Today the Humane Society of the United States released the results of a disturbing undercover investigation into a wildlife killing contest in Texas held on January 24. Texas is thought to have the largest number of wildlife killing contests of any state in the country.
Investigators documented participants arriving at the De Leon Pharmacy and Sporting Goods’ Varmint Hunt #1 and dragging bloody bobcats, coyotes, grey foxes and raccoons from their trucks to the weigh station in the parking lot. Judges awarded cash prizes for a “stringer hunt”—one coyote, one fox, one bobcat and one raccoon—with the participant bringing in animals with the highest combined weight winning first place. The $200 entry fee for each team determined the payout for first prize. The undercover HSUS investigators also witnessed organizers giving out cash prizes for the heaviest coyote, heaviest bobcat, heaviest fox and heaviest raccoon.
In total, participants killed at least 60 animals in the 21-hour contest. A team of three men calling themselves “Dead-On” won the event, killing five coyotes, two bobcats, a raccoon and a fox. More than $3,000 in cash prizes were handed out.
"Wildlife killing contests make a cruel game of slaughtering animals and have no place in Texas,” said Lauren Loney, Texas state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “The horrific shooting of native animals for cash and prizes is a far cry from traditional hunting ethics. We need our state policymakers to make Texas the next state to ban this cruel practice.”
Contestants told HSUS investigators they used powerful custom-made assault guns including AR-15s to kill native wildlife. Animals were lured to their deaths by digital calling devices and shot using powerful night-vision thermal scopes. One hunter admitted to investigators that killing contests do not result in usable fur due to the damage the weapons inflict on the animals’ bodies. HSUS investigators noted, “animals had gun shots in their heads and torsos, with their organs spilling out and faces partially destroyed.”
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said, “Killing wild animals with assault weapons to compete for the biggest piles of bodies to win cash and prizes, then throwing them away like trash, is downright barbaric. Bobcats, foxes, raccoons, coyotes and other species are central to a healthy ecosystem. This wanton bloodshed must stop.”
Numerous other wildlife killing contests take place in Texas. Recent and upcoming events include:
- San Angelo, Texas: West Texas Big Bobcat Contest, Jan. 16, Feb. 13, March 13. Known as one of the nation’s biggest killing contests, in the January event, 644 teams competed for $148,000 in prize money for killing bobcats, coyotes and foxes. One team killed 81 foxes in 23 hours.
- Honey Grove, Texas: 2021 North East Texas Big Bobcat Hunt, Feb. 6-7
- Decatur, Texas: “Decatur Predator Hunt 2021, March 20-21
- Gatesville, Texas: 18th Annual Gatesville TX Varmint Hunts, Jan. 30-31, Feb. 13-14, March 13-14
- Red Rock, Texas: Rockne Varmint Round Up, March 27-28
- Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington have banned wildlife killing contests.
- Texas appears to have more wildlife killing contests than any other state, with at least 155 taking place since 2015. The events target bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, badgers, jackrabbits, mountain lions, ringtails, opossums and other species.
- Sponsors of wildlife killing contests include manufacturers of hunting rifles and predator calling equipment, bars, restaurants, municipal groups, veterans’ organizations, fire departments and chambers of commerce.
- Coyotes, foxes and bobcats provide are vital to the ecosystem, controlling populations of other species, benefiting crop and timber growth and supporting biodiversity. They prey on tick-carrying rats and mice, helping to control the spread of tick-borne diseases.
- Wildlife management professionals and scientists stress that killing coyotes in these contests will not reduce coyote numbers or yield more deer and turkey.
- Wild carnivore species like coyotes and foxes do not “overpopulate.” They self-regulate their own numbers based on available habitat and food sources.
- The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stresses the use of nonlethal, preventative measures to avoid conflicts with wildlife.
- The HSUS and more than 50 other organizations have formed the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests.
- Visit humanesociety.org/wildlifekillingcontests to learn more.
Texas residents can help by contacting state policymakers and urging them to ban wildlife killing contests.