In a significant victory, Colorado has banned wildlife killing contests. Such contests are cruel events in which participants kill animals for cash, prizes, and entertainment, often with awards given for the most number of animals killed and for the heaviest, smallest, or largest animals killed. Eighteen killing contests have been held in Colorado in the past five years.
The ban, one of the strongest in the country, prohibits killing contests that target furbearers such as coyote, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, and swift fox, as well as Wyoming ground squirrel, and white-tailed, black-tailed, and Gunnison’s prairie dogs. It nullifies a regulation adopted in 1997 that allowed up to five animals of each species targeted in a contest to be killed by each participant.
Last November, AWI led a coalition of animal welfare and conservation organizations that submitted a petition to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission requesting a ban on killing contests for all furbearers and small game species. The issue was addressed at the January commission meeting, at which Colorado Parks and Wildlife was asked to draft a regulation that would ban killing contests. This proposal was presented at the April commission meeting and approved in an 8–3 vote.
AWI supported this effort by testifying at the January commission meeting, giving a presentation at the April meeting, and submitting memos about killing contests in Colorado, other states’ laws banning killing contests, and the rationale for those laws. AWI also submitted a coalition letter signed by 16 groups in support of a ban.
These contests are not only inhumane, they also undermine modern, science-based wildlife management. Indiscriminate mass killing of carnivores does not—as contest supporters frequently claim—reduce predator populations, increase populations of game animals, or prevent conflicts with people, pets, or livestock. Scientific studies have shown that many wildlife populations depleted by unnatural means reproduce more quickly due to less competition for resources and changes to social structure. Furthermore, the indiscriminate killing of predators likely exacerbates risks to livestock because killing carnivores disrupts their social structure and foraging behavior in ways that increase the likelihood of livestock depredation.
Many state wildlife agencies have recognized that reducing predator numbers in this manner does not enhance game populations. Some also fear that killing contests could undermine public support for hunting in general because the concept of fair chase is frequently disregarded in these events, and the carcasses of the animals killed are usually wasted.
Colorado is the sixth state to outlaw killing contests, joining Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Vermont. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission also recently voted to conduct an inquiry into banning killing contests, and legislation has been proposed to ban wildlife killing contests in five other states (Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon).
AWI is committed to ending these contests across the country and is a member of the steering committee of the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests. In addition to our efforts in Colorado, we have worked in support of bans in Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. AWI will continue to encourage more states to join the movement to ban killing contests.