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It is the extermination of the coyote - a shrewd, wily, solitary scavenger - that serves as the central theme of Jack Olsen's ragingly indignant, beautifully written, and deeply moving book. It is perhaps the most gripping and important work of its kind since the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
Poisoned, hunted, a bounty placed on their heads, their pelts nailed to fence posts, the coyotes symbolize the heartless and brutal way in which man has made the West his own, as if nature had no place there.
By decimating those species that seem to him inconvenient or wasteful or unprofitable, man has laid waste his own heritage, sown the seeds of a poisoned Earth, and gone far along in the destruction of his own humanity.
In an era and a nation where erudition has become suspect, where hard-hattism is toasted at the White House, it is not surprising that the systematic contaminators of the American West have come to look upon scholars and scientists as their natural enemies. Anyone who does not adhere to the Mother Goose table of animal values (wolves and bears are evil, bunny rabbits and chipmunks are good, etc.) is bound to become the object of the poisoners' scorn.
To their eternal credit, the little old ladies in tennis shoes fight back. They write letters to the editor, and they view with alarm and point with shame, but their power is as nothing compared to the combined might of the nation's stockmen and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. There have been congressional hearings without end on the subject, innumerable reports by wildlife scientists, and a vast bibliography of articles in publications like the Defenders of Wildlife News and the magazine of the National Audubon Society. The result has been negligible, and it remains negligible, even in a country where ecological breast beating and hand wringing have become a national pastime.