California’s Fish and Game Commission voted on Wednesday to ban coyote hunting derbies. Those are contests where hunters vie to kill the most coyotes, or the biggest, for prizes.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: Some people profit from hunting coyotes. They take part in coyote hunting derbies, in fact. Hunters compete to kill the most or the biggest coyotes for prizes. Now California is moving to ban those derbies, the first statewide band of its kind in the United States. NPR’s Nathan Rott reports.
NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: We should start by saying that hunting contests for prizes are not unique to California or the West. Frenchville, Pennsylvania, saw 4,000 hunters sign up for its 22nd annual coyote hunt earlier this year. Florida has its Python Challenge, and Texas, its Big Nasty Hog Contest. All of those events are legal, and all have opposition. Camilla Fox is a founder of Project Coyote, an animal rights group based in San Francisco.
CAMILLA FOX: Killing a sentient creature for the purpose of a contest, derby or tournament for essentially fun and prizes – there’s something that’s just very fundamentally wrong about that.
ROTT: That’s why her group petitioned California’s Fish and Game Commission to put an end to the practice here, a plea that became reality yesterday when the commission voted to ban giving prizes in hunting contests for nongame species. Fox says it’s the first such ban in the country and not, she hopes, the last.
FOX: We’re at a place just as we have, as a nation, banned cockfighting and dog fighting, I do think that we will see an end to wildlife-killing contests.
CURTIS WRIGHT: They make it sound like we’re just a bunch of rednecks running out there with guns killing everything, but that’s far from the truth. We’re more of a population control or balance control for predators.
ROTT: That’s Curtis Wright, an avid coyote hunter in Southern California. He says coyote populations need to be controlled. They kill livestock, game and pets. Hunting derbies accomplish that, free of taxpayer money. Not all sportsmen support the practice though. Carlos Garcia has shot scores of coyotes on ranches in Northern California, he says, when there was a reason to.
CARLOS GARCIA: I consider myself a hunter. I don’t consider myself a killer. These contests are more along the lines of killing.
ROTT: He does think they serve a purpose in controlling populations, but…
GARCIA: They put us in a bad light, you know, and there’s other ways to go about it.
ROTT: Hunters can still kill coyotes in California. And hunting contests are still going to happen in other parts of the country, that is unless other states copy California’s change. Nathan Rott, NPR News.