This is a historic moment.
SWEC has been advocating to ban these barbaric events for more than six years. Thanks to your support, New Mexico is now the third state in the country to legislatively ban coyote killing contests. Thank you for signing petitions, attending actions, and supporting our work financially as we campaigned to end these inhumane events. Your support made this landmark legislation possible. Your continued support will help us do even more.
This is personal.
Standing in the desert surrounded by the bodies of 39 dead coyotes was a pivotal moment for us at SWEC.
After Representative Nate Cote introduced the first version of the bill in 2013, Senators Jeff Steinborn and Mark Moores introduced it in 2015, 2017, and 2019. Each time the bill got a bit farther but ultimately failed. We kept lobbying, educating, and advocating. Finally, with your support, and the support of our partner organizations and individual allies, we won.
We're just getting started.
Our vision is a world where all wild animals have a right to flourish, regardless of their utility to humans.
We're not stopping anytime soon. Coyotes (and other wildlife) are still unprotected. We plan to get to the root of the problem and make sure all species are protected from cruel practices like killing contests forever. Our goal is to build a representative, science-based, compassionate, and sustainable system of wildlife management across America. Want to be involved? Check out our Wildlife for All campaign and donate today to help us make it happen.
Your support is essential to our vision. Dedicated wildlife advocates like you provide the inspiration and strength we need to keep going. This legislation has been six years in the making, and we have had plenty of setbacks. You believed in us, and we prevailed. Thank you. See below for more information on Wildlife Killing Contests, which are still legal in 47 states.
Wildlife Killing Contests: Legalized Evil
Wildlife killing contests are held regularly in many states. They are organized events in which contestants compete for prizes by killing the most animals over a given time period.
Wildlife killing contests serve no legitimate management purpose.
They range from well publicized, sponsored events to informal contests announced on the Facebook pages of predator-killing enthusiasts. (There are many such pages, such as Predatormasters, Predator Hunting Dog Down, Kill Shit, NM Desert Dogs etc.) Prizes are also sometimes offered for the largest and smallest animals killed.
The most common targets are coyotes, but other targets include foxes, prairie dogs, skunks, badgers, bobcats, and other unprotected species. Contestants usually use high-powered firearms to kill their targets at long distances, often after luring them in with calling devices. The AR-15 is a popular weapon among predator hunters. It is a modified version of a rifle developed for the military, accurate at long distances.
Prairie dogs are simply used for target practice without any pretense of “fair chase.”
Wildlife killing contests are legal in every state except California, Vermont, New Mexico, Arizona, and Massachusetts. (Colorado limits the number of animals that can be killed by each participant to five, which is not much of a restriction.)
Participants in prairie dog shoots enjoy the "red mist" that occurs when their targets are disintegrated by high powered rifles at distances of up to 800 yards. Is this "hunting"?
Wildlife killing contests happen because many species of wildlife are not legally protected. In New Mexico, for example, there are seasons but no bag limits for furbearers such as bobcats and foxes, which means you can kill as many as you like during much of the year.
For other species, such as coyotes and prairie dogs, there is no protection at all. You can kill as many as you like at any time.
A five year old looks at a coyote killed in a Pennsylvania killing contest. What sort of values is he learning?
Wildlife killing contests give ethical hunters a bad name. Using animals for live target practice violates one of the core tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation: wildlife should only be killed for a legitimate purpose.
Advocates of wildlife killing contests often say that such events are needed to “manage” wildlife to prevent overpopulation, protect livestock or increase game animals. Science does not support these claims.
Coyotes, for example, are self-regulating. Coyotes are intelligent animals that often mate for life. A pair will defend territories against other coyotes. When resident coyotes are removed, they are quickly replaced by new arrivals.
The indiscriminate killing associated with wildlife killing contests does not target specific coyotes that are attacking livestock.
There is evidence that wildlife killing contests may actually increase conflicts with livestock by leading to higher pup survival rates (and so more mouths for adults to feed), and increasing the number of younger, transient individuals that may be more predisposed to attack livestock.
Killing predators indiscriminately does not necessarily translate to more game animals since ungulate populations are often limited by other factors, like habitat and climate.
Wildlife killing contests ignore the ecological importance of target species. Coyotes, for example, help to keep prey populations in check, including rodents that carry human diseases such as hantavirus and plague. Prairie dogs are a keystone species upon which many other wildlife species depend to some extent.
Coyotes eat prodigious numbers of rodents, including species that carry human diseases such as hantavirus and plague.
While wildlife killing contests have little impact on overall coyote numbers, they disrupt pack family structure and causes needless suffering to individual animals, not just to those that are actually killed or wounded, but to those that are left orphaned and unable to fend for themselves.
Learn more about the science of coyote population management from this short video, featuring Dave Parsons of Project Coyote:
Wildlife killing contests undermine the economic benefits of wildlife to New Mexico. Non-consumptive users of wildlife comprise about one-third of the state’s population. They outnumber hunters and anglers by nearly two to one, and account for $328 million in annual expenditures related to wildlife-watching.
A SWEC-led rally in Las Cruces helped persuade the Utah group Predator Masters to hold their annual coyote "hunt and convention" somewhere else.
In the News
Check out these great articles and editorials on wildlife killing contests.
"Balance needed in laws dealing with coyotes", editorial Las Cruces Sun News
"Coyotes serve a purpose greater than target practice", Nathan Cote