FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 24, 2021
New Campaign Brings Awareness to Wildlife Killing Contests in Wyoming
Billboard Compels to #STOPTHEKILL of Wolves and Other Apex Predators
Cody, WY — Starting today, drivers traveling from Cody to Yellowstone National Park will see a large billboard featuring a captivating wolf and a call to action to “End Wildlife Killing Contests.” The billboard, funded by Wyoming Wildlife Advocates in partnership with the national organization Project Coyote, is part of a coordinated campaign to bring attention to the widespread but little known bloodsport of wildlife killing contests—events in which participants compete to kill the most, largest, or smallest animals for cash, guns or other prizes.
Wyoming is home to many of these contests, including the Wyoming Best of the Best and other privately run events. The Wyoming Best of the Best is a circuit of contests that draws people from around the region to Wyoming to kill target wildlife, primarily coyotes and foxes. Participants pay an entry fee and then build points in monthly events that run from December through February. Qualifying events are held in Kemmerer, Casper, Cheyenne, Lovell, Riverton, Rock Springs, and Newcastle, and a state championship is held in early November in Rock Springs. The number of contests that occur in Wyoming is difficult to assess because organizers and participants, aware that the majority of the public does not condone or support these events, operate mostly in secret with virtual check-ins and little oversight—but killing contests occur in or near most communities across the state.
In addition to smaller native carnivores like bobcats and coyotes, wildlife killing contests in Wyoming may also target imperiled wolves. Despite the fact that they are still recovering and bring essential tourism dollars to local economies, wolves are listed as trophy game animals in the northwest corner of the state where there is a hunting season and limits on the number of animals that can be killed. Even worse, they are considered a predator in the remaining 85% of the state, which means they can be killed at any time by any means with no oversight or hunting tag needed. This lack of regulations concerning fair chase, hunting seasons, quotas, night hunting and spotlighting, use of electronic calls, and the use of high-powered weapons does not protect animals considered “predators” in Wyoming and leads to egregious ethical violations on the part of contest participants.
Participants and proponents of killing contests claim that killing coyotes and other animals protects deer and elk and prevents livestock losses. Yet the best available science illustrates that randomly killing wildlife does not increase public safety or decrease conflicts with domestic animals. Seven states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington) have enacted prohibitions on killing contests and have not observed increases in conflict. Four additional states (Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, and Virginia) are considering bans on killing contests.
Bans on killing contests are increasing as the public recognizes that coyotes and other native carnivores play key roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems, such as controlling rabbit and rodent populations, and that wildlife killing contests threaten the safety and well-being of hikers, dog walkers, bird watchers, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts. This billboard serves to raise awareness of the issue for the millions of people who visit Wyoming to see wildlife but do not realize the national park is a proverbial zoo and valued wildlife are slaughtered as soon as they step foot outside the park.
“Wildlife is held in the public trust by our wildlife managers and should be managed for all Wyoming residents,” said Kristin Combs, Executive Director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. “A minuscule number of people are involved in wildlife killing contests, meanwhile wildlife watchers and ethical hunters are left with virtually no voice in the management of animals classified as predators. All of these animals serve a valuable purpose in the ecosystem and don’t deserve to be randomly gunned down while just trying to raise their young and live out their lives.”
“Billboards are showing up across the country and raising public awareness about this barbaric practice, which will inspire people to take action and join the growing movement to ban wildlife killings contests nationwide,” said Camilla Fox, Executive Director and Founder of Project Coyote and Co-founder of the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests. “Most people have no idea this cruel and unnecessary bloodsport is happening in their state and they are shocked to learn that it is legal to slaughter animals en masse for cash prizes and awards. Once they become aware of this issue, they want to know how they can get involved to help end this cruelty. That’s why we steer them to ProjectCoyote.org to learn how they can get involved in this growing movement to end killing contests.”
“Wildlife killing contests serve no genuine ecological or wildlife management purpose,” said Michelle L. Lute, PhD in wildlife management and Project Coyote National Carnivore Conservation Manager. “These contests are mass slaughter events that may actually increase what are typically rare occurrences of conflict and undermine the valuable ecological roles of carnivores.”
Viewers of the billboards will be pointed to ProjectCoyote.org where they can view a new film about wildlife killing contests produced in partnership with National Geographic filmmakers and sign a petition to ban wildlife killing contests on federal public lands. The petition has thus far garnered over 60,000 signatures.
The National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests, including co-founder Project Coyote, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and 50+ other national wildlife and animal protection organizations, will continue to raise awareness in pursuit of policy changes at local, state, and national levels in 2021 and beyond.
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Wyoming Wildlife Advocates is a non-profit organization focused on informing, educating, and empowering communities to preserve our wild legacy and protect our shared wildlife resources. We envision a Wyoming that leads the nation in exceptional and innovative wildlife management; all stakeholders are valued equally, and management decisions are driven by the best available science. Headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming, WWA has supporters in Wyoming, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and nationwide. Visit wyowild.org to learn more.
Project Coyote, a national non-profit organization, is a North American coalition of scientists, educators, ranchers, and citizen leaders promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy. Visit ProjectCoyote.org for more information.
To learn more about wildlife killing contests, visit the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests’ website here.