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An animal's rights may depend on its popularity with humans

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Animal rights could easily become a human-interest topic in North Metro Denver, but for different reasons than those that usually come to mind. Local animal activists have long objected to cruelty to farm animals killed for food in area factory farms, and hunting in the remote mountains has always had its local critics. But animal issues of a new kind may soon surface much closer to home, or perhaps, more appropriately, closer to “homes”.

In the past year, area parks near Brighton and Thornton have seen more and more coyotes taking up residence, and warning signs line walking trails everywhere. So far, coyotes have kept a low profile, but coyote sightings and conflicts with domestic dogs are not unheard-of and can be expected to increase as their numbers grow and they become more accustomed to the presence of humans. As conflicts with these dog-like animals grow more severe, so will the need to address the ensuing issues. With growing human concern for animal welfare, the issue is far more complicated that in the past, when animals considered intrusive to the general public would likely be shot.

What happens when coyotes become bold enough to venture beyond the parks they reside in and make their way into back yards where they might choose to dine on a $1,200 Boston Terrier puppy? Or perhaps a group of coyotes-well known to be lack animals-decides to take down a $2,000 bull dog? The humans who own the dogs will have to decide which animals they feel have more “rights” in such a situation.

Those animal owners and caretakers who wish to avoid killing animals themselves could become far more sympathetic to hunters, especially if the hunting can be done free of charge ad doesn’t cost tax payer dollars as it would if the hunting were done by a state or county agency. But if advocates of wild animals are more successful in lobbying for what laws protect which animals, pet owners could be stuck spending lots more for fences and other items to ensure the safety of their animal companions.

Given the ever-growing popularity of animal issues, the average human who calls him or herself an animal lover is part of a group of citizens that is ever more socially diverse. Those who own dogs and cats may be less perturbed by coyotes that, say, those who own backyard chickens or turkeys and want their birds to be able to roam freely as is ideal in terms of the quality of eggs they lay or the flesh of the birds themselves if the people who raise them intend to eat them.

Back-yard chickens are being permitted in more and more Metro-Denver communities and such broods will be magnets for growing packs of coyotes. Once coyotes establish a presence in a given area, they may seek out whatever prey provides a convenient meal. Coyote attacks remain more numerous in the outlying communities of Boulder, Niwot and Nederland, where the surrounding area remains undeveloped. But coyotes are adapting well to life in urban areas as are red foxes, which never sued to be seen in most US suburbs. Coyote attacks continue to occur close to Denver as well.

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