Congratulations on your coyote killing contest. We are so grateful for the protection you offer us from this dangerous animal who eats fruit, rabbits, moles, and other small vermin. Our hearts flutter at the thought that some might kill a fawn on a hungry spring day, or a weakened adult deer sometime mid-winter. We are so proud of those parking lots filled with coyote bodies. We admire the skill you exhibit in the ancient art of killing.

And we are also so glad you are killing the coyotes instead of us. Afterall, what are your guns for if not for killing something? These wild dogs of the north American continent have no place here. I’m so happy the rabbits, voles, and mice will be able to multiply. They are all so cute. I don’t even mind if they eat my garden or live my attic.

It really irritated me when my neighbor pooh poohed the danger to the deer herd from losing some fawns. He claimed the overall herd size might drop a little in the spring, but by the next year, the size of the herd was the same. And then, you know what this idiot said? Because the coyotes’ prey multiplied so much faster after the big contests, that the coyotes reproduced faster with more offspring. They were even stronger because the food was better. That guy talks so much nonsense. Don’t let those crazy scientists make you feel bad. They don’t even understand how much fun it is to kill.

By the way, I heard that one of you lost a dog to a coyote. That’s so sad. Dogs are so loving. Can’t imagine why anyone would kill a dog.

So thank you for all your kills and I’m so glad you all had a good time,


Betsy Mae Sternheart





  1. Meg Tuite

    Hi Martha,
    This is another beauty! It reads as smoothly as the examples did. I love ‘poo poohed’. The singsong voice through this is perfect. Outstanding! LOVE!

  2. Freesia McKee

    Hi Martha,

    These killing contests are something I have also been wanting to write about, but I haven’t found a way in yet, so I appreciate seeing someone else taking this topic on!

    This piece addresses several dimensions of the dynamics of killing contests to great effect. A few of the things I’m still wondering:
    -Who is Sternheart? What is her role in this community? (I know she’s a local resident, but what else?) Why is she the one writing the letter vs. you assigning someone else to write it?
    -Which hunters in particular is she addressing this letter to? How is she getting this letter to them? Is it a letter to the editor?

    You are setting up the scenario with this shell, but I felt as a reader that I wanted some more hints about the context in which this letter is being written.


  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Hi Freesia. The name was arbitrary, added late at night, and now you have given me more to think about concerning the shell. Thanks, it will help deepen this. I tried to add a horrifying picture I had taken off a web link to one of the local stations but I couldn’t get it to post. Coyotes, too, happen to be an animal I love– as the animal itself, and as in various Native American myths, myths that, those I am white, I grew up with these stories. They have been so ridiculously maligned, as have their “cousins’ the wolves. European wolf stories brought here– and yes, packs in the wilderness can be scary, however, for the most part it feels as if the stories we have carried from Europe have been killing engines themselves. (And by the way, It is very good to ‘see’ you too).

  4. Dennis Holmes

    Martha, I like the implicit word play in the title, both informing us of the epistolary form, but also adding a whimsical element of “tone.” We see a lot of coyotes around my place (I live in woods outside of Augusta, Maine) and I always love spotting these elusive tricksters! I love all animals, and agree with you wholeheartedly that coyotes get a bad rap. Love this piece, like Freesia’s suggestions for more context. Great start, though.

  5. Sara Comito

    Hey Martha, thanks for writing this. I have hunters among my friends and family, people who pay attention to the science of how ecological systems work. I think you do an excellent job with nuance, not denigrating hunters, just those who insist on being ignorant or even lobbying against their own interests in favor of what’s more convenient. Here in Florida, we have a big panther advisory council with a lot of influence spearheaded by…drumroll…a cattle rancher. Thing is, there’s this little thing about an apex predator vacuum. Ugh. Some people can’t be bothered. Now the coyotes fill in a space they didn’t historically inhabit, and out shy cats face a difficult future still. I’m sure you’ve read Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer? Anyway, the tenuous dichotomy between pet dogs and coyotes that you set up is brilliant and cutting. You’re on a roll already, I see!

  6. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Hi Sara— yes to the Kingsolver, and yes, a whole dung-full of the value of the ‘dung’ of herd animals kept moving by 4-legged predators– even good for the cattle kings if they had even slight diminishment of swaggering you know what. This piece was sparked by this workshop in combination with a shocking picture that I wish I could have posted from last weekend’s “coyote killing contest”– a rural parking lot, a man and a boy, a commercial garbage bin, and the entire asphalt covered with rows of dead coyotes, tongues lolling and awful. I’ve been very accepting of hunters who honor the animals they kill and who kill for food. There are hungry families in this state who need this addition to their diets, but this– this was only for “fun” and paid for by the DNR of the state. GAH!

Submit a Comment

Pin It on Pinterest