Coyote

Coyote photo by Robin Silver

VAN NUYS, Calif.— In response to overwhelming public support for banning wildlife-killing contests, the California Fish and Game Commission voted Wednesday to adopt regulations prohibiting hunting “derbies” targeting species such as coyotes, raccoons and badgers. The ban came after thousands of Californians expressed opposition to the killing competitions.

“We’re grateful that the commissioners responded to the public’s call for science-based, ethical and ecologically sound stewardship of California’s wildlife,” said Amaroq Weiss, the Center’s West Coast wolf organizer. “Banning contests that reward people, including children, for killing animals is the right thing to do.”

Few Californians knew that existing state law allowed wildlife-killing contests. That changed in early 2013 after wildlife conservation groups pushed to increase public awareness of an annual “coyote-drive” killing contest held in Northern California. While wildlife-hunting contests occur throughout the state, the location of the coyote-killing competition sparked additional attention because it was held in Northern California counties frequented by OR-7, the dispersing Oregon wolf who became California’s first confirmed wild wolf in 87 years.

Outrage over the antiquated killing contests, including the threat to dispersing wolves like OR-7, resulted in public outcry for a statewide ban.

Under California law species such as coyotes, raccoons, badgers and others are designated as “nongame mammals” or “furbearers” — both of which can be killed in any number without limit. The commission’s decision to ban competitions targeting those two categories of animals was based, in part, on its recognition that subjecting the species to contest hunts does not reflect good sportsmanship. The commission’s vote does not ban contest hunts of species that are designated as game mammals, such as deer and elk.

“Today’s vote adds a measure of restraint and respect for species that are highly persecuted by some members of society and revered and loved by others,” said Weiss. “The commission and the state wildlife agency it oversees are required by state law to manage our natural resources, including wildlife, according to ecosystem-based management based on credible science, and these contests don’t come close to meeting those standards.”

Additional efforts across the country to end wildlife contest-hunts are meeting with success. In response to a lawsuit filed by the Center and allies, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management decided last week to withdraw a permit it had issued to a private party for a predator-killing contest in Idaho. Earlier this year a coyote-killing contest in Oregon was shut down after public outcry, and Washington residents spoke out at a commission hearing against similar contests.

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Coyote

BLM Approves Unprecedented 5-year Permit to Allow Killing Contests for Wolves, Coyotes, Weasels, Rabbits, Skunks and Others

BOISE, Idaho— Conservation groups filed a lawsuit today asking a judge to halt an annual, privately sponsored wild animal killing contest that was granted a five-year permit by the Idaho Bureau of Land Management. Recalling Idaho’s infamous bunny-killing drives, the annual killing contest, known as a “predator derby,” will award prizes to those who kill the most wolves, coyotes and other wildlife that inhabit public lands around the town of Salmon during a three-day contest every winter for five years. Citing an inadequate review of environmental impacts by the BLM, the lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, and Project Coyote asked a judge to stop the abhorrent, cruel and wasteful events.

Predator Hunting Contest

“It’s repugnant and shocking that wildlife-killing contests are still being allowed in the 21st century,” said Amy Atwood, endangered species legal director for the Center. “In approving this contest, the BLM is out of step with an American public that no longer supports the slaughter of wildlife for sport. Indeed, more than 90,000 people submitted comments opposing the contest, yet the permit was still issued.”

If allowed to proceed this winter, this will be the second predator derby organized by the misnamed “Idaho for Wildlife.” Last year’s contest was allowed to proceed on the Salmon-Challis National Forest without a permit or any environmental analysis from the Forest Service, and resulted in the killing of 21 coyotes and no wolves. The BLM prepared an environmental analysis to expand the contest to 3.1 million acres of public lands, but minimized the projected environmental impacts of the derby based on the number of animals killed last winter. However, given more advanced planning for this year’s contest, it’s expected to cover a greater geographic area and include more participants. The BLM analysis also failed to consider the important role played by predators in regulating prey populations and thereby benefitting a host of species, from beavers to songbirds.

Predator Hunting Contest

“Not only is the contest itself an embarrassment to the state of Idaho, but the BLM’s process in enabling the contest is also a throwback to the bad old days,” said Travis Bruner, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “The BLM basically walked the applicants through the process, worked to drum up support among the Idaho Fish and Game Department, and developed a communications plan to defend their choice to issue the permit – long before the analysis was even complete.”

The BLM denied a permit to conservation groups who sought to have a “Wildlife Viewing” contest at the same time. The Center and Western Watersheds Project requested a “special recreation permit” for an alternative derby the same dates and location. Rather than considering the relative merits of the contests and the impacts on the environment, BLM merely requested that the wildlife viewing contest be rescheduled. The denial is currently being protested.

“Most people are shocked to learn that it is legal to kill coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and other wildlife as part of a contest, derby or tournament for prizes and fun,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “They’re even more shocked to learn that hundreds of such contests take place each year in the U.S. killing thousands of wild animals.”

On Dec. 3 the California Fish and Game Commission will vote on a proposed statewide ban on wildlife killing contests.

The groups are represented by Amy Atwood from the Center. Laird Lucas and Bryan Hurlbutt from Advocates for the West represent the groups’ co-plaintiff, Defenders of Wildlife.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 800,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Western Watersheds Project works to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in the West through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy.

Project Coyote is a national non-profit organization promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science, and advocacy. Join our community on Facebook and Twitter.

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Howling Wolf

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