California became the first state in the nation to ban killing coyotes for prizes and sport Wednesday, but not soon enough for the 11 animals that were reportedly hunted down in Bakersfield three days before.
The California Fish and Game Commission didn’t ban hunters from bagging as many coyotes as they please during the year, but made it illegal to turn the hunts into contests with prizes. The ban covers “nongame species and fur-bearing animals,” including beavers and bobcats.
The commission declined to get involved in February 2013 when complaints were raised about a coyote hunting contest in Modoc County, but Sutton asked his staff at the time for a legal opinion about its authority to regulate such events.
The commission’s 4-1 vote will put a crimp in festivities like this year’s Modoc County hunting party in the rural town of Adin.
Around 40 coyotes were shot and submitted for prizes at the three-day event in February. Ninety-five two-person teams competed for prizes, “slugging it out over wet ground,” according to Frank Galusha at MyOutdoor Buddy.com. “When they started piling into the Center, they were still wearing camo clothing. Some had camo paint on their faces. Most wore heavy hunting boots that were splattered with mud. Many brought their families and young children, including babies.”
The ban is expected to take effect next year.
Coyote fest enthusiasts argue that the animals are a threat to the community because they prey on people, pets and livestock. Cattle ranchers lost more than $4 million in 2010 to predators in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Coyotes were blamed for the largest number of those attacks.
Conservationists like Camilla Fox at Project Coyote, a nonprofit advocacy group, argue that it's not about thinning the predator herd because shooting random coyotes actually has the opposite effect. Coyote's are social animals and breaking up family groups where only the lead parents can breed results in more breeding, she said.
Thousands of prize-driven coyote hunts are held every year in the country. California tends to discourage killing contests in the wild, but the fact is, just about anyone with a hunting license in the state can kill as many coyotes as they want any time and any place they can shoot a gun.