Conservationists in California are pushing the state’s Fish and Game Commission to ban contests that pay prizes for the most coyote kills. The move comes after a recent coyote hunting “derby” near Bakersfield, California, netted 11 of the canine predators in early November.
Wildlife managers say the coyote hunting contests are critical to mitigating predator impact on game animals, livestock and domestic pets. But critics say the hunts are cruel and unnecessary.
“Most people are shocked to learn that it is legal to kill coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and other wildlife as part of a contest or tournament for prizes and recreational fun,” Camilla Fox, director of the non-profit Project Coyote told SFGate.com. “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.”
California activist groups successfully lobbied the state’s Fish and Game Commission to schedule a Dec. 3 vote on whether to ban the practice of awarding prizes for wild game kills.
Protesters are even making inroads in normally hunt-friendly states like Idaho, where the state’s Bureau of Land Management office has received nearly 40,000 public comments on its annual coyote derby. Officials at the BLM say the comments are mostly from anti-hunting activist groups.
"A lot of the comments we're receiving, it's an emotional issue," a BLM spokesperson said, according to KIDK news. "They're saying, 'How can you allow these animals to be killed,' and I think people need to step back and realize we are a land management agency, so we're not looking at the actual action. What we're looking at is, is it going to impact the environment."
The Idaho hunt would open about 3.1 million acres of BLM land to 500 coyote hunters in January. But it is still unclear whether the Bureau will restrict its Idaho lands from the hunting “derby.”