This week Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation to ban wildlife killing contests in New York state. This is a wonderful moment for wildlife, as New York has been the scene of more than 20 of these senseless spectacles each year.
The contests targeted a broad range of animals including coyotes, foxes, bobcats, squirrels, raccoons, crows, rabbits and woodchucks. The new law, to take effect in November 2024, will prohibit cash-for-wildlife competitions in which the objective is to slaughter animals for money and prizes.
We have long fought to end wildlife killing contests in New York; the bill was first introduced in 2006 by Assemblymember Deborah Glick. Since then, with Glick, state Sen. Tim Kennedy, our partner organizations and advocates across the state, we have pursued this legislation for nearly two decades Thousands of people contacted their legislators to urge support of the bill and Gov. Hochul to sign it into law.
Our New York state director, Brian Shapiro, lobbied legislators year after year and amassed support from responsible hunters, wildlife-friendly farmers, veterinarians, wildlife rehabilitators, scientists, environmental advocates and others. This broad coalition was in strong agreement that wildlife killing contests are simply cruel and unsporting.
We have conducted investigations of wildlife killing contests across the country, including two in New York, in Sullivan County in 2020 and Wayne County in 2018. These investigations documented participants hauling and piling up dead foxes and coyotes to be weighed and counted for prizes. Competitors joked about the “thrill” of the kill and threw dead animals into a dumpster, demonstrating a total disregard for life, sometimes in view of children. National Geographic shed further light on wildlife killing contests with its 2022 exposé during which reporter Rene Ebersole went behind the scenes at a contest in the Catskills.
This new law is in line with contemporary ethics and the best available wildlife management science. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation points out that coyotes—the most common victims of killing contests—are “an integral part of our ecosystems” and “may improve the overall health of the prey population” of deer by removing sick animals from the gene pool. The agency has found that indiscriminate killing of coyotes will not reduce their numbers, prevent conflicts with livestock or boost populations of game species such as deer. Scientific evidence shows that random killing can increase coyote populations and exacerbate livestock-related conflicts. State wildlife management professionals across the country have condemned killing contests as unethical and pointless., while many hunters regard killing contests as an embarrassment and a threat to their reputation.
With Gov. Hochul’s signature, New York becomes the 10th state to prohibit these horrific events. Oregon’s ban became law in September, following Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington. Earlier this month, a New Jersey Senate committee unanimously voted to advance a bill to ban killing contests out of committee; we’re hopeful the full state legislature will pass it by early January. We will be working to pass similar measures in Illinois and Nevada in 2024.
This win was made possible by the persistence of the bill’s sponsors, our staff members, volunteers, allies and supporters. We will take our campaign state by state until wildlife killing contests are relegated to the history books. Such chilling bloodshed and disregard for animals has no place in the humane world we are creating together.
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This article by Kitty Block was first published by The Humane Society of the United States on 22 December 2023. Lead Image: Bodies of coyotes piled in the back of a truck after a killing contest in Sullivan County, New York, in 2020. The HSUS.