Earlier this month, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to pass a rule to ban wildlife killing contests targeting coyotes and other animals in the state. In Oregon and elsewhere, we’ve been putting the bright light of scrutiny on these organized events, in which participants compete to kill the most and/or the largest animals in a specified time, vying for prizes such as cash or hunting equipment.

We worked hard for this one, for more than four years. To make it happen, we built a grand coalition, bringing together diverse stakeholders including more than 20 animal and conservation organizations, scientists, wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, wildlife management professionals, hunters and sympathetic farmers and ranchers. This show of unity sent the message that Oregonians from all walks of life would no longer tolerate such wanton cruelty. 

The battle began with our undercover investigation of a killing contest in Hines, Oregon, in 2018. There, in addition to the heartless slaughter of the targeted animals, we documented participants tossing dead coyotes from trucks onto the blood-soaked ground, dragging animals onto a scale to be weighed, and even using a dead coyote as a puppy’s play toy. Our exposé blew the lid off the secrecy that had shielded this underground activity for so long, and our campaign brought the full depravity of killing contests into public view.  

Our coalition then took the campaign to the legislature, flooding lawmakers’ offices with phone calls and emails from the public in support of a bill to end the killing. Political machinations sank the measure, so we pivoted to another approach. Late last year, we brought a petition to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, asking its members to ban killing contests. The commission voted to table the petition but directed the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to draft a proposed rule to prohibit contests. We then motivated thousands of Oregonians to contact the commission in support and encouraged citizens from a broad array of backgrounds to testify at a Sept. 15 hearing. Following the commission’s vote that day, we celebrated as Oregon became the ninth state to ban killing contests. 

We’re in hot pursuit of the 10th state as I write. Earlier this summer and 3,000 miles across the country, the New York state legislature passed a bipartisan bill (A.2917/S.4099) to end killing contests in the Empire State. This measure had been introduced in every legislative session since 2006, but we broke the logjam with an undercover investigation in 2018 and again in 2020, this time at the state’s largest killing contest in Sullivan County. New Yorkers, shocked that a small subset of the population was slaughtering the state’s coyotes, bobcats, foxes, squirrels, crows and other species at scale for cash and prizes, contacted their state legislators by the thousands.  

As in Oregon, we worked for years to mobilize and gather support from a large group of allies —including farmers, hunters, veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators and carnivore experts. Animal advocates wrote to their legislators, submitted letters to the editor of their local newspapers, and urged their family and friends to do the same. It was a time-honored approach, and just the right one for creating change in this instance. 

But to seal the deal in New York, we must convince Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign the bill into law. New York residents can act right now to respectfully encourage Gov. Hochul to put New York on the map with states that have rid themselves of an embarrassing and degrading form of cruelty that serves no legitimate wildlife management purpose whatsoever.

The campaign to end wildlife killing contests is a big fight, the kind the Humane Society of the United States was founded to take on and to win. It is a fight that needs to be carried out state-to-state, across the whole country, as we did in our campaigns to secure felony-level penalties for animal fighting and animal cruelty in every single state. As those fights did, it will take a few years to get there. But we hope to add four or five states—including Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey and Virginia—in the next two years, and we won’t rest until there are no states willing to host these brutal spectacles. Please lend your voice to this compelling cause—visit humanesociety.org/wildlifekillingcontests to learn more. 

Follow Kitty Block @HSUSKittyBlock.