Rubber bullets and paintball guns, also
recommended for use, only taught the coyotes to run away
from patrol cars and people in uniform.
As a last resort, Marin WildCare Center contracted with Little Blue Society, to train their volunteers to effectively de-habituate the coyotes from human use areas and human foods.
LBS'S BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION TECHNIQUE - VEXING™ A SUCCESS
Over a period of several weeks starting February 14, 2008, behavioral correction was implemented on "Big Ears," a young female coyote around two years of age. She had been fed by park personnel and visitors since she was a pup.
Her “bad” behavior improved as she was not observed begging and approaching vehicles in the areas where behavioral correction was applied. But not receiving any support from the NPS to create public educational materials and proper signage to minimize the incidence of intentional feedings and interactions with park visitors, Little Blue Society (LBS) discontinued further behavioral correction in the middle of March.
THE SANCTUARY PROPOSAL
On March 26th, LBS presented the NPS with a win-win solution/proposal to transfer Big Ears to a sanctuary accredited by The Association of Sanctuaries, a member of the Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition. Big Ears had already been accepted by the 187-acre sanctuary in Kendalia Texas, which is closed to the public.
*** NOTE: The sancturary transfer would not cost the NPS any money. The trapper would be provided by Little Blue Society, and the transportation by private plane to Texas would be paid for by the Marin WildCare Center.
The benefits would be 2-fold:
1. Whether Big Ears is killed or transferred to a sanctuary, the net result would be the same: the impaired coyote will be absent from the GGNRA. The NPS would then be able to move forward on developing, in their own time, the proper signage, educational materials and a protocol to mitigate future habituation of coyotes, so that there is NEVER such a repeat incidence.
2. The transfer would generate a lot of positive PR for the NPS. It would show the public that the agency has more sophisticated techniques for managing wildlife than simply scaring the animals away or killing them, as noted in Mark Prado's article "Coyote in Marin Headlands: Scare It Away or Kill It." (Marin Independent Journal).
DECISION TO KILL BIG EARS
On Tuesday, June 1st, Chief Ranger Ruan, met with the Manager of the Marin WildCare Center and Captain Merchado, Marin Humane Society Animal Control, to make a final decision on the fate of Big Ears.
The Wildcare Center later reported the sanctuary option was discussed but ultimately decided against. The decision was made to hire a sharp-shooter to kill Big Ears, and the NPS Wildlife Ecologist, was charged to draw up the protocol on how this was to be done. There was also discussion on how to accomplish the killing of Big Ears without public knowledge.
Captain Merchado stated a positive ID of Big Ears could be made by waving around a TACO BELL bag and whichever coyote responded by running toward it, was the one to be shot. It was also suggested that killing Big Ears would serve as an example to the public of what happens to wildlife when they’re fed by people.
LBS contacted Brian O’Neill, Superintendent, the following day and stated that Negative education will NOT make a positive impact on the public. And with the growing public concern over the treatment of wildlife, the lethal removal of this coyote will be counterproductive and NOT in the best interest of the GGNRA/NPS.
Chief Ranger Ruan later defended that killing Big Ears was just another option they were looking at, and that a decision had not been made at all.
AN ATTEMPT TO KILL BIG EARS
"hazing" injury Big Ears sustained at the GGNRA in July 2008 (Graphic Content)
On July 19, 2008, Big Ears was being observed by LBS consultants as she approached a car parked in the dirt pullout at the entrance of the fire- lane of the historical Rifle Range. The driver was trying to coax her to come closer.
A bright neon blue truck speeding down Bunker Rd., crossed the double yellow lines and ploughed in to the small dirt pullout, right into Big Ears. Four witnesses were stunned by what they saw. Big Ears was spotted limping away and disappearing into the brush. The incident was reported to and investigated by the Park Police.
Bruce Badzik, NPS Manager of Integrated Pest Management, was the driver of the government vehicle. His account of the events differed drastically from that of the 4 witnesses. He stated that the coyote was on Bunker Rd, and that he had driven toward it in order to scare it off, so it wouldn’t be hit by a car.
FINAL DECISION ON BIG EARS' FATE - SEPTEMBER 23, 2008
After receiving hundreds of emails from the public and pictures and letters from thirty-two, 4th graders at Lakeshore Elementary School SF, begging Brian O'Neill, Park Superintendent, not to kill Big Ears, a decision was made, allowing the transfer of Big Ears to the designated sanctuary.
Chief Ranger Ruan requested a meeting with Mary Paglieri, LBS Founding Director on Tuesday, September 23, and informed her of Brian O’Neill’s decision. However, Ms. Ruan did not want LBS's help in trapping the coyote, although she knew the independent trapper recommended by LBS had 30 years of experience sucessfully trapping coyotes. And that the methodology used, would expedite the trapping of Big Ears, eliminating the need to leave an active trap overnight, which would increase the probability of injuring non-target species including other coyotes and visitors' dogs.
Ms. Paglieri was told that the NPS was looking for their own trapper, although the trappers they had spoken with recommended killing the coyote would be easier than trapping her. It would also cost the NPS a $1,000 per day.
The move to the sanctuasry was conditional. Chief Ranger Ruan made it very clear that neither LBS nor the Marin Wildcare Center was to inform the Media about the decision to move Big Ears to the sanctuary. She stated if the Media caught wind of this decision, that the transfer would NOT take place.
Ms. Ruan also made a statement during the meeting with Paglieri that raised some concerns.
"One remark Chief Ranger Ruan made in passing was that they may go ahead and do something to Big Ears without telling me." said Paglieri. "I regret, that although I looked at her questioningly, I did not ask what that might be."
TRAPPING IS DELAYED INDEFINITELY BY THE NPS
The following day, September 24th, Ms. Ruan contacted LBS and the Marin Wildcare Center to inform them the trapping would be delayed because Bill Merckle, wildlife ecologist, was attending a wildlife trapping seminar and because of funding, they wanted to wait a week until the start of their new fiscal year. She said they would start the trapping the following week of the 28th.
When LBS tried to contact Ms. Ruan the following week of the 28th, she was informed that Chief Ranger Ruan was away on vacation, and wouldn't be returning until the 5th of October.
- Reporters from the SF chronicle and Marin Scope were told by the NPS that a decision was never made to send Big Ears to the sanctuary and that they would not decide until the end of the month.
- Concerned members of the the public who called Brian O'Neill's office were told that Big Ears would be transfered to the sanctuary.
BIG EARS IS NOT SEEN FOR SEVERAL DAYS
Paglieri, who had been observing Big Ears since February was concerned that she did not see Big Ears for several days in the areas she passed through everyday.
When Chief Ranger Ruan was contacted on October 8th, she said they were unable to make a visual on Big Ears, so, they would remain in a holding pattern. She also said a trapper had been found and that he was "on call," ready at any time to trap Big Ears once she's spotted.
When Paglieri questioned Ruan about the statement she made that they may go ahead and do something to Big Ears without telling her, Ruan became hostile and replied that no action had been taken against Big Ears.
THE TRUTH FINALLY COMES OUT