Few Americans know that almost every day of every year, somewhere in the United States coyotes are being slaughtered as part of a contest or bounty—where money or prizes are awarded for killing the largest, the most, or even pregnant coyotes. Often all that’s required to retrieve the prize is a body part—a pair of ears, a tail, a paw, or evidence of pups in utero. Prizes awarded include silver belt buckles, semiautomatic rifles, and newfangled “calling devices” that lure coyotes into shooting range with recorded distress calls of young and of prey.
The weekend before Valentine’s Day, some 240 people came to the tiny town of Adin in northeastern California to partake in the town’s annual coyote killing contest. Sponsored by the Pit River Rod and Gun Club along with Adin Supply Outfitters, and touted as a “great time to teach quality ethics and outdoorsmanship to our youth,” “Coyote Drive 2013” ended with a reported 42 coyotes killed.
The contest hunt—in its seventh year—generated national media attention and more than 20,000 letters, emails and calls of protest to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission.
Camilla Fox, an AWI wildlife consultant, spearheaded opposition to the hunt and testified before the Commission on behalf of AWI, Project Coyote, and two dozen other wildlife conservation and animal protection organizations representing more than 1 million Californians. In her testimony, Fox declared that “making a contest out of killing wildlife is ethically indefensible and suggests that wildlife have no value other than as live targets in an outdoor shooting gallery. We can disagree on the ethics or value of killing coyotes, but none of us, including hunters, should tolerate the gratuitous slaughter of wildlife as part of a contest to win prizes. … We must ask what kind of lessons such killing contests teach our children about the value of life.”
Fox and AWI’s wildlife biologist, D.J. Schubert, garnered the attention of federal and state wildlife and land management agencies and urged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to state for the record and to notify contest sponsors that they had not obtained a Special Use Permit, and therefore hunt participants could not kill coyotes on BLM lands.
Fox worked closely with freelance reporter Allan Stellar, who traveled to Adin with his granddaughter to bear witness and report on the event. As reported March 4 in the San Francisco Gate, they were met with open hostility and harassment. “The outrage over the killing contest apparently created a siege mentality in town. Sheriff Mike Poindexter declared in a letter to the editor of the Modoc County Recorder before the hunt that sheriff deputies ‘absolutely will not tolerate any infringement upon your liberties pertaining to accessing or legally hunting on your public lands.’” (He was referring to BLM and US Forest Service lands that were, by federal law, off limits to contest hunt participants since the hunt sponsors had not obtained the necessary federal permits.)
Steller told a reporter from the San Francisco Gate, “It was awful up there. The place was an armed camp.” He added that when his 13-year-old granddaughter went down to Adin Supply Company, camera in hand, to get a soda, she was met by a sheriff’s sergeant who told her that if she took one more step she would be arrested. He told her that if Allan came down there, he also would be immediately arrested and brought to jail.
“While we weren't able to stop this particular contest hunt because the law still allows the gratuitous slaughter of coyotes,” Fox said, “We promise this: on behalf of the coyotes who died needlessly, we will not stop working toward a better day for our native ‘song dogs’—and to ending this wanton waste of wildlife.”