Wildlife killing contests are animal welfare and conservation disgrace

By on October 17, 2017 with 24 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In October and November, participants in two gruesome wildlife killing contests in Nevada compete to claim the most coyote carcasses for cash or other prizes. The town of Austin recently held its annual Coyote Derby in early October, and next month the Nevada Predator Hunters will hold the 8th Annual Nevada Coyote Calling Championship in Las Vegas.

Wildlife killing contests, which target coyotes, foxes, bobcats, or even prairie dogs and pigeons, are grisly spectacles that are about as far as one can get from ethical, fair-chase hunting, and are no better than a blood sport like dogfighting or cockfighting. It’s all about body counts and has not a thing to do with the values that rank-and-file sportsmen profess.

At the coyote contests in Nevada, for instance, participants often use high-tech equipment such as powerful weapons and electronic calling devices that lure these curious animals by imitating the sounds of a fellow coyote or prey in distress. Countless dependent young may be orphaned during these events, left to die from starvation, predation, or exposure. Participants often toss away the bodies as if they are trash.

Wildlife killing contests occur more frequently across the United States than any reasonable person might imagine, although they are more heavily concentrated in the upper Midwest and the Northeast, and in Texas and the western states. Nevada also features the “High Desert Shootout,” while Arizona marks the holidays with the “Santa Slay Coyote Calling Tournament” and Idaho does the same with a “Christmas Songdog Challenge.” The Idaho Varmint Hunters host a “Whistlepig Tournament” for killing the heaviest groundhogs. Hawaii has the “Keep the Blood Flowing Hog Hunting Tournament,” while Iowa’s “Annual Howlers Bawl Coyote Contest” offers prizes for the largest number of coyotes killed, as well as for bringing in the “big dog” and “little dog.” In 2017 Montana took aim at coyotes, foxes, badgers, porcupines, and rabbits in its “4th Annual Fur-Busting Coyote Derby,” and Texas draws in participants for an astounding variety and number of contests that put coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and many more species in the crosshairs.

After the contest, participants often toss away the bodies of the animals as if they are trash. Above, carcasses of coyotes after a killing contest in Illinois earlier this year. Photo by Marc Ayers/The HSUS

The HSUS is working with regional and national wildlife protection organizations like Project Coyote, Animal Protection of New Mexico, and others to address wildlife killing contests at the local, state, and federal levels with litigation, legislation, and public outreach. So far California, Colorado, and Maryland have passed laws or regulations limiting some of these contests which vary by species, and the state of New York is currently considering a measure to ban them outright.

The contests have also been opposed by some sportsmen’s organizations, including the Boone and Crockett Club whose Big Game Records Committee issued a statement condemning “programs, contests or competitions that directly place a bounty on game animals by awarding cash or expensive prizes for the taking of wildlife.”

Mass killing of animals by people is anti-ecological. Persecution of coyotes disrupts the social structure of coyote communities, and may even trigger an increase in breeding and produce more coyotes. The indiscriminate killing of native carnivores fails to target problem animals, and can actually lead to an increase in conflicts with livestock. Coyotes also play a large role in controlling rodent populations and other species often considered “pests,” so the entire predicate for the mass killing is faulty.

Newspaper pictures of stacks of bloody carcasses from coyote killing contests send a message about disrespect for life and classes some animals as “good” and others as “bad” or “evil.” The state of Nevada recently approved landmark legislation to end the trafficking in the parts of imperiled wildlife, and the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners just enacted a tremendously forward-thinking ban on the commercial collection of reptiles. The Silver State should continue this positive trend by banning these backward, cruel, unsporting, and, frankly, embarrassing coyote killing contests.

Advocates across the United States can now fight back against cruel wildlife killing contests in their own communities with our new toolkit, “Wildlife Killing Contests: A Guide to Ending the Blood Sport in Your Community.” Email the HSUS Wildlife Protection team at wildlife@humanesociety.org for your copy.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. susan ballarini says:

    https://www.facebook.com/westsussex.huntsabs/ Those of us in the United States can take a lesson from the Hunt Saboteurs in other parts of the world. If the killers are using technology to call out the coyotes, we can interfere with the calls and with the hunts in other ways as well. Hunt Sabs are ingenious in the methods they use to save lives.

  2. Lisa m says:

    Shameful. Praying

  3. April says:

    Is there a NV regulatory body we can write to express concern over this, particularly for citizens or natives of NV?

  4. Fran Leard says:

    This is an outrage and laws need to be implemented to stop this horrible inhumane abuse of innocent animals. What is wrong with these greedy cowardly killers? This must be stopped now.

    • Jacqueline Greene says:

      Any protections that had reduced contests like these (primarily put in place by President Obama and his cabinet) have been repealed by Trump and his cabinet. The “sportsman’s” lobby, hunting lobbies, and gun lobbies are busy shoving money in pockets to keep hunt contests alive, and the gruesomer the better. They don’t care that scientific data and statistics prove that mass killings are detrimental to the wildlife communities and increase rodent and similar species populations, among other things. They just want to kill.

  5. Doris Muller says:

    The typical hunter’s mantra of justification goes something like this: I eat what I kill; I help manage nature (which by-the-way didn’t need managing until humans interfered); I contribute to nature by purchasing licenses (Never mind that these licensing programs were put in place to keep conscienceless humans from decimating all of the living nature); I reduce the deer population which leads to less traffic accidents (BS); I carry on tradition (Some traditions are just too cruel, and they should not be handed down); I pray for the animals I kill (dead
    animals don’t need prayers, but brutal, violent, conscienceless humans do).

    A more accurate hunter’s mantra reads like this: I enjoy killing animals; I get a huge thrill out of stalking; killing animals is good target practice; I love to brag about my killing successes; I feel empowered by killing; I love all the hunting accouterments; stalking and killing animals is a fun and exciting way to use my guns; I love the comradery with my like-minded buddies; while I’m stalking and killing, it’s all about me, therefore, I could care less about the life of an animal.

    Considering that parents spend their children’s young lives teaching them to respect and lovingly care for companion animals, I find it appalling that they see nothing wrong with fostering killing urges in their children simply because it’s a family tradition, or they *want* to eat it. Children would be better taught to respect, enjoy, and learn about nature without developing urges to stalk it and kill it.

    Those who take *joy* in killing are all afflicted by the same conscienceless, evil tendencies. In most cases, the killing urges were indoctrinated by prevailing value systems and their own families..

    Regardless of the species of the victim, a killer by any other name is still a killer.

    PS What’s wrong with this picture? I feed wild raccoons. In my state, it is illegal to be compassionate to raccoons. However, I could apply for a permit to *joyfully* kill them! it boils my blood that my tax money funds government entities that foster and enforce such appalling standards.

    • Mike White says:

      Feeding raccons is not compassionate. They are wild animals. Having them associate people with food is dangerous for both species.

      • Doris Muller says:

        You absolutely do not know what you are talking about!! You parrot standard societal myths. Many government laws pertaining to animals are based on outdated, ignorant standards. Perhaps you even work in a government entity that supports such merciless nonsense?

        Many laws enacted against animals are lobbied for by those who are killers and/or exploiters who profit from their deaths. They are supported by elected individuals who also share disgusting, conscienceless values. Humans are the most dangerous predators on earth!!


    • Gail says:

      Well said, Doris.
      Another recent “phenomenon” came along with the popularity of social media. These people love their selfies, smiling and gloating over the bloodied bodies of shot, arrowed or trapped animals. Worse, they are becoming quite vocal and are unabashedly willing to share their lack of ethics with the public. They are defiant and often abusive toward anyone who dares to criticize them. In fact I think they rather enjoy the attention albeit negative. They are secure in the fact that what they do is “legal” – which it usually is unfortunately.
      Overall, it’s probably best to ignore these types and funnel our energy into legislative changes which can’t come soon enough.
      Wildlife Killing Contests are a pathetic manifestation of the modern “sport” or “trophy” hunter and wildlife agencies need reminding that the public has become intolerant of these cruel, wasteful and unethical assaults on our wild ones.

    • Marilyn McGuire says:

      Right on, Doris! These phony rationales for slaughter need to be debunked.

    • M Leybra says:

      Doris M, every state’s wildlife agency makes it ‘illegal’ to be compassionate towards wildlife. No one has legal authority over your soul however, until good triumphs over evil, follow ur soul w/ prudence to keep from having to suffer personal grief due to legal vs illegal, be compassionate undercover, mostly so the animals don’t loose out on you.

    • Jacqueline Greene says:

      Well said, Doris. You are 100% right. It is an infuriating and heartbreaking situation.

    • Joanne Cockerill says:

      Beautifully put, Doris! Hear, hear! Here in NM, coyotes can be murdered in any number, with any weapon, at any time. But if you find an injured one, it is illegal for a veterinarian or rehabilitator to treat it. We live in a sick and twisted society, run by sick and twisted psychopaths.

  6. Nancy Zimerowski says:

    This is positively nauseating.

  7. Michele says:

    No animal should ever suffer needlessly. This is indeed cruelty.

  8. Dawn says:

    These are disgusting. Growing up in South Dakota, I witnessed these activities and events yearly, even young children praised for entering the contests with their parents. Pictures were taken and awards given for coyotes brought to death. For a state that prides itself on the picture of rural life and country scenery, it hates the creatures that were their first. So very sad.


    The government pays millions of dollars every year from your tax dollars to fly and shoot coyotes from planes and helicopters in NV alone. But i dont see you protesting that. They kill thousands of animals where these contests kill a fraction to what you let your tax dollars pay for. These contests could stop but the coyotes will still be getting gunned. Wake up and see that YOU are paying for the coyotes to die in nv, not these piddly contests.

    • Dtree says:

      Then again you must realize that hunters are doing it for the trophy and prize. The people from the government know what they are doing and kill accordingly. The government also doesn’t share piles of dead bodies on social media like the contests. Hunters devalue and disrespect animals by making a “sport” for killing them. Contests Discourage and portray hunting in an inhumane inclination.

  10. Ellen Perkins says:

    What a disgusting and disgraceful contest. A contest only people with murder in their hearts would enjoy. Bann it and boycott Nevada. Call Nevada’s congressman and tell them, NO WAY!

  11. Susan says:

    uneducated, hateful, sick white men-this is the definition of the low lifes attracted to a killing event. This is the basis of what is wrong with America

  12. Jumping Jack Flash says:

    Amazing they had a killing contest in Las Vegas and everyone was up in arms.. Yet this goes on and hardly anyone bats an eye..

  13. Ben Shrader says:

    I am a steeped in tradition as lifelong hunter (70+years), but a killing contest like this is most outraging and uncharacteristic of anyone proclaiming to be an ethical hunters. Recent studies of the public perceptions of hunting has enjoyed a nearly 80% public approval; however, public displays of killing wildlife just for a contest is sure to plummet that public approval. As a hunter educator we have taught our aspiring young hunters to respect all wildlife and that hunting is not a competition sport. An out and out slaughter contest like this is contradictory the same standard we teach our youth is necessary to become a hunter. Just because a species is defined a nuisance does not justify mass killing, because it is still a part of a complex ecosystem. As a kid hunter my father forbid the killing of even a nuisance groundhog if I did not eat it or give to someone else to eat. Yes, there are rare occasions when conflicts arise with livestock depredation, which may require local correction, but with less that 1% of livestock farmers ever reporting depredation, there is no justification for such wide spread killing of predators. After American settlers extirpated some species and drove others to near extinction we have benefited from action unique to North America to preserve hunting and make it available to all regardless of economic status. The North American Model for Wildlife Conservation was adopted and based on seven tenants on of which states “Wildlife Should Only be Killed for a Legitimate Purpose” of which contests for money is not one of them. Killing contests like this violate the cherished intent of the North American Model for Wildlife and should be abolished. Unfortunately a few slob hunters would rather take us on a suicide mission that to consider working with environmentalist on some real solutions to wildlife management and funding for wildlife habitat.

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