After Project Coyote representatives made the case for a ban, newly elected Commission Vice President Jack Baylis put forth the motion to move forward on a formal rule making process to consider prohibiting wildlife-killing contests statewide. Speaking in favor of the motion Commission President Michael Sutton stated, “I’ve been concerned about these killing contests for some time. They seem inconsistent both with ethical standards of hunting and our current understanding of the important role predators play in ecosystems.”
The move comes two days before “Coyote Drive 2014” is to take place in Modoc County Feb. 7-9th offering prizes to the contestants who kill the most coyotes and the largest. Last year Project Coyote and allies submitted a letter to the Commission on behalf of 25 organizations representing more than one million Californians asking that wildlife-killing contest be stopped based on ecological and ethical concerns. In addition more than 20,000 letters and emails were submitted to the Commission and the Department. The groups also argued that predator killing contests posed a threat to OR-7 (aka “Journey), the lone gray wolf who at the time had been tracked in Modoc and surrounding counties.
“What’s at issue, is the wanton waste of wildlife and the awarding of prizes and inducements to kill as many individuals as possible- and the largest,” stated Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “This is obviously not about sport or fair-chase. Wildlife killing contests are conducted for profit, entertainment, prizes and, simply, for the ‘fun’ of killing. No evidence exists showing that such indiscriminate killing contests control problem animals or serve any beneficial management function. Moreover such contests perpetuate a culture of violence and send the message to children that life has little value and that an entire species of animals is disposable.”
In addition to “Coyote Drive 2014” Project Coyote has discovered a number of other wildlife killing contests throughout the state. However, the state does not monitor such contests nor the species killed. “As a scientist, I’m here today to express my support for California’s efforts to reform predator management and to bring the state’s regulations and policies inline with three standards: current science, conservation biology, and ecological principles,” said Dr. Robert Crabtree, Science Advisory Board member of Project Coyote and Chief Scientist of the Yellowstone Ecological Research Center. “As such, I believe the first and most logical step is to do away with what we know violates these standards: wildlife-killing contests.”
Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe also testified in support of greater protections for coyotes, wolves and other wildlife stating that like predators, Native Americans were also persecuted and bountied in California.
“Killing random predators is about as effective at protecting livestock as bailing harder is at saving a sinking boat,” said Keli Hendricks, Petaluma-based cattle rancher and Project Coyote Advisory Board member who also testified before the Commission. “It might help for a short time, but the only real solution is to fix the hole in the boat. The way to fix that hole is to implement one or more of the many non-lethal livestock protection methods available to ranchers today. There are ranchers raising sheep and cattle successfully in challenging areas and around predators ranging from mountain lions to wolves using only non-lethal protection methods.”
Speaking for youth, 17 year-old Grant McComb, founder of One Planet One Chance stated “Wildlife killing contests that involve the mass slaughter of any animal is a blatant insult to future generations- my generation.” McComb traveled from Los Angeles to testify on the issue before the Commission.
“We urge you to use your authority to regulate and restrict take by initiating a rulemaking process to prohibit wildlife killing contests — thus modernizing predator management, conservation and stewardship statewide- and setting the trend for the rest of the nation — as we do so well here in California,” stated Fox.
As a result of today’s vote, a formal rule-making process will commence and the issue will be agendized at the April 16th Fish and Game Commission meeting in Ventura for a full public vetting before the Commission votes on whether to permanently ban wildlife killing contests statewide.
Project Coyote (ProjectCoyote.org) is a national non-profit organization promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science, and advocacy.