Undercover investigation of Maryland wildlife killing contests reveals cruelty, indifference to animal suffering
Our latest undercover investigation of wildlife killing contests in Maryland reveals a grisly world: one where contestants use digital technology to lure animals like foxes and coyotes to their death, riddle them with bullets in a mad rush to kill the most and heaviest animals, and then dump the animals like garbage once the contest is over.
Footage captured by the Humane Society of the United States at two such contests, the “Predator Hunters of Maryland” event in Unionville and the “Southern Maryland Predator Hunt” in Waldorf, shows contestants unloading foxes, coyotes and raccoons with gruesome injuries, their bodies bloody and ripped apart by bullets, from trucks. Worse, children seemingly inured to the violence play among the dead animals and even help drag them to the judging area.
Altogether, about 200 dead animals were placed before the judges in Unionville. Contestants were judged on a point system—killing a coyote earned five points, a fox three points and a raccoon one point. Prizes were also awarded for the heaviest coyote, the heaviest fox and the heaviest raccoon killed.
The winner of the Unionville contest took home a cash prize of around $400 for killing 38 foxes.
At the Waldorf contest, the winning team killed 27 foxes during the approximately 16-hour allowable “hunting” window.
Sadly, these are not the only contests of their kind in the state. At the 2019 Annual Central Maryland Predator Competition in Mount Airy, 236 red foxes, gray foxes and coyotes were killed; and the “Coyote in the Hills Hunt” is taking place right now in Oakland, Maryland, where participants are competing to kill the most coyotes for cash prizes.
Such unnecessary carnage is shocking to anyone with an iota of compassion. As more and more scientists and state wildlife agencies are pointing out, wildlife killing contests also serve no credible conservation purpose. In fact, they may create many more problems by removing animals who play important roles in their ecosystems.
For instance, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports that red fox populations are declining in some areas. Foxes provide balance in nature and, like all wild carnivores, they regulate their own numbers according to available habitat and prey. Also, when adult foxes are killed, dependent young may be orphaned and left to die from starvation, predation or exposure. But participants at one of the contests told our investigators—naively and wrongly—that killing contests create balance in nature because “people aren’t wearing fur anymore and the fox population gets out of control.”
Unfortunately, such ignorance and indifference to animal cruelty is not unique to Maryland. Wildlife killing contests happen around the country, causing a tremendous amount of animal suffering for thousands of animals each year, and we are on a mission to put an end to them.
In recent years, we’ve been gaining momentum, too. Over the past two years we’ve released undercover investigations of wildlife killing contests in New York, New Jersey and Oregon, where a bill to ban coyote killing contests passed the House today by a vote of 42 to 16. Five states have already banned these senseless events, including California, Vermont, New Mexico, Arizona and Massachusetts, and there are similar bills now under consideration in eight others, including Maryland.
The Maryland bill, introduced by Delegate Dana Stein, already has a long string of cosponsors. We’re going to put all of our energy behind passing this and the other bills in the coming days, with your support. If you live in a state where such contests take place, you can help: download our toolkit “Wildlife Killing Contests: A Guide to Ending the Blood Sport in Your Community,” and contact your HSUS state director to get involved. Let’s work together to eradicate the cruelty of wildlife killing contests for good.