Maryland to Become Eighth State to Ban Cruel Wildlife Killing Contests

Photo by Kat Wood
Photo by Kat Wood

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Project Coyote commend the Maryland legislature for passing a bill today banning wildlife killing contests that target foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Once the bill is signed by Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland will become the eighth state in the country to prohibit these cruel events.

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 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. These events can result in hundreds of animals being wiped off a landscape in a single weekend. 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.

Once HB293/SB200 is signed into law, Maryland would join seven other states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington — that have banned certain types of wildlife killing contests.

The new law would put an end to events such as those held in Unionville in January 2020, where contestants killed approximately 250 red foxes, coyotes and raccoons, and in Waldorf one month later, where the winning team alone killed 27 foxes. Investigations of these two contests documented participants proudly posing for photos in front of piles of dead animals, discussing the electronic calling devices used to lure animals, and children playing among the dead bodies.

“Wildlife killing contests are barbaric, cruel, and wasteful competitions that have no place in a civil society or in modern wildlife management,” said Johanna Hamburger, director and senior staff attorney for AWI’s terrestrial wildlife program. “Such contests demonstrate a complete lack of respect for wildlife, promote gratuitous violence, and send the irresponsible and disturbing message that the mass killing of innocent creatures is fun.”

Killing contests also compromise the effective management of wildlife populations, fail to increase game populations or reduce livestock conflicts, and harm ecosystems. In 2018, more than 70 renowned conservation scientists issued a statement citing peer-reviewed science refuting claims that indiscriminately killing coyotes permanently limits coyote populations, increases the number of deer or other game species for hunters, or reduces conflicts with humans, pets, or livestock. 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.

“Modern conservation understands that biodiversity and ecosystem health and function is best managed by protecting natural processes and cycles,” said Michelle Lute, Ph.D., national carnivore conservation manager for Project Coyote. “Maryland’s prohibition on killing contests will be an exciting move toward evidence-based management that upholds the values Maryland citizens have for wildlife and safe, healthy ecosystems.”

Wildlife killing contests are also destructive to healthy ecosystems, within which all wildlife species play a crucial role. Coyotes and foxes increase the biological diversity of plant and wildlife communities, disperse seeds, protect ground‐nesting birds from smaller carnivores, and help control disease transmission by keeping rodent populations in check, consuming carrion, and removing sick animals from the gene pool.

AWI and Project Coyote collaborated with The Humane Society of the United States, Maryland Votes for Animals, Sierra Club Maryland Chapter, and In Defense of Animals to help pass this legislation.

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The Animal Welfare Institute (www.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.

Project Coyote, a national non-profit organization, is a North American coalition of scientists, educators, ranchers, and citizen leaders promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy. Visit ProjectCoyote.org for more information. Watch the new film, “Wildlife Killing Contests,” and sign the petition here.

To learn more about wildlife killing contests, visit the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests’ website.

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