Exposed: Virginia wildlife killing contest where 600 animals were slaughtered in just 2 days

By on January 25, 2022 with 20 Comments

Today, we released the grisly findings of three undercover investigations into wildlife killing contests in Virginia, including the largest contest held east of the Mississippi River. The heartbreaking callousness and carnage our investigators saw at the weigh-ins of the three contests, which took place over the last 13 months, make it clear that Virginia should be the next state to ban this shameful pastime.

It was an eerie scene at the Eastern U.S. Predator Calling Championship in Wytheville on January 9, 2022, where investigators watched as trucks filled with dead coyotes and foxes slowly pulled into the Apex Arena, in assembly line fashion, to weigh and count the bodies. Young children played around the bloodied animals laid out on the dirt floor. A scent of rotting flesh filled the air.

Contestants of a wildlife killing contest bring their dead foxes and coyotes to be weighed and counted for prizes in Dugspur, Virginia, on January 17, 2021. The HSUS

Over the previous 44 hours, participants in the contest had gunned down at least 590 coyotes and several dozen foxes for the chance at champion belt buckles, trophies and $25,600 in prize money. Prize categories included killing the most, the smallest and the heaviest coyote; the heaviest and smallest fox; and the most combined of the two species. First place for “most coyotes killed” went to a three-man team that shot 38 coyotes. The “smallest fox” killed during the event weighed just 6.8 pounds—smaller than the average house cat. Organizers call the contest a “family-friendly event” and the “premier predator hunting event in the Eastern United States.” People from all states east of the Mississippi River were encouraged to participate in the competition, which takes place annually.

At the Kanawha Valley Predator Calling Championship in Dugspur in January 2021, trucks were adorned with phrases like “COYOTE TAXI” and “YOTE H8R,” epitomizing the unrelenting persecution that coyotes have endured for more than 100 years. Investigators documented contestants dragging coyotes and foxes, some with gaping wounds, from their trucks to the weigh station. Once again, children played among the dead animals strewn across the ground. First place went to a two-man team who killed 52 animals alone. At least 315 coyotes and foxes were slain during the contest.

And at the 2nd Annual Fall Predator Tournament located at the Lovingston Volunteer Fire Department in November 2020, firefighters helped weigh and count dead coyotes and foxes, which were swarming with flies on an unusually hot fall day.

These are disturbing but all-too-familiar scenes for our investigators, who have attended eight other such contests since 2018 in Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Texas. Participants in these events make no secret of the true motive behind the killing: prizes, bragging rights and fun. They joke about “gut shots,” boast about their high kill numbers and powerful guns fitted with night vision scopes, gloat of the “thrill” of using digital technology to lure animals in for an easy kill and admit to throwing animals in dumpsters after the prizes are awarded.

While these disgraceful competitions continue in staggering numbers in Virginia and nearly all the other 41 states where they are still legal, they have received widespread condemnation in recent years as more people learn about them. A new poll by the respected firm Remington Research found that 80% of Americans are opposed to wildlife killing contests, and wildlife management professionals and hunters across the country have raised ethical concerns about the events and warn that they risk threatening the public’s acceptance of hunting in general. Tony Wasley, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, recently stated, “Killing contests are ethically upsetting by virtue for most members of society. Hunting should not be a competition as such behavior ultimately degrades the value of life and undermines respect for the animals being hunted.”

The science, too, is unequivocal: Wildlife killing contests are not a tool for managing wildlife and are even counterproductive to such goals. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources recently explained that there is a “misconception that predator killing contests provide benefits to the public and other wildlife species,” and there is “no scientific evidence” to support claims that killing contests reduce carnivore numbers, prevent livestock attacks or boost populations of game species like deer for hunters. The best available science shows that indiscriminately killing coyotes actually increases their numbers and increases conflicts with livestock.

We won’t stand by as a small subset of people treat our country’s wild animals as nothing more than pawns in a game for cash and prizes. We’re working in states across the country to eradicate killing contests and the cruelty and violence they promote. Last year—in a landslide, bipartisan vote—Maryland became the eighth state to prohibit such contests (after California, Vermont, New Mexico, Arizona, Massachusetts, Colorado and Washington). Neighboring Virginia, where more than 60 wildlife killing contests have taken place since 2015, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York, are all considering legislation to outlaw killing contests this year.

You can help relegate these horrific contests to history by learning more and contacting your HSUS state director to find out how you can get involved. Virginia residents can contact their state lawmakers and ask them to support legislation to ban wildlife killing contests.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

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

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Ya no podemos permitir mas violencia yas injusticias esto no es justo el sufrimiento no es diversión no deporte esto tiene que acabar ya

  2. Heather Jorgensen says:

    This should never be allowed. This is a grotesque way to treat living, breathing, feeling creatures. Humans should behave better than this, it’s barbaric and needs to be illegal. It’s at the root of all that is evil. We would never want that happening to a domesticated animal we deem “a pet” but somehow we have justified the slaughter of other animals. How is that ethical?

  3. EVELYN SMITH says:

    This is absolutely disgusting and incredulously inhumane.

  4. Anil says:

    This is a sorry and sick state of human mind, where we call it fun by seeing other animals get killed. This is not sport, but barbarism. There are tons of issues, where these folks can contribute, instead of pointless macho feeling. Let’s bring awareness and education to these misguided folks and government people who allows it.

  5. annah says:

    This is a heartbreaking situation, a massacre of sentient yet those in authorities sit back and let it happen, having read your literature it clearly states that 80% of American are against wildlife killing, so why cannot be stopped.

  6. maureen corso says:

    Never will understand how killing is fun!

  7. Nancy Kerwin says:

    How can this be happening? What can I do to help STOP 🛑 this is so sad, sickening, disgusting, horrible m, horrific!!!

  8. Lynne Sutcliffe says:

    I hate the wildlife contest ! They all should be Stopped In every state ! I know there should be Culling of the coyotes, but there are better ways.

  9. Thelma Hanson says:


  10. Karen Myers Crosby says:

    This behavior by hunter is unconscionable. Please stop this senseless killing!!!! Do something to protect these animals immediately!!!

  11. Marian Kauffman says:

    This is the most disgusting cruel”event” and it must be outlawed and the persons
    responsible punished to the full extent of the law!
    Why is it “fun” to destroy wildlife.? The animals are so much a part of our
    world and must be protected…..they are part of the life cycle of our forests
    and wild places.
    PLEASE protect them!

  12. Angie Unruh says:

    HOW ABSOLUTELY UNCONSCIONABLE! And to think that children are being taught that life has no value! I AM APPALLED AND GRIEVED that only bloodlust preserves the false pride in humans that this behavior makes them of great value and pride. I am sickened! There must be laws passed to convict killers of animals!

  13. Carol McGuire says:

    So cruel, So Wrong

  14. Jane Collins says:

    Legislation is very needed to help ban wildlife killing contests.

    • val baker says:

      I live in southern Iowa and Trophy Hunting of coyotes is going on in Iowa and pictures of the dead coyotes are published in the local newspapers. The simpleton hunters think they are big men.

  15. Rita Fischedick says:

    These contests are horrific to say the least. they should be banned in all 50 states.

  16. Cherina says:

    This is truly a disturbing act of violence. The participants who committed this grotesque act are in serious need of mental help! Please get help as this is not a normal sport!

  17. Jack says:

    I’m not a fan of these types of contests. But I do hunt coyote on occasion.

  18. Brian Hunnicutt says:

    It sounds like a lot of fun and I have certainly lost several thousand dollars work of livestock to coyotes. Most of the time it’s calves less than a day old. I think I’m going to give these contests a try.

  19. Destiny moser says:

    This is very very wrong and should be against the law as well as deforestation.
    We get what we need not what we want and even then we replant .
    In my opinion we need to replant more often than we do now !!!!

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