What are wildlife killing contests?
While blood sports such as dogfighting and cockfighting have been condemned in the U.S. as barbaric and cruel, the little-known blood sport of the wildlife killing contest still happens regularly in almost all of the 45 U.S. states that have not yet banned them.
Killing contests are organized events in which participants compete for prizes — typically cash or hunting equipment — for killing the most and/or largest animals within a specified time period. Contests may also be judged by a system that allocates a number of points for each species, by gender, such as “largest male” or “smallest female” or by characteristics such as “biggest ears” or “mangiest mutt.”
The animals commonly targeted in these contests include bobcats, coyotes, foxes, prairie dogs, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, woodchucks, and in some western states even mountain lions and wolves are put in the crosshairs.
Persecuted and discarded
Deemed by some to be “pests,” many animals killed during wildlife killing contests are targeted because there are almost no laws protecting them. They often can be killed in unlimited numbers, all year long and by using almost any method. Participants often dump the bodies, having no need for them after the prizes are awarded.
Callous and unsporting
Wildlife killing contests remove any notion of fair chase, the fundamental hunting ethic that dictates that the hunter should not gain an unfair advantage over the hunted. Participants often use high-tech equipment and may prepare for months. And while many contest organizers are careful to remind participants that they must abide by state hunting laws and regulations, the prospect of prize money and bragging rights creates a powerful incentive to ignore those restrictions.
One of the most chilling features of wildlife killing contests is the use of electronic calling devices to attract coyotes and foxes into rifle range with sounds that imitate the cry of their prey, a fellow coyote or fox or even their young in distress. These wild canids, like humans, feel a strong bond to other members of their species and when they hear this cry for help, they come to investigate. Manipulating the natural compassion of animals to lure them in for an easy kill is a reprehensible practice condemned by hunters and non-hunters alike.