Undercover investigation exposes grisly cruelty at Oregon wildlife killing contest; lawmakers move to ban such events in the state
Wildlife killing contests are gruesome events, where participants compete to kill as many animals as they can for cash or prizes, usually over an entire weekend or sometimes over months. In the crosshairs are coyotes, bobcats, foxes, rabbits, squirrels and even mountain lions, among other animals, and the winner is often whoever kills the heaviest or the most animals. It is a primitive concept and there is absolutely no justification for the animal suffering it causes. That’s why we have made it our mission at the Humane Society of the United States to wipe these contests off the face of the earth.
This past December, our investigators went undercover at the weigh-in for the “Young Farmers & Ranchers First Annual Coyote Hunt” in Oregon to expose the depraved nature of wildlife killing contests. The weigh-in was being held in the parking lot of the HC Sporting Goods store south of the Malheur National Forest in Oregon. What our investigators saw was chilling.
Trucks pulled into the parking lot one after the other to unload the bodies of the animals. The contestants laughed and joked about their kills as they tossed dozens of bloody carcasses from the trucks and dragged them across the parking lot so they can be weighed. One participant remarked that the snow covering the ground made it easier to track and kill the coyotes, and another pointed out, to laughter, “this one here got gut shot.”
Our investigators were told that the coyotes killed for the Hines contest would be going to a fur buyer, though that could not be confirmed. In most cases the bodies of the animals killed during these contests are discarded like trash.
Most Oregonians, like most Americans, do not support such callous disregard for our wildlife. That’s why three Oregon senators today introduced a bill, SB 723, that will ban these contests in their state.
The HSUS supports this bill, co-sponsored by Senators Michael Dembrow, Sara Gelser, Jeff Golden and other Oregon lawmakers. Some of them joined our Oregon Senior State Director Kelly Peterson at today’s event in Salem, along with scientists, conservationists, wildlife advocates and ethical hunters who spoke out against these contests and for the need to end them. They pointed out that wildlife killing contests do not reflect the humane values and commitment to conservation that a vast majority of Oregonians share.
In fact, a recent poll of Oregon voters commissioned by the HSUS and conducted by Remington Research Group, found that nearly 60 percent of the citizens of the Beaver State support a statewide ban on such contests. An editorial in the Statesman Journal of Salem, Oregon, headlined “Oregon doesn’t need coyote-killing contests,” called for banning wildlife killing contests in the state.
But despite their unpopularity among the general public, wildlife killing contests happen with an astonishing frequency in almost every state. At least five were held in Oregon in recent years. The contest our investigators went to was sponsored by the Oregon Farm Bureau, with participants competing for cash prizes for killing the heaviest coyotes. Often the primary sponsors of such events are manufacturers of weapons, ammunition, and game-calling devices that lure animals by mimicking the sound of a fellow wild animal in distress.
In recent years, the HSUS and wildlife advocacy organizations have made tremendous progress in ending wildlife killing contests. In 2014, California banned wildlife killing contests for cash or prizes. Colorado limits the number of animals that can be killed by wildlife killing contest participants. In 2017, Maryland placed a moratorium on cownose ray killing contests in the Chesapeake Bay. Last year, we helped pass a law banning cruel coyote killing contests in Vermont.
The HSUS did undercover investigations into wildlife killing contests in New York and New Jersey last year, and in coming months we expect bills banning these contests to be introduced in both of these states, as well as in Washington state, New Mexico and Massachusetts.
If you would like to find out how you can initiate efforts to end wildlife killing contests in your community, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or download our toolkit. Together, let’s work to send these cruel contests and the animal suffering they cause into history, which is the only place they belong.