New York to Become Ninth State to End Wildlife Killing Contests

Coyote
Photo by Shelly Prevost

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) applauds the New York legislature for recently passing a bill to ban wildlife killing contests.

Wildlife killing contests are organized competitive events in which participants kill animals within a certain timeframe. Cash or prizes are typically awarded based on the number, weight, or size of the animals killed. Principles of fair chase are frequently disregarded, with participants using bait, night vision, thermal imaging and electronic calling devices to attract animals with sounds that mimic prey or distress calls of wounded young.

Later, away from public view, the carcasses are usually dumped. An untold number of additional animals are orphaned by these contests, as killing adult animals inevitably leaves dependent young to die from thirst, starvation, predation, or exposure.

Killing contests compromise the effective management of wildlife populations, contravene principles of ethical hunting, fail to increase game populations or reduce livestock conflicts, and harm ecosystems. In fact, randomly shooting coyotes disrupts their pack structure, leading to increases in their populations and more conflicts with people. Nonlethal preventive measures, such as fencing, guardian dogs, and scare devices, are the most effective solutions to minimize conflicts.

“Most New Yorkers would be shocked to learn that dozens of horrific, unsporting contests take place each year in New York to kill the largest number of certain species of wildlife, or some other metric like the largest specimen,” said New York Assemblymember Deborah Glick, one of the bill’s sponsors. “These killing contests encourage senseless brutality, and serve absolutely no scientifically backed ecological or conservation purpose. The wildlife of the state is a natural resource for all New Yorkers to enjoy, and to allow these cruel contests to incentivize wasteful killing for cash is an insult to nature.”

“The fact that these contests and competitions are still legal in New York, and fall under the disgusting guise of 'entertainment' is not only absurd, it's inhumane,” said State Senator Tim Kennedy, another bill sponsor. “This bill takes a real, meaningful step to outlaw these cruel events, and provides new protections for our wild animals. I was proud to draft this in collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, and fight for its passage in both houses alongside Assemblymember Glick and so many outstanding advocates for New York's wildlife.”

S.4099/A.2917 passed earlier this month. Gov. Kathy Hochul’s approval would make New York the ninth state to outlaw these events, following California in 2014, Vermont in 2018, New Mexico, Arizona and Massachusetts in 2019, Colorado and Washington in 2020, and Maryland in 2021. The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to vote on a statewide ban on killing contests in September 2023.

More than 20 killing contests took place across New York in January and February 2023. In 2018 and 2020, the Humane Society of the United States released undercover investigations that exposed wildlife killing contests in New York, documenting participants hauling in bloody piles of dead foxes and coyotes to be weighed and counted for prizes. Competitors joked about the “thrill” of the kill and threw dead animals into a dumpster.

During one event, at least 200 animals were killed at the Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County Annual Federation 3-Day Coyote Contest in 2020. The winner for the heaviest coyote received $2,000 for killing a female he shot over bait. The cash prizes paid out to the 636 participants totaled $10,000.

New York hunters signed on in support of the state legislation, echoing concerns that participation in killing contests casts responsible hunters in a bad light. Moreover, more than 50 New York farmers signed a letter highlighting the importance of coyotes in protecting their crops by controlling rodent populations and helping to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

“By passing this bill, New York has demonstrated its commitment to the long-term protection of the state’s wildlife,” said Johanna Hamburger, director and senior staff attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute’s terrestrial wildlife program. “Wildlife killing contests can result in hundreds of animals being wiped off a landscape in a single weekend, which undermines the effective functioning of ecosystems. This bill is a victory for humane and effective management of wildlife populations.”

“These historic votes in the Senate and Assembly bring New York closer to ending the scourge of wildlife killing contests, and the wasteful use of our state’s resources for nothing more than cash and prizes,” said Brian Shapiro, New York state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Senator Tim Kennedy championed this bill during an exceptionally busy legislative session and deserve recognition for their determination to getting it passed prior to the end of session. We now respectfully call on Governor Kathy Hochul to immediately follow through by signing A.2917/S.4099 into law.”

“The Adirondack Council thanks and applauds Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Senator Tim Kennedy for sponsoring legislation that will help rewild our Adirondack Park,” said Kevin Chlad, director of government relations for the Adirondack Council. “The best available science tells us that contests awarding cash and prizes for the taking of wildlife, such as coyotes, furbearers, and other non-game species, are not good for Adirondack ecology. We support ethical and science-based hunting practices, as well as efforts to foster the return of keystone predators that will restore balance to our wildlands. We’ve learned from the success stories of the western United States that it is time to rethink the role predators play in wildlife management.”

“A.2917/S.4099 is commonsense legislation to protect wildlife from needless and cruel killing contests. Wild animals in the state of New York should be cherished and conserved, not killed for cash and prizes,” said Animal Legal Defense Fund legislative affairs manager Brian Hackett. “This bill enjoys the overwhelming support of New Yorkers, including animal and environmental advocates and even hunters. We encourage Governor Hochul to sign the bill into law as soon as possible. We offer special thanks to the extensive list of bipartisan bill sponsors, especially Assemblymember Glick and Senator Kennedy for their leadership protecting animals.”

“Wildlife is cherished and enjoyed by all residents of our state, and passage of this bill to end wildlife killing contests is a big victory for New Yorkers,” said Allie Feldman Taylor, president of Voters For Animal Rights. “These kill for cash competitions that use wildlife like disposable pieces in a game for prizes are outdated, cruel, and serve no purpose. VFAR applauds the work of Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Senator Tim Kennedy for their long-time dedication to this bill, and we respectfully call on Governor Hochul to sign this legislation into law.”

“Today's victory is not just a win for the animals, it is a triumph for humanity and an affirmation of our shared commitment to a world where coexistence and compassion are at the forefront,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. “We applaud our representatives for voting 'yes' on A.2917/S.4099, showing their commitment to a balanced, humane, and science-based approach to wildlife management.”

“The heinous cruelty of killing contests has no place in our great state of New York,” said Barbara Haney, director of wildlife at SPCA Serving Erie County. “We wholeheartedly thank Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblymember Deborah Glick for their support and respectfully ask Governor Hochul to sign this bill into law, and forever eliminate this heedless act of cruelty that has no scientific purpose or much less any moral ground. Please help to protect our wildlife and make our communities a little kinder for all.”

“Given the alarming decline in biodiversity globally and statewide, New York has a special duty to end this indiscriminate killing of wild animals that masquerades as wildlife conservation.” said Michelle Land, Pace University professor of environmental law and policy, and chief faculty of its Animal Advocacy Clinic. “Ending the senseless slaughter from wildlife killing contests is the priority of our clinic students, who will be pressing Governor Hochul to sign the bill into law and, we hope, personally deliver their 550 signature petition in support of the bill.”

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute (awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

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