The California Fish and Game Commission, by a vote of 4-1 on Wednesday, approved a ban on coyote hunting contests statewide. This decision does not apply to the number of coyotes that can be hunted and killed, but it does impose a total prohibition on offering or receiving prizes for doing so.
California will no longer allow competitions to be held in which there is an award for killing the most coyotes within a set period of time.
The Associated Press quoted Michael Sutton, president of the Commission, as saying, “Awarding prizes for wildlife killing contests is both unethical and inconsistent with our modern understanding of natural systems.”
Coyote hunting contests have become the center of controversy in the past because ranchers have considered them a practical way to control a natural predator that attacks their herds. They have offered cash and other prizes to marksmen who killed the most animals. But there has been a change in societal attitudes toward killing any wildlife, with animal protectionists increasing their political influence to develop policies that impose emphasis on peacefully sharing the environment, rather than eradicating predators.
Concern about animal-rights groups earlier this year caused organizers of the Big Valley Coyote Drive in Northern California to keep the location of their hunt quiet. Opposition to the contests came from many groups, but especially from Project Coyote, a non-profit group which advocates for the end of wildlife killing contests.
California is the first to impose a ban of this kind in the nation, according to Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, which petitioned the state to end the popular contests that occur almost every month in California or nearby states, Yahoo.com reports.
Supporters of the ban said it would also help protect the endangered gray wolves. In 2011, a gray wolf named OR-7 entered Northern California from Oregon, making him the first confirmed wolf to enter California in nearly a century. Fears were voiced that OR-7 could become a target for hunters of coyotes, and many wanted to avoid a tragic situation like the one that occurred in 2012, when another famous gray wolf was legally shot after it wandered beyond the protected boundaries of Yellowstone.
The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) maintains that killing coyotes is not a reasonable option for controlling their population, because Nature acts quickly to fill in any unnatural reduction in numbers.