The Coyote Derby Lightning Rod

Coyote Close up
By Bob Ferris
I just learned on Facebook about yet another western coyote killing derby.  This one is located in Northern California and is likely to bleed over into Oregon and Idaho—pun intended.
Although the organizers of this event in Modoc County are trying to keep it on the “down low” to avoid the negative publicity that has been associated with similar events in Idaho and Oregon, they failed miserably and should have understood that before they started.  They should have grasped that coyote hunting contests and derbies always grab copious amounts of unwanted attention because they offend so broadly and deeply—they are essentially lightning rods.
My sense is that event organizers believe that these coyote hunts act to control predation and preserve their hunting heritage.  If those are in fact their goals then these exercises in vigilante wildlife management mostly fail and often make the situation worse in the first regard and always jeopardize the latter by incrementally diminishing public support for hunting and hunters.  In essence these undertakings do more harm than good.
As coyotes—like all wildlife—are publicly owned and many of these hunts take place on federal lands, these hunts rightfully draw public attention and should be subject to public input.  And when you throw money into the mix in terms of entry fees, you basically have an operation that garners revenue from an activity involving public assets on public lands which should require a use permit and some analysis of the impact.  Public lands officials in Oregon agreed with this sentiment recently but those in Idaho did not.  But organizers of coyote hunts—if they are paying attention—should understand that they can no longer operate in the absence of public scrutiny and opposition.  
Event organizers will likely brush off criticism by dismissively saying that the opposition is simply bunny and tree huggers.  In this they would be wrong also, because there are many in the hunting community who value and understand the role of predators as well as see these “hunts” as a violation of “fair chase” principles.  Moreover there are those in the wildlife management field who are concerned about the impact of these hunts on the social structure of coyotes as well as concerns over how the presence of hunters during winter affects the very species the hunters seek to protect—and winter stress is a killer.  
And then there is the potential impact on recovering wolves which concerns those who advocate for biodiversity preservation and enhancement.  Central in this worry are wolves such as OR-7 that travel back and forth between Oregon and California.  We have seen far too many instances of shooters confusing coyotes with wolves to be comfortable with this scenario.
Disturbing in all of this is the relative silence from state wildlife agencies and wildlife commissions that seem to act as if these contests are somehow removed from their purview and undeserving of comment.  Unfortunately their silence constitutes tacit approval and reinforces the notion that these bodies favor an anachronistic and scientifically unsupported view of predators and see agricultural and trophy hunting interests as the only public they serve.  Hopefully one day we will see more knowledgeable wildlife commissioners and the threshold for inclusion in this club will move beyond simple membership in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club or strong ties to ranching or timber interests.  
We all need to work towards bringing public attention to these contests and at the same time communicate to our governors, state legislators and wildlife commissioners that we want them to make sure that wildlife decisions and management directions more closely track modern science and the views of a broader sector of the public. 

3 thoughts on “The Coyote Derby Lightning Rod

  1. elie khoury says:

    stop this mass killing of wolves.

  2. Don Phipps says:

    The numbers of Coyotes are growing out of control in suburbia and inside the city limits of many cities, are you going to allow them to kill pets and threaten people? Let the fish and game folks do the jobs they were hired to do. Coyotes like  wolves, and cougar, don't just kill mice and sick or injured animals. They are dirty, mangy dogs that need their numbers controlled by what ever means available….  


  3. bob says:


    Coyote derbies are not held in cities or suburbia.  That is a completely other issue  that will be dealt with in another blog post.

    Bob Ferris

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