For Immediate Release, April 18, 2014

California Fish & Game Commission Votes 3 to 2 to Move Forward with Proposal to Ban Predator Killing Contests

Larkspur, CA – On Wednesday the California Fish & Game Commission voted 3 to 2 to go to notice with a proposed rule that would make it unlawful to offer any prize or other inducement as a reward for the taking of any mammalian predator in an individual contest, tournament, or derby. Project Coyote, which petitioned the Commission to ban such contests in February, hailed the vote as a victory. “This vote brings us one step closer to reforming how predators are managed in this state,” stated Camilla Fox executive director of Project Coyote who testified before the Commission. “Most people are shocked to learn that it is legal to kill coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and other wildlife as part of a tournament for prizes and ‘recreational fun’. They’re even more shocked to learn that thousands of such contests take place each year in the U.S. killing tens of thousands of wild animals.”

Project Coyote also pointed out the dangers and violence associated with predator killing contests. On Valentine’s Day California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden Bob Pera was shot in El Dorado County by a coyote “contest” hunter. Pera was on night patrol monitoring a predator-killing contest when he was shot. Contestants were traipsing the woods to pursue and kill as many coyotes, foxes and other predators as possible when bullet fragments entered the warden’s neck, endangering his life.

One week earlier, on February 7th in Modoc County California, resident Roger Hopping was pushed to the ground by predator killing contest organizer, Steve Gagnon, when he tried to photograph contest participants. Gagnon was cited for assault while Hopping, who is 73 years old, was rushed to the hospital and, reportedly, suffered a compression fracture in his lower back. Warden Aaron Freitas witnessed the altercation and Gagnon has yet to be charged.

Countering claims made by contest supporters that predator killing contests provide some legitimate management purpose, Fox presented the Commission with a letter signed by more than 35 leading scientists. Key points:

  • “Killing an animal without an adequate reason is unjustified and unsportsmanlike.”
  • “Indiscriminate killing is ineffective and it is plausible, perhaps likely, that when associated with a WKC it would lead to increased risk of [livestock] depredations.
  • “Wildlife Killing Contests are not a reliable means of increasing ungulate abundance” as some contest supporters contend.

"The bottom line is, these killing contests don't protect livestock. The only thing they do is perpetuate an endless war on wildlife in which many animals, both wild and domestic, needlessly lose their lives,” said Keli Hendricks, Petaluma-based cattle rancher and Project Coyote Advisory Board member who also traveled to Ventura to testify before the Commission.

“Wildlife killing contests instill a culture of violence and send the wrong message to children --that life has little value and that an entire species of animals is disposable,” stated Randi Feilich, Project Coyote Southern California Representative who also spoke before the Commission. “Let’s have California set the trend for our country for more responsible, science-based, and ethical wildlife practices.”

Seventeen year-old Grant McComb, Youth Outreach Associate for Project Coyote presented the Commission with letters from hundreds of young people from across the state supporting a ban on wildlife killing contests. “Even a local Boy Scout Troop put together a book of letters on why we shouldn't have these barbaric contest kills,” Grant stated in his testimony. “These contest kills are a bloody waste and an insult to my generation. While you make the decision whether or not to stop these kills, you have to think about one thing --what kind of legacy are you leaving the children of California?”

The Commission will accept public comment on this issue through August 6th when it will make a final vote at its public meeting in San Diego. Between Feb. and April the Commission had received more than 13,000 letters and emails supporting a ban on killing contests and fewer than 10 supporting them.


Project Coyote (ProjectCoyote.org) is a national non-profit organization promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science, and advocacy. Join our community on Facebook and Twitter.

View Project Coyote’s petition to prohibit wildlife-killing contests in California here.

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