Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission is set to consider a rule change that would end the bloodsport known as hunting contests. The Commission’s proposed rule is written to prevent what it calls “spree-killing contests,” the most common of which are coyote derbies, in which participants compete to kill the largest number of coyotes in order to win prizes like cash or rifles. The Mountain Lion Foundation, along with other conservation and animal protection organizations, applauds the Commission for drafting the rule and urges Washington residents to express their support for the rule’s adoption.
On drafting the proposed rule, the Commission wrote, “the Fish and Wildlife Commission has determined that hunting contests that encourage and reward killing large numbers of native wildlife are not consistent with sound wildlife management principles.” Sanctioned, organized wildlife killing contests are uncommon in Washington, reflecting their unpopularity with ethical hunters and the general public. The WDFW says it issued permits for two hunting contests in 2019 and has never issued more than six in a single year.
Wildlife killing contests are widely viewed as unsportsmanlike and ethically questionable by most hunters, conservationists, and animal protection advocates. Six states have moved to ban the practice, the most recent being Colorado which in April banned wildlife killing contests involving coyotes and other small game species. New Mexico, Arizona, Massachusetts, Vermont, and California have passed similar bans or restrictions in recent years.
The proposed rule, which does not ban other legal forms of hunting or impact other hunting regulations, would bring Washington in line with the growing number of states that recognize wildlife killing contests as a cruel and excessive practice that’s inconsistent with the general public’s values and that plays no useful role in wildlife management. It would prohibit the WDFW from issuing permits for wildlife killing contests.
A second proposed rule would make it illegal for anyone to participate in an unsanctioned, unlicensed hunting contest. Under current rules, only the organizer of an illegal hunting contest is guilty of a natural resources infraction. Language in the proposed rule states, “applying accountability measures at the level of the individual participant and clearly stating that there could be a monetary penalty imposed on an individual who is in violation of this rule helps strengthen the enforceability of these rules, thus increasing the likelihood of achieving the objective of the first proposal.”
The Commission will collect public comment on these proposed rules until midnight on July 14. Washington residents can submit written comment in three ways: