Scientists and Wildlife Protection Organizations Call for an End to the U.S. Predator Challenge
Wyoming Wildlife Advocates is a proud member of the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today more than 50 North American scientists and more than 30 wildlife and animal protection organizations that are part of the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests (“Coalition”) are calling on state and local officials to reject the United States Predator Challenge (“USPC”), a barbaric competition that will award prizes for killing the most coyotes in three regional contests over the next few months.
Wildlife killing contests are held in almost every U.S. state and are becoming more frequent, but the USPC is one of the first to take it to the national level. Wildlife killing contests are a bloodsport similar to dogfighting and cockfighting. While the USPC organizers claim the competition will “set the bar for the highest standards of excellence in predator competitions through sportsmanship, honesty and respect for the outdoors,” in reality these contests contravene modern, science-based wildlife management principles. A 2018 undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States showed wildlife killing contest participants piling up coyotes and foxes they had killed to be judged for prizes, and laughing and posing for photos in front of the dead animals. In many contests, young children are encouraged to participate, and hunting equipment and high-powered rifles—including AR-15s—are awarded as raffle prizes.
In the USPC, teams of two can enter in any of three regions to kill coyotes and turn them in at body-count check-in points. The Western region portion of the contest was held December 7-8, 2018, with a central Utah check-in; the Eastern region portion will be held January 11-13, 2019, with a Virginia check-in; and the Midwestern region contest will be held February 1-2, 2019, with a Nebraska check-in. According to the posted contest rules, teams can kill coyotes in any state in a designated region, but must be present for body-counting of carcasses at the check-in point(s) in that region. An accumulation of points will determine the national champions. Firearm, predator-calling device, and hunting gear manufacturers and sellers are sponsoring the competition.
Coyote killing contest organizers often justify their events with misleading claims that they will reduce conflicts with coyotes. “There is no documented scientific evidence that coyote killing contests permanently reduce coyote abundance, increase populations of deer or other game species, or prevent conflicts between predators, humans and livestock,” said Dave Parsons, MS, retired career wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Project Coyote Science Advisory Board member. “These contests are symptomatic of a broader problem of misguided wildlife governance by state agencies that fails to recognize and value the crucial ecological roles of native predators.”
Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote and a founding member of the Coalition, stated: “Indiscriminately killing coyotes through events such as the U.S. Predator Challenge may lead to more coyotes and more conflicts because it creates instability in coyote family structures. Special-interest agricultural and trophy hunting groups perpetuate myths about coyotes in part because it is considered more expedient to kill than to implement responsible, science-based conservation and management.”
“Wildlife killing contests remove any notion of fair chase, the fundamental hunting ethic that dictates that the hunter should not gain an unfair advantage over the hunted,” said Jill Fritz, director of wildlife protection at the Humane Society of the United States and a founding member of the Coalition. “Participants often use electronic calling devices to attract coyotes into rifle range with sounds that mimic prey or even the cries of a coyote in distress. Manipulating animals’ natural curiosity or compassion to lure them in for an easy kill is a reprehensible practice condemned by hunters and non-hunters alike.”
Wildlife killing contests are a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine, a foundational judicial principle mandating that governments hold natural assets, including wildlife, in trust for the general public and future generations. Allowing a minority of the population to slaughter coyotes en masse at the expense of the majority of people who value the intrinsic, ecological and aesthetic value of native carnivores damages the reputation of state wildlife management agencies and sportsmen alike.
In recent years, California and Vermont have banned coyote killing contests, and several states will consider similar legislation in 2019. Recently, the city councils of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, passed resolutions condemning wildlife killing contests. The city of Tucson and Pima County in Arizona have also passed similar resolutions in recent years.
North American scientists and the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests call on state legislators, state wildlife management agencies, and local officials to respect this national trend and outlaw future stagings of the U.S. Predator Challenge and other wildlife killing contests in their states.
Go here to view the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests website.
To view and download the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests’ U.S. Predator Challenge factsheet, click here.
To view a copy of the scientist coalition letter, click here.
See the Humane Society of the United States’ in-depth look at wildlife killing contests, “Better off alive,” in the September-October 2018 issue of All Animals magazine here.