State wildlife officials propose ban on coyote killing contests

  • The eastern coyote MASSWILDLIFE/BILL BYRNE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2019 10:02:06 PM
Modified: 7/18/2019 10:01:56 PM

GRANBY — State wildlife officials are recommending the state prohibit hunting contests for coyotes following criticism of in-state coyote killing contests, such as an annual hunt in Granby. The proposed measures also cover many other furbearers such as bobcats, foxes and racoons. 

The proposal, which MassWildlife presented at a Fisheries and Wildlife Board meeting on Wednesday, also calls for prohibiting the “wanton waste” of any wildlife during hunting and trapping season and setting new reporting requirements for fox and coyote harvests. Wanton waste means the intentional killing of wildlife without retrieving animals for consumption or other use. 

The Fairview Sportsman’s Club in Granby has held a coyote hunting contest since 2012, with the most recent competition taking place this past winter. Entrants pay a $20 fee to enter, and half of the money is given to winners while the other half is donated to charities. Categories in the competition have included largest male and female coyotes and “smallest dog” killed, and most coyotes killed.

Outside of Granby, MassWildlife has also noted similar coyote killing contests in Hyannis and Pittsfield.

Carole Dembek, an animal rights advocate and licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has spoken out against the contests in Hyannis, said that she is "very pleased with MassWildlife's decision to ban wildlife killing contests,” and added that she is “particularly gratified” that MassWildlife went beyond her advocacy group’s request in extending the ban to all furbearers.

Massachusetts classifies coyotes, red and gray foxes, mink, beavers, bobcats, river otters, muskrats, fishers, raccoons, opossums, weasels, and skunks as furbearers. 

“Other states have banned wildlife killing contests, and that’s ultimately what we wanted,” Dembek said. “So I think that we’re all particularly gratified that they listened to the public.

California, Vermont, Arizona, and New Mexico have also passed bans on coyote, predator, or furbearer contests, and other states are considering a ban. 

“This is a national issue, and MassWildlife has now put themselves in a position to be in a leadership role, so I think that’s really important,” Dembek said. 

Dembek also praised MassWildlife’s recommendation to prohibit “wanton waste.” 

The recommendation prohibiting wanton waste "would require hunters and trappers to make a reasonable effort to retrieve game animals for consumption or other use,” according to MassWildlife. 

This regulation would not apply to animals, known as problem wildlife, that pose a threat to public safety, health, or property. Landowners can legally kill wild animals that are in the midst of attacking another person, pets, or livestock. 

Tom Anderson, president of the Fairview Sportsman’s Club in Granby, declined to comment on Thursday, citing a need for more time to read and familiarize himself with the recommendations. 

Speaking to the Gazette earlier this month, Anderson said that the club began holding the contests in an attempt to control the local coyote population. Members had noticed “a dwindling number of turkey, rabbits, pheasants, and deer,” in the area, he said, and two members also had issues with coyotes attacking their chickens.

Those opposed to the coyote killing contests have called the competitions inhumane and say that hunting contests are ineffective in controlling coyote populations.

About 9,500 to 11,500 coyotes live in the state, according to MassWildlife estimates. Around 400 to 750 have been hunted annually over the past decade, accounting for less than 10 percent of their total population.

The hunts that currently take place have “no detrimental impact on the coyote population,” according to MassWildlife.

Dave Wattles, a black bear and furbearer biologist with MassWildlife, told the Gazette last week that coyote levels may temporarily decrease locally after a hunting contest, but “controlling coyote populations long term is nearly impossible,” as the population will rise back to its previous level within the year. 

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


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