State wildlife officials reviewing coyote killing contests 

  • A sign hanging at the entrance to the Fairview Sportsman's Club on Carver Street in Granby. Photographed on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. The club puts on an annual coyote hunt for charity in the winter. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Brian Colcombe of Chicopee talks about coyotes during a lunch break at Cindy's Drive-In in Granby on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. The Fairview Sportsman's Club in Granby puts on an annual coyote hunt for charity in the winter. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The entrance to the Fairview Sportsman’s Club is seen on Carver Street in Granby.

  • Karen Dumais of Granby talks about coyotes during her shift as a stylist at Five Corner Cuts in Granby on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. The Fairview Sportsman's Club in Granby puts on an annual coyote hunt for charity in the winter. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Entrance to the Fairview Sportsman's Club on Carver Street in Granby. Photographed on Tuesday, July 2, 2019. The club puts on an annual coyote hunt for charity in the winter. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • George Barroso, left, of Ludlow and Brian Colcombe of Chicopee talk about coyotes during a lunch break Tuesday at Cindy’s Drive-In in Granby. Colcombe said overabundant coyotes pose a danger to pets and didn’t see how the killing contest put on by the Granby Sportsman’s Club was much different from other types of hunting. STAFF PHOTOS/KEVIN GUTTING

  • An eastern coyote FILE PHOTO

  • An eastern coyote is seen at the Akron Zoo in Ohio in June 2016. They are common throughout the northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada. DAVID ELLIS/VIA FLICKR

Staff Writer
Published: 7/5/2019 11:46:53 PM
Modified: 7/5/2019 11:46:39 PM

GRANBY — Following increased attention on coyote killing contests — such as the one held annually in Granby — the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is assessing its stance on the competitions and taking comments from the public.

Hunters say such contests are a way to control the coyote population and to prevent coyote attacks on other animals and people. Opponents of the contests say they are cruel and ineffective in limiting the coyote population.

The Fairview Sportsman’s Club in Granby has held a coyote killing contest annually since 2012, club president Tom Anderson told the Gazette in an email. The contest awards cash prizes for the largest male and female coyotes killed, as well as for the most coyotes killed. The third category can fluctuate, Anderson said. For example, an application posted on the club’s website shows a “smallest dog” category in place of most coyotes killed.

Anderson said members of the Fairview Sportsman’s Club began holding the contests in response to “a dwindling number of turkey, rabbits, pheasants and deer,” and noted that two club members had issues with coyotes killing their chickens.

“We’re trying to control the coyote population around the club area,” Anderson said.

The contest in Granby is held between Jan. 1 and March 2 and entrants pay a $20 fee. Anderson said half of the funds are divided among winners and the other half is donated to charity.

The most recent contest in 2019 had a low turnout, Anderson said, with eight hunters registered and no coyotes checked in. But in “one of our better years, we had 18 coyotes checked in,” he said. State regulations and the Fairview Sportsman’s Club place no limits on the number of coyotes killed.

Aside from the contest in Granby, MassWildlife has also noted coyote killing contests in Pittsfield and Hyannis.

Coyote killing contests have prompted an outcry on Cape Cod, where opponents of the contest, held by the Hyannis gun and fishing store The Powderhorn Outfitters, say the practice is cruel and violates animal rights.

“In modern society there’s no place” for coyote killing contests, said Carole Dembek, an animal rights advocate and licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has been among those speaking out against the contest in Hyannis.

“It doesn’t make sense to be giving out prizes for killing animals,” Dembek said. “That’s barbaric.”

Coyotes in Massachusetts

Dave Wattles, a black bear and furbearer biologist for MassWildlife, said hunting contests may cause a temporary dip in the coyote population, but “controlling coyote populations long term is nearly impossible,” as their numbers will bounce back to previous levels within the year because of available resources.

Coyote populations would need to “experience extremely high levels of mortality” — around 70 percent of the population — in order for their numbers to permanently decrease, Wattles said. He said hunters statewide harvest “probably less than 5 percent of the total population” of coyotes. Ultimately, Wattles said MassWildlife does not believe coyote hunts have a detrimental impact on their population.

Massachusetts has “very high levels of coyotes,” Wattles said, with the population at “saturation level … where coyotes are living in very high densities” due to access to abundant resources. Their numbers are particularly high in suburban areas, where coyotes can feed on human-associated foods, such as compost piles and bird feeders, he said.

Even with this large coyote population, attacks on humans remain uncommon. MassWildlife has confirmed 12 direct attacks on people by coyotes since 1998, with eight of these attacks and an additional three or four unconfirmed incidents occurring since 2011. Although attacks have taken place at a higher rate in recent years, Wattles said he would still characterize incidents as “very rare,” with most involving coyotes that are rabid or have been intentionally fed by people.

Coyote attacks recently made headlines in Woburn, where a Jack Russell terrier died after it was attacked by at least two coyotes Monday morning. The dog was not attended by its owner at the time of the attack, according to news reports.

To limit encounters between coyotes, humans and other animals, Wattles said people should use secure fences and cages for livestock, keep cats and dogs leashed and accompanied by their owner when outside, and limit food sources in their yards.

“If we had no food in our yards and neighborhoods, it removes the motivations for coyotes to come here,” Wattles said.

Community response

Most of the Granby residents interviewed by the Gazette this week said they had not heard of the contest hosted by Fairview Sportsman’s Club. But on learning of it, the concept sparked distaste among some, such as Granby resident Ann Rousell.

“My feeling is to just leave them alone,” Rousell said of coyotes. “They deserve to live like anyone else.

“People don’t eat coyotes, so to me, that’s wasting a life,” she said.

Rousell acknowledged that some people have issues with coyotes hurting their pets or other animals, but said precautions can be taken to avoid these encounters.

“If you live in the country, you have to be smart,” Rousell said, adding that she lives near conservation land and has never had problems with coyotes. “You have to watch your animals.”

For Brian Colcombe of Chicopee, coyote killing contests do not stand out from other types of hunting.

“It’s the same thing you do with deer, moose … It’s like everything else you hunt,” Colcombe said. He said coyotes have overpopulated the state and pose a danger to people’s pets.

Granby Town Administrator Christopher Martin and Select Board Chairman Jay Joyce both said they are not familiar with the coyote hunt in town, but Joyce said that the club has a right to hold the contests as long as they stay within state hunting regulations and local permitting, and do not intrude on anyone else’s property.

Coyote hunting season was Jan. 1 through March 8 in 2019, per state regulations, and will begin again in October. State regulations also place limits on factors such as hunting hours and methods, and require that hunters obtain certain licenses and permits.

While Granby does not have an official stance on the contests, both town officials held some reservations about killing coyotes as a contest and criticized a prize being awarded for the “smallest dog.”

“If you’re protecting your own animals, I think you have a right,” Joyce said, adding that the town has “an issue with people losing their pets” to coyotes and other predators.

“But just to do it because you can, I don’t think that’s right,” he said of the contests.

Joyce said that as long as hunters do not violate state laws, “there’s nothing you can do. It’s up to the State House.”

Advocacy efforts

Through grassroots efforts, animal rights advocates like Dembek hope to influence the state to impose a ban on coyote killing contests. Dembek and others opposed to the competitions are currently pushing for MassWildlife to pass regulations establishing an immediate ban on coyote killing contests, and Dembek said they are prepared to take other routes if necessary.

“People are very, very committed to having these contests end,” Dembek said, “and people are prepared to go through legislation to have a ballot question.”

“Everyone is very hopeful that MassWildlife will listen to the public and do the right thing,” she said. “If they don’t, it’s not going to stop here. We will continue and find ways to do it.”

As in Granby, residents of other communities commonly don’t realize these competitions take place in their area, Dembek said. But if more people knew, Dembek believes that the majority would oppose the contests.

“A lot of people try to keep these quiet,” Dembek said. “A lot of people don’t know these are going on, and then when they’re exposed, the public outcry is pretty significant.”

Elizabeth Magner, an animal advocacy specialist with MSPCA-Angell in Boston, said that the organization “opposes all wildlife killing contests.”

Coyote killing competitions “damage the reputation of ethical hunters,” Magner said, and that the contests can “create an uptick in encounters with coyotes.”

Anderson, president of the Fairview Sportsman’s Club in Granby, disputed claims that the contests are unethical.

“As sportsmen, we are the first conservationists,” Anderson said. “We want clean rivers for fishing. We want open lands for hunting, camping, hiking.”

In addition to taking comments, MassWildlife also conducted several sessions throughout the state to garner public opinion. Residents may continue to submit comments by emailing mass.wildlife@state.ma.us, or sending written comments to the organization’s headquarters at 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Wattles expects MassWildlife to develop an official assessment within the next couple of months.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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