Coyote-killing contests are no longer legal in the state of California. On Wednesday morning, the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4-1 to ban contests that offer cash prizes as incentives for killing coyotes, along with other mammal species such as bobcats and foxes.
The vote essentially closes a loophole in California's Fish and Game Code that had originally been intended to ban such contests.
"Awarding prizes for wildlife killing contests is both unethical and inconsistent with our current understanding natural systems," said Commission President Michael Sutton. "Such contests are an anachronism and have no place in modern wildlife management."
Commissioner Jacqueline Hostler-Carmesin of McKinleyville in Humboldt County was the sole vote against the ban. Hostler-Carmesin also cast the sole vote in October against confirming the Commission's decision to add the gray wolf to the state's endangered species list.
With Wednesday's vote at the Commission's meeting in Van Nuys, contests like the controversial Big Valley Coyote Drive in the Modoc County community of Adin, which for close to a decade offered prizes for participants who shot, killed, and displayed the largest number of coyotes. This year's drive in Adin resulted in about 40 coyotes killed, according to observer Roger Hopping.
The Adin hunt had especially raised concern after OR-7, a gray wolf from northeastern Oregon, wandered into the vicinity of the essentially unorganized coyote killing contest area. Wildlife advocates pointed out that the wolf, protected as an Endangered species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, could easily be shot as a presumed coyote by an inexperienced (or impaired) coyote drive participant. The gray wolf's subsequent listing under the California Endangered Species Act provided additional impetus to ban coyote killing contests.
Wildlife advocates were quick to laud the Commission vote. "We commend the commission for this enlightened decision and for setting a precedent for the nation," said Camilla Fox, the Founder and Executive Director of the environmental group Project Coyote. "We should not be killing wildlife for fun and prizes in the 21st century."