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Which side can you believe? Perhaps neither, suggests Pringle in this unusually objective attempt to separate fact from the prejudices of either conservationists or sheep ranchers. Citing wildlife biologists' ongoing studies as the most reliable source of information, and filling readers in on the economics of sheep raising and the behavior and population patterns of coyotes, Pringle comes to no all-encompassing conclusion but does report on several seemingly well established items: Coyotes do kill sheep and can threaten the livelihood of some ranchers; contrary to predator behavior in the wild, coyotes are not ""culling"" the herd by taking the most unhealthy sheep; many of the sheep killed by coyotes are not eaten; control efforts have not had much effect on coyote populations in the West and, because of their tremendous ability to bounce back, ""body counts"" have little meaning. Coming from a longtime environmentalist like Pringle, such findings must give pause. His answer is not to go back to traps and inhumane poisons, but to reduce predation without all-out war--perhaps by aversive conditioning or bait containing birth control chemicals, both in the trial stage, or by the more promising, now experimental method of equipping sheep with toxic collars. As for those who would let nature take its course, Pringle quotes wildlife researcher Donald Balser's reminder that humans have already altered the environment (largely by killing competing predators) to the coyote's advantage. Considered.

Pub Date: May 2nd, 1977
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich