PHOENIX — Across the nation, killing contests are held in which predators and other small mammals are killed in mass numbers in a short amount of time with cash and prizes going to the person with the most kills.

Many national conservation organizations are seeking to end the practice and now Arizona may join several states banning the practice.

Sandy Bahr, chapter director of the Grand Canyon region of the Sierra Club, said, “Twenty years ago, Sierra Club first joined others in our state in supporting a ban on these wildlife-killing contests. Unfortunately, that ban was derailed by the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council. These contests are not hunting, so banning them in no way infringes on hunting privileges. They are events that promote the wanton destruction of wildlife, provide no wildlife management tool and have no basis in science.”

Tricia Gerrodette, a longtime conservationist, said, “Every year, New Mexico hosted at least 30 events whose participants compete to kill the most, biggest and even the smallest coyotes for cash or prizes until now. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed bipartisan legislation forbidding the barbaric killing competitions statewide.”

AZGFC seek approval for new rule

The Arizona Game and Fish Commission (AZGFC) weighed the benefit of killing contests and found they offer no benefit to wildlife.

“Wildlife predator and fur-bearing hunting contests that link economic gain to the greatest number or variety of animals killed are contrary to the important principle that the take of wildlife should not be allowed to go to waste or taken for economic gain,” AZGFC said in a statement.

Tom Cadden, public information supervisor with AZGF said, “There has been extensive public controversy and outrage about predator and fur-bearing contests that award prizes to participants who kill the largest number or variety of predator and fur-bearing animals. The rulemaking will strengthen consistency with the principles that guide the commission’s public trust responsibility to conserve wildlife for the benefit of the citizens of Arizona.”

It will make these contests “an unlawful manner and method of take for predator and fur-bearing species. The rule provides clear instruction about the legal hunting of predators and fur-bearing species and provides for the conservation, maintenance and utilization of wildlife under the jurisdiction of the state for the benefit of all the citizens. It will prohibit using any lethal method of take during a hunting contest for predatory and fur-bearing animals.”

The rule will be submitted to the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council for approval and AZGF is taking public comments through May 12, he added.

County resident asks Board of Supervisors to ban killing contests

Kate Scott, co-founder and director of Madrean Archipelago Wildlife Center in Elgin, asked supervisors Peggy Judd and Ann English during the board’s Tuesday meeting to join in the effort to ban killing contests.

Coconino, Pima and Yavapai counties and the cities Dewey-Humboldt, Flagstaff and Tucson have all banned killing contests, as have the states of Vermont, California and Oregon. Wisconsin and New York have bills pending.

Scott explained killing contests are held throughout the year on public lands and allow killing of predators, like coyotes, foxes and mountain lions, and other fur–bearing animals, like coatimundis, bobcats and squirrels. Participants pay a fee to hunt and win cash and prizes for the most animals killed, and even the most weight of animals killed.

“Often the bodies are left in large piles to be eaten and scavenged by wildlife,” she continued.

Though the contests are promoted as hunting events, Scott said there are three components of “ethical hunting: fair chase, humane killing and no wanton waste. Killing contests fail all three.”

Often hunters will use devices to call in the targets. These calls can be the sounds of a cub crying or female in heat, she said. High-powered rifles with high-powered scopes are frequently used, which can provide a range of four football fields.

“In the rush to kill as many animals as possible as quickly as possible, many animals are gut shot and left to die slowly until they are gathered up,” she stated. “This information was given to me by Carter Niemyer, a retired director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Utah, Montana and Wyoming. The dead animals can end up in Dumpsters or left in piles to rot.”

Those left on the ground can be scavenged by raptors like eagles and condors, which can lead to lead poisoning, Scott added.

According to a 13-year study on lead poisoning in Bald Eagles by the Raptor Center of Minnesota, “While there is conclusive evidence that spent ammunition in deer remains is a significant if not primary source of toxicity, there is direct evidence also that some cases of poisoning are due to shotgun pellets that may be embedded in small, upland game such as pheasants, squirrels, and rabbits that may be wounded and subsequently consumed by eagles. There is also anecdotal evidence that lead residues left in the carcasses of coyotes may be yet another source.”

A killing contest began Saturday on the San Carlos Apache Tribe Reservation and continues Sunday. Participants get 10 points for a mountain lion, five points for a bobcat, three points for a coyote and one point for every coatimundi and every fox killed.

Attempts to contact groups which sponsor killing contests by press time were unsuccessful.

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