TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A hunting group accused by advocates of holding coyote “killing contests” is coming to southern Arizona and is expected to draw protests.
The group called Predator Masters is holding a convention in the Tucson area Thursday through Saturday, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
Animal protection advocates say the group's previous conventions have included daily predator hunts that amount to an “indiscriminate slaughter” of coyotes. Greg Hale, a Tucson resident who is organizing protests against the group, said a Predator Masters hunt in New Mexico last year left nearly 40 coyote carcasses strewn out and rotting.
But Predator Masters spokesman Bob Lemons strongly objected to the “slaughter” and “killing contest” characterizations. The nonprofit, web-based group won't organize or direct the hunting activities of group members during the convention in Tucson, he said.
“Every year, we have a Predator Masters hunt and convention” involving guest speakers and a fundraising banquet, Lemons said. “But we are not organizing a hunt. We are not organizing a contest. It's just people privately deciding they'd like to go out and hunt” on public lands with the appropriate hunting licenses.
Hunters target a variety of predators in addition to coyotes, Lemons said. Among them: bobcats, foxes, raccoons, ringtail cats and coatimundis.
Hunt opponents said they are planning protests, including one Saturday outside the International Wildlife Museum, the site of convention events.
“We want to make them unwelcome here,” Hale said. “What they do is a complete and indiscriminate slaughter of coyotes. It's more of a mass killing than a hunt,” with coyotes lured into firing range by hunters using predator-calling devices.
Judy Paulsen, spokeswoman for a group called Project Coyote, described the predator hunters as “thrill killers.”
“You see piles of slaughtered coyotes, but they're not using them for food or fur,” Paulsen said. “It's just for the fun of killing. There should be a total ban on this kind of coyote killing.”
The California Fish and Game Commission last year banned predator killing contests, she said.
Lemons said the group has “up to 50,000 members from all over the world” and that members stay in touch via the group's website.
“Predator Masters is not just going out to kill coyotes,” he said. “It's recreational sport hunting for predators.”