Two Michigan men accused of filming a group of hunting dogs mauling a coyote will face felony and misdemeanor charges, authorities announced last week.
The law enforcement division of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources began investigating the men after they posted a video online, where they encouraged three hunting dogs to attack a wounded coyote.
“We’re going to let them finish this thing off,” one of the men in the video can be heard saying about the coyote as he hears the hounds approach. “He might have a little fight left in him. His eyes are open.”
At one man’s order, the radio-collared dogs then begin biting and violently shaking the coyote, which loudly yelps and can be seen bleeding and fighting back in vain. The final frames shows the coyote motionless, laying bloodied in the snow.
The video, entitled “Hounds Fight Wounded Yote,” was initially posted to YouTube in Feb. 2014. It has since been removed.
The investigation also discovered a second video at one suspect’s property, featuring a coyote that was allegedly injured after being purposefully struck by the man’s truck. In the video, the men film and talk about the animal for several minutes before dispatching it with a revolver.
Apparent from the charges, investigators believe the incident captured in the video crossed the line from hunting into something closer to animal abuse.
One of the men faces a charge of killing/torturing animals, a felony with the possibility of a four-year jail sentence. He could also be charged with four misdemeanors, general violation of wildlife conservation, two counts of abandonment/cruelty to an animal, and taking game from a vehicle. Punishments for each violation range around 90 days in jail.
The second suspect will also face a felony charge of killing/torturing animals and a misdemeanor count of abandonment/cruelty to an animal.
Dog hunting continues to be a controversial topic across the country, with opponents labeling it inhumane. Activists also fear dog hunting could be soon be a go-to method for hunting wolves in Michigan, like it is in nearby Wisconsin. Dog hunting is currently banned for wolves in Michigan, but legal for other game. The DNR has said using dogs for wolf hunting is not under consideration.
Dog hunters have come forward to say the video is not representative of the sport. Online commentators have also said the men violated traditional hunting values and don’t deserve the label of “hunters” bestowed on them by some media sources. Nevertheless, the video is expected to influence the national discussion on species conservation and hunting ethics.
The suspects are expected to be arraigned as early as this week.