RENO — Wildlife advocates in Northern Nevada are petitioning the state wildlife commission for regulatory changes that would outlaw coyote hunting contests.
California became the first state to prohibit the awarding of cash or other prizes for killing coyotes after its state commission voted to ban the practice in December. State lawmakers in New Mexico have discussed a similar proposal.
Nevada Board of Wildlife commissioners are scheduled to discuss the idea at their March 20 meeting in Reno.
Hunters say it’s a legally protected sport that may help keep in check a soaring coyote population which threatens livestock, pets and sometimes even people. Some of the contests held across the West kill only about a dozen coyotes, but others bag hundreds.
Don Molde, who helped organized the petition with Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife Management, said the contests are “outrageous.”
“It is the willful killing of wildlife just for the fun of it,” he said.
Molde and Fred Voltz of Carson City filed the petition after a contest was held north of Reno in December.
Coyotes can be hunted without a license in Nevada, with no limit on the number of animals that can be killed.
Critics especially object to “coyote calling contests,” where they are lured with devices that mimic the howls and yips of coyotes or the sounds of prey animals such as rabbits or rodents. Prizes are awarded based on number of kills.
During the 2013 World Coyote Calling Championship in Elko, 110 two-person hunting teams killed more than 300 coyotes. Hunters killed only 10 coyotes at the December event in Reno’s North Valleys.
Jason Schroeder, a heavy equipment mechanic who organized that event, said the critics are “entitled to their opinion.”
“And we’re entitled to ours,” he said. “The law says you can hunt coyotes on public land and that’s what we’ve done.”
Camille Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, helped organize the petition to the California Fish and Game Commission that prompted the ban there. California law still allows hunters to shoot as many of the predators as they wish year-round but outlaws the awarding of prizes.
“Like dogfighting and cockfighting, killing contests are an archaic tradition that really should be left to the history books,” Fox said.
She said non-lethal alternatives have proven more effective at protecting livestock and other animals from coyotes, including better fencing and use of guard dogs.
Rick Gipson of Boise, Idaho, who shot his first coyote at age 6, expects campaigns for similar bans in other states but doubts they’ll succeed. He’s participated in numerous contests over the years, including three world championships like the one in Elko in 2013.
“We’ve been doing this for decades and we’re not even coming close to slowing them down,” Gipson said. “They just keep coming.”