Editorial: Ban of coyote killing contests a smart idea

  • In this 2008 photo provided by Josh Harrison, a coyote stands in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Josh Harrison via AP

Published: 7/18/2019 9:00:23 PM
Modified: 7/18/2019 9:00:12 PM

We’re glad the agency responsible for the protection of the state’s wildlife is calling for a ban on killing contests for coyotes and other furbearers such as bobcats, foxes and racoons — and we hope that Massachusetts soon implements such prohibitions.

Coyote killing competitions are a distasteful — and disingenuous — way to practice sport and control a growing coyote population, as organizers claim.

These contests, one of which is hosted by the Fairview Sportsman’s Club in Granby between Jan. 1 and March 2 each year, have garnered much attention this year. Other coyote killing contests are held in Pittsfield and Hyannis, the latter of which has prompted an outcry with opponents saying the practice is cruel and violates animal rights. They also argue the contests are ineffective in limiting the coyote population.

Supporters counter that the contests are a way to control the coyote population and to prevent coyote attacks on other animals and people.

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife officials began exploring the issue in the spring with a series of public hearings, including one in Shelburne Falls.

In addition to banning killing contests, staff are recommending that MassWildlife’s board:

■ Prohibit “wanton waste” of all wildlife taken during regulated hunting and trapping seasons. Wanton waste means the intentional killing of wildlife without retrieving animals for consumption or other use.

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull> Change harvest reporting requirements for fox and coyote to be reported within 48 hours.

“The recommendation addresses concerns that hunting contests are unethical, contribute to the waste of animals, and incentivize indiscriminant killing,” the recommendations said.

The board will next hold a public hearing on the recommendations.

Fairview Sportsman’s Club launched its contest in 2012. The event awards cash prizes for three categories — largest male and female coyotes killed, total number of coyotes killed and a final category that varies from year to year.

Its president says the idea behind the competition is to address “a dwindling number of turkey, rabbits, pheasants and deer” that coyotes are presumably killing. Two club members also had issues with coyotes killing their chickens.

Here’s the problem with that logic: Coyote hunting as a tool to limit population doesn’t work, wildlife experts say. In an interview with Gazette reporter Jacquelyn Voghel earlier this month, Dave Wattles, a black bear and furbearer biologist for MassWildlife, said controlling coyote populations is “nearly impossible,” as their numbers will bounce back to previous levels within the year. Wattles said that it would take “extremely high levels of mortality” — around 70 percent of the population — for their numbers to permanently decrease.

MassWildlife estimates that the statewide coyote population is between 9,500 and 11,500. Over the last 10 years, the annual harvest from coyote hunting season has been between 400 and 750, or less than 10 percent of the population.

In this context, coyote killing contests do nothing to curb the population. They are for entertainment — essentially, they are a game for killing.

To be clear, such contests like the one held in Granby are legal, as long as the hosts stay within state hunting regulations that allow coyote hunting from mid-October through early March. But that doesn’t mean they are ethical.

Coyotes are wild animals, potentially dangerous to livestock, pets and even young children. There have been only 12 confirmed attacks on humans since 1998. Killing contests won’t provide long-term protection.

As with bears and other animals, wildlife experts urge people to take precautions. Coyotes should be treated with caution and respect, and never fed.

Other recommendations include keeping pets up to date on vaccinations; removing food and habitat sources for small animals like rodents; fencing at least 6 feet high and 1 foot below ground; installing motion sensitive outdoor lighting and sprinklers; securing hobby livestock in well-built pens; and using livestock guard dogs, donkeys and llamas.

If none of these tactics work, state and local officials have the authority to kill a coyote posing a threat.

Coyotes are everywhere. They are a part of the ecosystem. Shooting coyotes for entertainment serves no good purpose. It’s time for Massachusetts to join California, Arizona, Vermont and New Mexico in banning contests that reward hunters for killing them.




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