(WASHINGTON/NEW YORK) - The Humane Society of the United States has released the results of a disturbing undercover investigation into one of New York State’s largest wildlife killing contests, in Sullivan County. Investigators documented contest participants piling up dozens of dead coyotes, weighing them for cash and prizes before discarding some in a trash dumpster.
At the contest - sponsored by the Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs of Sullivan County, Inc. - participants from New York and six Pennsylvania counties killed as many coyotes as they could lure to their deaths. Contest organizers bragged of a new record take of 118-coyotes killed by methods that included leghold traps and the use of bait and digital calling devices to draw them in for easy kill shots.
The fire house in White Sulphur Springs, New York was used as a weigh-in station. The winner for the heaviest coyote received $2,000 for shooting a 50.3-pound female. Cash prizes for the 636 participants totaled $10,000.
The Humane Society of the United States investigator later found dead coyotes in the fire house’s dumpster. One participant stated “If it’s not useful, we throw them in the dumpster. Some of them are pretty messed up.”
Referring to a heavy female killed in the contest, another participant told our investigator, “She might be right full of babies too, you know?” He went on to tell the investigator that an obviously pregnant female coyote had been cut open at the event and “the babies already had hair on them – they were ready, ya know.”
Brian Shapiro, New York state director for the Humane Society of the United States said, “Wildlife killing contests are a cruel, wanton waste of our wildlife resources and go counter to science-based wildlife management. New York’s wildlife belongs to all of its citizens, not just those who selfishly use and kill animals as disposable objects in a contest for cash and prizes.”
- In February 2020, the HSUS released an undercover investigation into two wildlife killing contests in Maryland.
- California, Vermont, New Mexico, Arizona and Massachusetts have banned wildlife killing contests. Similar bills are expected to move through other states in 2020.
- In 2019 Maryland extended an indefinite moratorium on killing contests that target cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay.
- Sponsors of wildlife killing contests often include hunting and predator calling equipment manufacturers, bars, restaurants, municipal groups, veterans’ organizations and chambers of commerce.
- Red and gray foxes, coyotes, squirrels, woodchucks, crows, and rabbits are most often targeted in wildlife killing contests in New York State. In other eastern states, species in the crosshairs also include bobcats, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, badgers, and skunks. In some western states mountain lions and wolves are killed in contests.
- Coyotes and foxes provide vital ecological services, controlling populations of other species, benefiting crop and timber growth, supporting biodiversity, and by predating 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 yield more deer and turkey for hunters. Two recent studies and statements on this have come from North Carolina researchers and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
- Wild carnivore species like coyotes and foxes do not “overpopulate.” They self-regulate their own numbers based on available habitat and food sources.
- The HSUS resource “Wildlife Killing Contests: A Guide to Ending the Blood Sport in Your Community” was used by the Albuquerque City Council when drafting its resolution urging statewide action to ban them, which the state did in 2019.
- The HSUS, Project Coyote and more than 40 other organizations have formed the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests.
New Yorkers can take action and urge their state representatives to support bill A.722B/S.7542, which would end wildlife killing contests in New York State.
Editor’s note: This was updated on 3/4/20 to reflect updated bill numbers.
- Rodi Rosensweig