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Time to end coyote-killing contests

It’s encouraging to see that HB 2728 has been reintroduced to finally put an end to coyote killing contests in Oregon. As a lifelong hunter and conservationist, and former chair of the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission, I feel strongly that these events, in which participants compete for cash and prizes for killing the most, the heaviest, or even the smallest coyotes over a specified time period, are inconsistent with sound, science-based wildlife management and antithetical to the concepts of sportsmanship and fair chase.

They’re also a stain on Oregon’s outdoors heritage, and cast our state’s sportsmen and sportswomen in a bad light. While our hunting community plays a key role in conserving Oregon’s wildlife, the fact is that killing contests have nothing to do with responsible hunting. If we want to preserve that hunting heritage for the sake of future generations, we must be mindful of how our activities are perceived by the vast majority of our state’s citizens who do not hunt. The sight of contest participants grinning for photos next to piles of bloodied, dead animals is sure to turn more Oregonians against all hunting.

Like states across the country, Oregon has adopted the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which includes as core tenets that wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose, is a shared resource that must not be wasted, and should never be killed for frivolous reasons. In contrast to those noble principles, killing contests are nothing more than gruesome displays of wanton waste and remove ecologically vital native species from the landscape. That is why most state wildlife agencies, including ODFW, haven’t supported or promoted killing contests as a responsible wildlife management tool.

Killing large numbers of coyotes is more is also counterproductive, because they respond by increasing their rates of reproduction. As a result, they can become overabundant and cause even more problems than if they had been left alone to regulate their own numbers and fulfill their important ecological role of keeping their natural prey, rodents and small mammals, in check.

All of Oregon’s wildlife, including coyotes, deserve to be managed respectfully and according to the best available science. During my tenure as Chair of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission, I would have been more than happy to end these unscientific killing contests at the regulatory level. But unlike other states, our Commission is actually prohibited by law from regulating species classified as “predatory”— including coyotes. It’s therefore up to the Oregon Legislature to make this crucial decision.

So I ask our state legislators to make that decision now, and swiftly move HB 2728 forward to rid our state of these pointless and wasteful coyote killing contests. It’s the right thing to do for Oregon’s native wildlife species, and for our state’s proud tradition of sportsmanship and conservation ethics.

Michael Finley is a former chairman of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.