In a historic victory for wildlife, this week California became the first state in the nation to officially ban barbaric wildlife killing contests for good in a move that wildlife advocates are hopeful will set a precedent for other states to follow.
According to Project Coyote, more contests than we care to know about continue to take place under the radar because state wildlife agencies don’t monitor them, but they’ve been making headlines recently and a growing number of people have been speaking out against them. Thankfully wildlife officials and land managers are listening to the calls from wildlife advocates and are taking the problems with these unjustified events seriously.
Project Coyote petitioned the Commission earlier this year after news that a three-day Coyote Drive was taking place in Modoc County sparked outrage. Not only would the contest result in the cruel and senseless deaths of coyotes, but concerns also were raised that it threatened gray wolves who were protected earlier this year under the state’s endangered species act. California doesn’t have an established population, but the area was part of where OR-7, the first wolf to venture into California in 87 years, was known to visit.
In a 4-1 vote on Wednesday, the California Fish and Game Commission approved a proposal that closes loopholes that allow so-called hunters, including children, to participate in contests, tournaments or derbies that offer prizes or other rewards for killing the most, or biggest, predators.
“Awarding prizes for wildlife killing contests is both unethical and inconsistent with our current understanding of natural systems,” said Michael Sutton, President of the California Fish and Game Commission. “Such contests are an anachronism and have no place in modern wildlife management.”
While these competitions are held under the guise of wildlife management, or predator control, wildlife advocates and scientists argue that they’re not only cruel but counter to the goal of reducing conflicts with “nuisance” animals and that the indiscriminate killing of predators also ignores the valuable role they play in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Sadly many of the wild animals who are targeted in these events are left without legal protection and can be killed year round in unlimited numbers. Now, thanks in part to the public’s reaction and those who spoke up on behalf of species targeted in these disgraceful events, things are starting to change.
“Wildlife prevailed at this historic meeting and the public made it clear through thousands of letters and thoughtful testimonies that they want to see predators protected in California,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director Project Coyote. “We hope that this is a first step in reforming the state’s predator management regulations, policies, and codes.”
“We commend the commission for this enlightened decision and for setting a precedent for the nation,” she added. “We should not be killing wildlife for fun and prizes in the 21st century.”
The move also comes just a week after the Bureau of Land Management pulled a permit that would have allowed a hunters’ rights group to hold a predator derby targeting wolves, coyotes and other wild animals annually for the next five years on more than three million acres of public land in Idaho.