the Big Game
What do all of these killing contests have in common? They award prizes to those who kill the most individuals and the largest (and sometimes the most females) perpetuating a culture of violence that sends a message to children that life has little value and that an entire species of animals is disposable. Despite the incomprehensible cruelty and predictable ecological destruction, hundreds of wildlife killing contests, many encouraging youth participation, take place throughout the country, resulting in countless deaths of vital predators.
Earlier this month in a remote northeastern corner of California, residents in Modoc County slaughtered at least 40 coyotes in an annual killing contest known as the Adin “Coyote Drive.” In Crane, Oregon last month, the “Eight Annual JMK Coyote Hunting Contest ” advertised no geographic restrictions for its killing contest that resulted in the death of close to 150 coyotes last year. (The number of animals killed were not disclosed this year.) In Salmon, Idaho coyotes and wolves were targeted in the “1st Annual 2 Day Coyote & Wolf Derby” where 21 coyotes were gunned down on the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) - our nation’s safety net for wildlife that brought wolves back from the brink of extinction.
What do all of these killing contests have in common? They award prizes to those who kill the most individuals and the largest (and sometimes the most females) perpetuating a culture of violence that sends a message to children that life has little value and that an entire species of animals is disposable. Despite the incomprehensible cruelty and predictable ecological destruction, hundreds of wildlife killing contests, many encouraging youth participation, take place throughout the country, resulting in countless deaths of vital predators. Project Coyote brought international attention to this issue generating thousands of emails and letters to federal and state agencies and to killing contest sponsors.
In addition to exposing the brutality, Project Coyote and allies challenged the legality of the contests in court and were instrumental in ensuring that some of the events did not take place on public lands. Most significantly, at the request of Project Coyote, the California Fish & Game Commission voted unanimously to consider a statewide ban on wildlife killing contests. Project Coyote Executive Director Camilla Fox requested a ban at the February 5th Commission meeting. “We urge you to use your authority to regulate and restrict take by initiating a rule-making process to prohibit wildlife killing contests — thus modernizing predator management, conservation and stewardship statewide- and setting the trend for the rest of the nation — as we do so well here in California.”
Newly elected Commission Vice President, Jack Baylis put forth the motion to move forward on the formal rule-making process to consider prohibiting wildlife-killing contests. Commission President, Michael Sutton showed his support for the motion stating, “I’ve been concerned about these killing contests for some time. They seem inconsistent both with ethical standards of hunting and our current understanding of the important role predators play in ecosystems.”
As a result of the Commission’s vote, a formal rule-making process will begin and the issue will be on the agenda at the April 16th Fish and Game Commission meeting in Ventura. Public testimony will be heard before the Commission votes on whether to permanently ban wildlife killing contests statewide. If you live in California, please join us in this effort. Project Coyote and eight conservation organizations, led by the Southwest Environmental Center, urged New Mexico Governor Martinez to remove two members of the New Mexico Game Commission, Chairman Scott Bidegain and Commissioner Robert Espinosa, for competing in and organizing coyote-killing contests, respectively. Conservationists in New Mexico have reason to be hopeful. Chairman Scott Bidegain, charged as an accessory to killing a cougar on his family’s ranch and facing pressure for his participation in the coyote-killing contest, recently resigned from the Commission.
And in an unprecedented stand, the
Las Cruces City Council voted unanimously in support of a resolution
opposing wildlife killing events that “encourage the wanton and unnecessary
killing of New Mexico’s wildlife. On February 18th, city councilors opposed
the Predator Masters Hunt & Convention, which takes place in and around Las
Cruces. Banning barbaric killing contests is a part of Project Coyote’s
vision to change the way predators are perceived and “managed.” We are
hopeful that like dog and cock fighting, which are now banned nationwide, we
can make wildlife killing contests a shameful relic of our past.
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