Canned Hunts Continue, But Not Without Challenge

Despite strong opposition, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) continues to administer the captive-bred wildlife registration program to allow for hunting of exotic and endangered animals on US ranches. Hunters pay large sums to kill otherwise-protected species on enclosed lands. USFWS misinterprets (or ignores) the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to allow for these canned hunts.

USFWS’s handling of the matter has now been brought into the spotlight—and into court. One challenge concerns the agency’s fast-track permitting process for antelope-hunting ranches. This process provides for very little scrutiny or public input and is inconsistent with the ESA; the application requirements are so minimal that they do not allow USFWS to meet its legal obligation to ensure that endangered African antelope species are not placed in jeopardy.

Legislation has also passed to restrict protections for these species. A provision in the 2014 federal budget eliminates ESA protections for three species of African antelope held captive on US hunting ranches. This provision­—an attempt to circumvent court decisions addressing the issue, including the 2009 case concluding that USFWS cannot exempt these ranches from ESA permitting requirements—is being challenged as unconstitutional.

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