Maryland legislators have just passed a bill banning wildlife killing contests—cruel events where participants compete to win cash and prizes for killing the most or the heaviest animals.
The vote comes just over a year after we did an undercover investigation of such contests in the state that targeted foxes, coyotes and raccoons. Our investigators documented participants bringing in red foxes, their mouths zip-tied shut and their tiny bodies riddled with bullets from high-powered rifles. They tossed the dead animals into piles for weighing or counting.
To lure the animals to their death, contestants used digital technology that mimics the sound of prey or even young animals in distress.
Our footage outraged Marylanders and soon after the House of Delegates passed a bill to ban these killing contests by a landslide vote. But before the Senate could take up the bill, the legislature shut down for the year due to the pandemic.
Fortunately, the bill’s author, Del. Dana Stein, quickly reintroduced it in the 2021 legislative session, with Sen. Ron Young as the Senate sponsor. The bill moved forward with lightning speed, guided by HSUS Maryland state director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel and the group Maryland Votes for Animals, and passed both chambers this week. Organizations including the Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, the Animal Welfare Institute, In Defense of Animals and Project Coyote provided support.
The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan. We expect he will either sign it or let it pass into law without his signature.
Maryland is on track to become the eighth state to ban wildlife killing contests in just the last seven years—the others being Vermont, New Mexico, Arizona, Massachusetts, Colorado, California and Washington. These events have increasingly come under the scrutiny of Americans after we began to expose the carnage with undercover investigations in Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Indiana and Texas.
These events, with names like “Moondog Madness Coyote Tournament” and “Good Ol’ Boys Fall Predator Tournament,” glorify wanton killing and are not that much different from dogfighting and cockfighting, which have been outlawed in all U.S. states. Children are often present and are even encouraged to participate, inuring them to the violence at a young age. In Maryland, we found children playing among the dead animals and even helping to drag them to the judging area.
Wildlife killing contests are still held in nearly all of the 43 states where they are legal, but that is changing rapidly. Americans increasingly view animals like coyotes and foxes, who have long been persecuted because of misconceptions and are typically targeted in these events, with compassion. They also recognize the important role that these native carnivores play in a healthy ecosystem, and are acknowledging the wide variety of humane, effective strategies that are available to help them coexist with our other wild neighbors. Many more states are now considering similar bills to prohibit wildlife killing contests, including New York, New Jersey and Oregon.
We are grateful to Maryland lawmakers for acting decisively to end this cruel practice. We have incredible momentum in this fight right now and we need to keep it up and end these contests wherever they exist. If you live in a state where wildlife contests are still being held, please visit humanesociety.org/wildlifekillingcontests and download our toolkit to learn how you can help end them.