The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently released the results of a disturbing undercover investigation into two wildlife killing contests in Frederick County and Waldorf, Maryland. Investigators documented the judging of the events, with participants lining up rows of dead foxes and posing proudly for photos with the piles of carcasses.
At a contest in Unionville in Frederick County on January 19th, contestants killed approximately 250 red foxes, coyotes, and raccoons. Young children were in attendance, one dragging a dead fox to the weighing and stacking area. Participants were awarded five points per coyote, three points per fox, and one point per raccoon. Organizers awarded cash prizes for not only the most animals killed, but also for the heaviest coyote, fox, and raccoon. Investigators overheard contestants planning to dump the dead animals in a landfill when the contest was over.
At the Waldorf contest on February 1st, dozens of teams competed, with the winning team killing 27 foxes. A bystander reported that the winner of another recent contest on Maryland’s Eastern Shore had killed 82 foxes. When HSUS investigators asked a Waldorf contest participant whether he would sell the foxes he killed to a fur buyer, he responded in the negative, because the foxes are “pretty torn up by the time we’re done with them.”
Emily Hovermale, Maryland state director for the HSUS, said in a statement, “Wildlife killing contests are cruel, pointless, and counter to science-based wildlife management. Marylanders appreciate foxes and other wildlife and want them to be protected from cruelty — not brutally killed for cash, prizes and bragging rights and then thrown away like trash.”
Participants often use electronic calling devices that mimic the sounds of pups or prey in distress to lure coyotes and foxes in for an easy shot, and then kill them using high-powered weapons that inflict significant damage to their bodies.
Delegate Dana Stein of D-Baltimore County recently introduced HB 863 to end contests with the objective of killing species like foxes, coyotes, and raccoons for monetary and other rewards in Maryland.
“Wildlife killing contests – staged for cash prizes or other monetary rewards — have no place in our State,” said Stein. “They lead to the wanton killing of animals and are inconsistent with the State’s hunting traditions and policies. I hope Maryland will join the ranks of other States that have banned this cruel practice.”
California, Vermont, New Mexico, Arizona and Massachusetts have banned wildlife killing contests. Similar bills are expected to move through other states in 2020. Last year, Maryland extended an indefinite moratorium on killing contests that target cownose rays in the Chesapeake Bay.
Sponsors of wildlife killing contests often include hunting rifles companies and predator calling equipment manufacturers, bars, restaurants, municipal groups, veterans’ organizations and chambers of commerce.
Red and gray foxes, coyotes, and raccoons are most often targeted in wildlife killing contests in Maryland. In other eastern states, species in the crosshairs include: bobcats, crows, woodchucks, squirrels, rattlesnakes, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, badgers, and skunks. In some western states, mountain lions and wolves are also killed in contests.
Coyotes and foxes provide vital ecological services, controlling populations of other species, benefiting crop and timber growth, supporting biodiversity, and by predating on tick-carrying rats and mice, helping to control the spread of tick-borne diseases.
Wildlife management professionals and scientists stress that killing coyotes in these contests will not yield more deer and turkey for hunters. Two recent studies and statements on this have come from North Carolina researchers and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Wild carnivore species like coyotes and foxes do not “overpopulate.” They self-regulate their own numbers based on available habitat and food sources.
The HSUS resource “Wildlife Killing Contests: A Guide to Ending the Blood Sport in Your Community” was used by the Albuquerque City Council when drafting its resolution urging statewide action to ban them, which the state did in 2018.
The HSUS, Project Coyote and more than 40 other organizations have formed the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests.