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Field reports: Coyote hunt eyed to protect wolf

OR7, the Oregon wolf that has trekked across two states, roams on a hillside in Modoc County, Calif., last May. (Associated Press)
OR7, the Oregon wolf that has trekked across two states, roams on a hillside in Modoc County, Calif., last May. (Associated Press)

PREDATORS – A once obscure coyote hunting contest in northern California has become controversial as environmental groups lobby the state to call it off to protect a lone wolf.

Like similar hunts in other Western regions, including eastern Washington, the derby has been organized so sportsmen seeking prizes can help livestock growers reduce predators in calving season.

Opponents say widespread coyote killing disrupts the balance of nature and leads to increases in rodents.

But the main argument in a letter sent by 20 organizations to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife is about protecting OR7, which became the first in the state in nearly a century when it wandered from Oregon into California a year ago.

The gray wolf in California is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Although the coyote derby is legal under California law, animal welfare groups have asked the state to stop the hunt.

Montana house rejects rifle bill, OKs silencers

GUNS –The Montana House on Tuesday rejected by a 61-39 vote a proposal to name the Winchester Model 1873 the state rifle after Native American legislators said they couldn’t honor a weapon that brought “devastation” to their ancestors.

Supporters said the designation was intended to memorialize an important symbol from the frontier era that led to statehood for Montana. They tried to mollify opponents by striking language from the bill that called the Winchester the “gun that won the West.”

• The chamber voted 68-32 to allow use of rifle sound suppressors while hunting wolves after the end of the general elk and deer season.

Supporters said ownership of silencers is regulated by the federal government, ensuring against abuse, and argued they would make for a quieter hunting experience.

Opponents unsuccessfully argued that landowners should be able to hear where shots are being fired from.

Road plan stalled in Wallowas

FORESTS – The new supervisor of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest says he has to make a decision about closing roads in the 2.4-million-acre forest.

John Laurence, 63, replaced Kevin Martin as the Wallowa-Whitman’s leading official on Jan. 14 and is the forest’s third supervisor since August. A proposal from Martin’s predecessor last year caused uproar among forest users, and was withdrawn.

The issue dates back more than five years when the forest began looking at restricting some motorized access.

About 6,000 people signed a petition urging the forest to not close any roads to motor vehicles, contending it would prevent people from pursuing activities such as riding ATVs, hunting, picking berries and gathering firewood.

Supporters of closing roads say the forest must limit vehicles to protect elk habitat and prevent environmental damage. They say the Wallowa-Whitman has 6,900 miles of roads open to motor vehicles, and closing some roads would not severely restrict public access.