CARSON CITY, Nevada─Today, the Humane Society of the United States released the disturbing results of two January 2023 undercover investigations of wildlife killing contests in Nevada, demonstrating the need for a state law to ban them. The HSUS investigator attended the contest weigh-ins at which participants gathered to compete for prize money and celebrate among piles of dead coyotes. About 15 wildlife killing contests take place every year in Nevada, according to statements made by contest participants and HSUS research.
At the weigh-in for the Cold Springs Station Overnight Coyote Derby in Fallon on January 28, the HSUS investigator documented participants dragging coyote bodies along the blood-soaked ground to be weighed. Participants cut slits in the approximately 60 dead coyotes’ legs to hang them upside down on the scale before they were piled onto a truck bed. A participant said he had killed three coyotes but was not able to retrieve the bodies because they were in deep mud. The participants competed in categories for the greatest weight of four animals killed, biggest coyote, smallest coyote and for the “lucky loser” prize, given to a team with no kills. When a contestant was asked why he participates in killing contests he told the investigator: “Being able to shoot as many as I f****** want. And kill s***. The itch to kill something. Better than people.”
Two participants told the investigator that killing animals on federal Bureau of Land Management land is a regular occurrence during these contests. The investigator also witnessed a competitor specifically looking for coyotes on BLM land. The contest rules stated that the contest did not have a Special Recreation Permit that is required to conduct such activities on BLM land.
Competitors also hung bloodied coyote carcasses to be weighed at the culmination of the 9th Annual Coyote Ball at the Wayside Bar in Reno, Nevada, on January 14. As one attendee stood by blood running along a gutter he exclaimed, “The blood will flow!” The 32 teams competed to kill the most, the largest and the smallest coyotes and purchased raffle tickets for two guns. Roughly 60 coyotes were killed and the winning team alone shot 11 animals. Though the contest rules stated that the contest did not have a BLM Special Recreation Permit, several participants admitted that they would be killing on BLM lands at this contest as well. Participants told the investigator that they use night vision and thermal imaging scopes to kill the animals. They drive from location to location, using electronic calling devices that mimic the sounds of coyote pups or prey in distress, to lure animals near the truck. If coyotes don’t show up, they drive to the next spot.
Assemblyman Howard Watts and Senator Melanie Scheible have filed a bill in the Nevada legislature, AB 102, to prohibit the organizing, sponsoring, promoting, conducting and participating in any contest in which certain wildlife species are taken for prizes or other inducements. The bill is narrowly tailored to prohibit only killing contests and would not prohibit the regulated hunting of coyotes or other species, nor would it prevent a landowner from killing animals to protect livestock or property.
“Wildlife killing contests are depraved and shameful,” said Rebecca Goff, Nevada state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Senselessly slaughtering Nevada’s native wildlife for fun and cash does not reflect our state’s values and treats animals like disposable pawns in a game. At least 15 annual competitions targeting coyotes, foxes, bobcats, badgers, raccoons, beavers and ringtails take place in Nevada. Responsible hunters denounce this horrific blood sport. While Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Washington in the West, and Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont in the East, have outlawed these gruesome competitions, our state continues to allow them. Nevada legislators must pass AB 102 to ban this cruel, unnecessary treatment of animals who provide vital balance to our ecosystem.”
“The participants had a distinctly unsportsmanlike methodology,” said the undercover investigator for the Humane Society of the United States. “They bragged about shooting near roads and on land for which they lacked permits, with some competitors failing to retrieve coyotes' dead bodies because they were unwilling to get muddy in the process. Other contestants explained to me they were driven by the specific desire to kill as much as possible, and no participant ever mentioned conservation or respect for wildlife.”
- Killing contests take place across Nevada including in Tonopah, Searchlight, Elko, McGill, Fish Lake Valley, Panaca, Winnemucca, Midas, Las Vegas, Carvers, Battle Mountain, Austin, Reno, Fallon, Stagecoach, Pioche, Hawthorne, Henderson, Caliente, Spring Creek and Round Mountain.
- Due to the chaotic race to kill the most animals, often at night, killing contest participants may injure countless animals and orphan dependent young, who are left to die from starvation, predation or exposure.
- Hunters and wildlife management professionals across the U.S. have called out killing contests as unethical and warned they are damaging the reputation of hunters and threatening the future of hunting.
- The best available science shows that indiscriminate killing of coyotes will not reduce their numbers, prevent conflicts with livestock, or boost populations of game species like deer for hunters. In fact, killing contests can increase coyote populations and conflicts with livestock by disrupting the coyote pack structure.
- Learn more about wildlife killing contests.