The second annual Harney Coyote Classic is scheduled to kick off Jan. 16, and animal rights groups and conservation organizations are fighting to stop the coyote-killing contest that takes place in Eastern Oregon near Burns. “It’s horrific, blatantly slaughtering wildlife for no reason,” says Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense. “You don’t eat coyotes.”
The contest runs Jan. 16-18, and one- to three-person teams are given prizes for the most coyotes killed in that span of time and for “heavy dog,” “light dog” and average weight. Fahy says no location is given on the flyer for the contest because in the past, contests taking place on public lands have been protested and even stopped for lack of permit.
Scott Beckstead of the Humane Society of the United States says the contest is “terrible and these killing contests evoke an era where people were encouraged to go out and slaughter wild predators.” He calls the contests “out of touch with mainstream Oregon values” and says he is looking forward to the days they’re finally banned. The California Fish and Game Commission recently banned killing predators for prizes.
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Spokesperson Michelle Dennehy tells EW, “ODFW does not have the authority to cancel the event. Coyotes are classified as predatory animals in statutes set by the Oregon State Legislature.” She cites a statute that says the State Fish and Wildlife Commission “shall not prescribe limitations on the times, places or amounts for the taking of predatory animals.”
Beckstead says he contacted Les Schwab tires, which is listed on the contest’s flyer as a sponsor, and was told, “A customer asked us to make Harney County Coyote Classic registration forms available. Les Schwab is not sponsoring the event, is not distributing forms and does not plan to participate in the event in the future.” The tire center says, “Each store aims to sponsor organizations and events that reflect the community’s interests; this includes our Burns store.”
Both Beckstead and Fahy are concerned these contests, if left unchecked, could result in deaths of Oregon’s slowly recovering wolf population. They cite the instance of a wolf that was shot last month in the Grand Canyon by a Utah hunter who said he thought it was a coyote. While wolves are protected in Oregon, there is no limit on killing coyotes.
Fahy says that “The broader issue here is, should we be killing coyotes and other predators at all?” He says there is a “huge body of science that says ‘No, we shouldn’t be killing these animals,’” and that killing them actually upsets not only the pack structure, but also the equilibrium of the ecosystem and causes damage to prey and even other predators.
The bloody contests are a “glaring example” of how out of control the killing of coyotes is, Fahy says.
EW has removed the image of the coyote used at the top of the flyer at the photographer’s request. She says the contest did not get her permission to use the image.