Every morning on my way to the gym I watch a big coyote searching for breakfast.

Every morning on my way to the gym I watch a big coyote searching for breakfast.

Recently the animal was acting unusual, running toward my pickup and zigzagging back and forth. I slowed down to watch as the predator almost ran into the side of my pickup chasing a rabbit.

I understand that the lowly coyote has to eat. Food equals energy that in turn equals warmth through these cold winter days and nights. Pups are likely not born yet, so this was not a mother trying to feed her family, but a hungry animal chasing food. I will have to admit I was hoping the rabbit would escape. I have written volumes of rabbit hunting stories over the past 35 years, some you may have read. But lately there is a huge shortage of rabbits. Quail hunters, too, will verify that few birds are found these days. The reason: lack of habitat and more predators than ever before.

Everything in the woods wants to eat a quail or rabbit, or at least some part of this tasty assortment. Humans are no exception to enjoying succulent meat that has adorned tables for as long as man has eaten on tables. Probably an equal amount was cooked on spits by Native Americans and even ancient man.

But until now the rabbits and quail maintained good numbers, a surprising fact considering they were a main staple of everybody’s diet before so-called civilization took over and supermarkets carried our main supplies of meat. They reproduced in large numbers and many survived to carry on through generous numbers, until now.

Do you remember several years ago when well-meaning bunny huggers were throwing paint on those who dared to wear a fur coat or vest? Furs lost popularity among the rich and famous and demand dropped. People stopped wearing fur coats. Fur prices ceased to give trappers or predator hunters a reason to work all winter for extra income.

Thus, more coyotes, bobcats, foxes and other predators are alive and well to decimate rabbit and quail populations. In other words, the Hollywood faithful and other well-meaning followers succeeded in saving furbearers that are now feeding daily on small game that can’t always escape.

Why can’t rabbits and quail escape? Lack of habitat is one reason. Have you noticed some row crop fields are now farmed from ditch to ditch?

I can’t blame a farmer for trying to make extra money by using every foot of land he has for raising crops. They are not overpaid for their crops, cows or hogs. But removal of thick growth in ditches and in the middle of fields is a loss of valuable wildlife habitat. A couple of solutions are stacking up numerous brush piles dense enough to allow small game to escape while bigger animals like coyotes can’t enter; or encouraging farmers to leave at least some wildlife cover on their property.

The removal of old homesteads with plenty of overgrown grass eliminates more valuable cover. Sad but true, progress has eliminated some of the hunting many of us cherished for many years. I guess that is what happens when do-gooders mess with the balance of nature: more predators and less small game.

I wonder if anyone has thought of trapping and shooting coyotes or other furbearers to provide warm winter coats for homeless people or those struggling for economic survival. The new surplus of predators has created a lot more road kill just wasting away, providing food for crows and vultures. Those once valuable furs should be used instead of wasted.

I will guarantee that people freezing in this country and other countries with cold climates would welcome a nice fur coat – even if it was not in the latest style. Do you wonder if this applies to our area? Drive to downtown Kansas City and count the homeless begging for money on street corners. Do you suppose they might like a fur-lined coat?

Wouldn’t trapping predators and creating warm clothing from furs provide at least a few jobs and perhaps some income instead of wasting a valuable resource?

Conservation is best described as wise use. Maybe it is time that we take a closer look at exactly what this wise use should be.