A coyote killing “tournament” in Hines, Oregon, in 2019. HSUS

Earlier this week, we led a coalition of organizations in submitting a petition to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission proposing a ban on kill contests in the state.

Wildlife killing contests are gruesome events where participants compete to kill as many animals as possible for the chance to win cash and prizes. For example, in Oregon’s Harney County Coyote Classic this year, up to 300 coyotes were killed over a two-day period. More than 1,000 coyotes have been shot at these contests in Oregon over the past four years.

During these events, participants can use electronic calling devices to lure coyotes into the range with sounds that mimic their prey or even coyotes in distress. Due to the chaotic nature of contests, animals can sustain gunshot wounds that can take days or weeks to succumb, even indirectly due to starvation, predation, or exposure. The carcasses of animals killed in such contests are usually wasted. These contests encourage gratuitous violence and send the message that killing is fun, animals are disposable and life is cheap.

Animal advocates, conservation groups, scientists, veterinarians, land trusts and farmers have spoken out in support of banning kill contests in Oregon. Former Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Mike Finley supports the petition to end these cruel competitions. A hunter himself, Finley condemned killing contests, explaining that “killing large numbers of predators in an organized contest is inconsistent with scientific wildlife management and contrary to the concepts of sportsmanship and of fair hunting”. Finley testified in support of legislation banning such contests in Oregon and, since lawmakers wouldn’t listen, joined those urging the commission to do the right thing and ban the practice. .

Increasingly across the country, hunters and wildlife management professionals like Finley are clearly denouncing these competitions as unethical and serving no purpose. Tony Wasley, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and also a hunter, recently stated that “kill contests are ethically upsetting to most members of society. Hunting should not be a competition because such behavior ultimately degrades the value of life and undermines respect for hunted animals.

Contest supporters continue to try to vilify coyotes, foxes and other wildlife in order to justify the killings, but their feelings are increasingly at odds with public opinion. A whopping 80% of Americans oppose murder contests, according to a January 2022 poll by bipartisan Remington Research Group. Another poll found equally strong support among Oregonians for a ban. A study by researchers at Ohio State University showed that between 1978 and 2014, positive public attitudes toward coyotes, the most frequent target of kill contests, increased by 47%, with the majority of respondents expressing positive attitudes toward coyotes. The researchers speculated that this increase in positive attitudes toward coyotes may indicate that Americans are increasingly concerned about their well-being.

Other studies, including The nature of Americans report, found that Americans express a broad interest in nature, believe it is important to connect with nature, and want to conserve wildlife and their habitats. And a keystone study, the America’s Wildlife Values project, has documented a substantial shift in public attitudes away from a traditional view of wildlife – of human mastery and that wildlife should be managed for human benefit – and towards a mutualistic view, or the belief that humans and wildlife should co-exist and that animal welfare is important. The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies highlighted the need for wildlife agencies to appeal to a wider audience to ensure agencies remain relevant in the future.

Allowing a very small minority of people to steal wildlife from the public for prizes goes against the tenets of the public trust doctrine, which holds that government must protect wildlife for the benefit of all. Nor is it a question of culture or differences in values ​​between urban and rural residents. When it comes to wildlife, people – whether they live in urban, suburban or rural areas – do not support practices that they consider wasteful, unsportsmanlike or wasteful. Wildlife killing contests aren’t rooted in tradition, and they’re not subsistence hunting – they’re just a blood sport that makes killing animals a game. That’s why eight states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington – have already banned these events.

Our campaigns and investigations across the country have brought to light cruel murder contests. Thousands of people recently contacted wildlife agencies in Oregon, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Virginia, asking them to ban kill contests as well. Agencies would be wise to listen.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter@HSUSKittyBlock.


Investigations, Fauna/Marine Mammals