement. “These actions erode the local public support critical to successful reintroduction of a predator species.”

The lawsuit would restrict landowner rights that are provided under the federal guidelines governing the reintroduction of red wolves to the area, Myers said. Federal regulations passed in 1995 allow landowners to kill wolves that are attacking livestock or pets if freshly wounded animals are seen.

The commission said coyotes are nonnative predators that threaten pets, livestock, and wildlife and may carry disease. It called trapping and hunting, including night shooting, effective tools for landowners trying to control coyote populations.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender
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