This opinion piece was written and submitted by Rock Springs resident Madhu Anderson of the Wyoming Wildlife Protection Group.
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We stood peacefully and respectfully in freezing cold weather for the third year in a row, protesting with signs outside Buddha Bob’s bar on February 25. This bar hosted the “check-in” of a coyote killing contest organized by a private group called Wyoming Best of the Best.
We held red roses in our hands and wore white shirts with (fake) blood stains in honor of the animals who had been brutally killed, their bodies brought to the bar’s parking lot to be weighed and counted. We weren’t protesting regulated hunting, nor were we taking issue with the killing of coyotes in cases of livestock predation. We were there to oppose these gruesome contests in which cash and prizes are offered for the cruel, wasteful killing of our state’s native wildlife.
During our protests, we were harassed, threatened, and verbally abused, and last year a dead, bloodied coyote was even thrown at our feet by the people opposed to our message. We had respectfully asked the Buddha Bob’s bar owner and the contest’s sponsors to stop hosting and sponsoring this violent event. We also asked Sweetwater County commissioners to consider a non-binding, science-based resolution condemning wildlife killing contests, as several local governments in Arizona, New Mexico, and across the nation — and even a state chapter of a longstanding, highly respected national hunting organization have already done.
But the commission shut the resolution down, ignoring all of the detailed research and context that was provided in support of it— with dismissive and condescending remarks. But we were not intimidated or discouraged by this; we know that a growing list of wildlife management professionals, scientists, veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, responsible hunters, and concerned citizens across the nation oppose wildlife-killing contests.
For example, before banning killing contests in 2019, the Arizona Fish and Game Commission said, “To the extent, these contests reflect on the overall hunting community, public outrage with these events has the potential to threaten hunting as a legitimate wildlife management function.”
And prior to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approving a statewide ban on killing contests in 2020, Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Dan Gibbs said, “For me, hunting contests don’t sit well. As a sportsman, I’d never participate in one personally. Hunting is an important, reverent tradition in Colorado and powerful management tool, but I also think wildlife killing contests give sportsmen and sportswomen a bad name and damage our reputation.”
Many of their peers have made remarkably similar statements. I agree with them. Killing contests violate the fundamental hunting ethic of fair chase, giving Wyoming’s hunting community a bad name. They do not belong in our state.
What’s more, claims about coyote predation on livestock are vastly exaggerated. According to the USDA, all carnivores combined, including coyotes, unknown predators, and dogs, accounted for less than half of one percent (0.39%) of U.S. cattle and sheep losses. The actual primary sources of mortality for livestock are diseases, illness, birthing problems, and weather. Good animal husbandry practices and strategic, nonlethal predator management methods are the best way to reduce conflicts with coyotes and livestock—not randomly killing coyotes in a contest for cash and prizes.
Eight U.S. states, including Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Washington, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland, have banned killing contests, and Oregon also recently began that process. Not one of those bans affected regulated hunting; they simply prohibited the offering of cash and prizes for killing certain wildlife species in a contest. I hope Wyoming will join that list of states one day.
But, in the meantime, my fellow advocates and I will not be discouraged. Instead, we will fearlessly keep fighting for Wyoming’s wildlife.