Tucsonan Joe Gardner was on one of his favorite day trips to Lochiel, about 100 miles southeast of Tucson, where the air is clean and the land pristine – usually.
Except when he finds a dead duct taped coyote.
During his trek about two weeks ago, the 62-year-old who grew up in the Lochiel area noted buzzards circling about and followed their feast to find a mutilated carcass.
The coyote was definitely dead, with a hole in his underside where something had chewed out his entrails. He had not been skinned, but the two front legs and two back legs had been secured with tape, leaving him defenseless, provided he had still been alive when taped.
“I was surprised and puzzled and wondered about mutilation stories I had heard in the past,” Gardner said, “but those involved livestock, not wild animals. I also wondered if it was some kind of sick message for human smugglers, who are also referred to as coyotes.”
He vaguely recalled stories of livestock’s organs and genitalia being removed with “precision-appearing incisions” some time back in Cochise County. Perhaps Jack the Ripper of the cattle world.
Yet he had never seen such abuse of coyotes.
“I have not an inkling as to who or why would bind a coyote and leave it out for the buzzards,” he said. “I was born and raised in the area, and as a matter of fact, this was right in front of the one room school I attended when I was a kid. I know just about everyone who lives in the area, and can’t imagine any locals doing this, as they live in the area because they love and respect the land.”
Nothing respectful about a duct taped coyote.
Arizona’s animal cruelty felony law, ARS 13-2910, slaps a felony on anyone that “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly inflicts unnecessary physical injury to any animal.”
Awesome law. But it may not apply in the case of the duct taped coyote.
“Law enforcement would have to successfully allege that it was cruelty,” explained Marsh Myers, spokesman for the Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona. “Since coyotes can be legally hunted, an investigation would have to rule this possibility out. Sometimes the animal is hunted and then the carcass is just left to rot. It’s a sloppy practice but it happens all the time.”
In that case, it’s OK.
Many hunters are respectful – even reverent – about nature and engage in the sport for much more than just the kill. But there are always the idiots.
In another coyote case earlier this year, six mutilated carcasses were found dumped in a creek near an Oklahoma high school.
The critters had been skinned, with their front legs chopped off at the knees and their remains unceremoniously hurled where teens could easily find them.
The animals were originally thought to be dogs and all hell broke loose. Necropsies revealed they had been a half dozen coyotes. Hell kind of subsided.
While Oklahoma, like Arizona, does have animal cruelty laws with severe penalties, it would probably not apply if the animals were being hunted for their fur.
Authorities in Ohio were going nuts in 2007 trying to find the sicko who apparently skinned and boiled a dog – while it was still alive.
The animal, identified by a vet as a chow/pit bull mix, was fully skinned except for fur left on its paws, had cuts on its legs and neck and had wire wound around one of the back legs.
Someone finally did come forward to confess – that the animal was not a dog at all but simply a coyote he hunted but didn’t dispose of properly.
Even though the vet had initially been wrong about the animal’s identification, calling it a dog, the doc was not wrong about the animal having been still alive when it was boiled and skinned.
No matter. It was just a coyote.
The case was immediately closed and all pending criminal charges promptly dropped.
This post originally appeared Oct. 23, 2009, on Rynski’s Blogski when it was still at TucsonCitizen.com.
What do you think?
Is there a way to better enforce – or even prove – the animal cruelty felony law?
Can anything be done to better protect hunted wildlife from undue abuse?