Vermont, like many other U.S. states, has played host for many years to coyote killing contests — gruesome events where contestants vie to win prizes for killing the most, or the heaviest, animals. But in late 2017, when advertisements for the “1st Annual Weston Rod and Gun Club Coyote Hunting Contest,” to be held in February 2018, appeared in local media, Green Mountain state residents decided that enough was enough. For a mere $25 entry fee, participants in that contest could compete to kill the heaviest coyote for the first place grand prize of a high powered rifle, and a second place prize of an electronic coyote calling device that generates the sound of prey or a fellow coyote in distress to lure the shy but curious wild canines out into the open for an easy shot.
Protests that followed the announcement led to organizers canceling the contest before it could be held. But the celebration was muted by the knowledge that coyote killing contests were continuing in other locations like Bristol, Orleans and Franklin County. So animal advocates in Vermont took the fight to their state house. Last night, they secured a huge victory for coyotes and wildlife advocates everywhere when a bill that prohibits all coyote killing contests in the state was enacted into law.
Vermont is among several states that have begun to crack down on wildlife killing contests. California has enacted regulations to curtail such contests and Colorado limits the number of animals who can be killed by contest participants. Last year, Maryland put a moratorium on cownose ray killing contests in the Chesapeake Bay. Recently, the city council of Albuquerque, New Mexico, unanimously passed a resolution condemning coyote killing contests, and called for a statewide ban. A bill in New York State seeks to end this senseless practice, and in coming months more states are expected to put forward similar proposals.
There is nothing even remotely sportsmanlike about wildlife killing contests; on the contrary, they only cause unnecessary death and promote casual indifference to the suffering of animals, as an undercover video we released earlier this month showed. Our investigators went to wildlife killing contests held in New York and New Jersey and photographed participants piling up and hanging the dead bodies of coyotes and foxes they killed and celebrating while prizes were awarded for the carnage.
Last year, the Humane Society of the United States joined with Project Coyote and 20 other state, regional and national wildlife and environmental advocacy groups to form the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests to address the issue through education, advocacy, legislation and litigation. We launched our toolkit, “Wildlife Killing Contests: A Guide to Ending the Blood Sport in Your Community.” Project Coyote premiered its groundbreaking film KILLING GAMES: Wildlife in the Crosshairs, featuring interviews with prominent scientists, ranchers, hunters, public officials and Native Americans, and it is now touring the film festival circuit to glowing reviews.
In a new article, outdoors writer Ted Williams points out that it’s not just wildlife advocates speaking out against wildlife killing contests; state wildlife management agencies are talking about their ineffectiveness. They have pointed out that these contests can damage the image of sportsmen and sportswomen at a time when hunting numbers are declining, wildlife watching numbers are rapidly growing, and the public is increasingly questioning how their tax dollars are spent to manage the wildlife held in their trust.
The victory in Vermont is significant, and it sends an unequivocal message: Americans are fed up with this needless killing of wildlife. You can do your part to end wildlife killing contests in your state by signing our petition to state wildlife management agencies. You can also download our toolkit, or contact your HSUS state director to join the movement against wildlife killing contests and make them extinct once and for all.