Wildlife killing contests are organized events where participants kill animals for a prize. These contests are legal, no special license is needed to run one, and unless a law specifies otherwise, there are no limits on the total number of animals that may be killed during killing contests.
Wildlife killing contests are generally promoted as fundraisers and bonding opportunities, often conducted in a party-like atmosphere. Whoever kills the heaviest, largest, or greatest number of animals specified per contest wins. Contest prizes are usually large amounts of cash, and some have included assault weapons.
Organizers and participants of killing contests try to keep a low profile to avoid negative publicity. They advertise in special magazines (ie: Varmint Hunter) or by word-of-mouth within hunting ranks. It is virtually impossible to know how many of these events occur each year, or how many animals are killed, maimed, and orphaned because of them. When unwelcome publicity arises, organizers insist they are providing a community service by eradicating the targeted wildlife before they prey on domestic animals or livestock. Yet science concludes that such events do little, if anything, to address concerns about alleged predation or forage competition problems.
Members of this subculture document their exploits in videos, ie: Exploding Varmints. “Now You See Them, Now You Don’t” is one example. An article in Time quotes a 16-year-old at a Varmint Hunters convention describing shooting prairie dogs (“dog popping”), “I like seeing how high they fly.”
State wildlife agencies generally turn a blind eye to the carnage. Despite growing knowledge about ecology and the roles all species play in healthy ecosystems, some people are still willing to pay to kill these animals, or to profit from those who do. While the DEC has deemed it legal to conduct these hunts, no attention is paid to the DEC’s current regulations specifically prohibiting “wanton and wasteful” killing of wildlife. A killing contest where the winner is a person who kills the largest number of target animals is a clear violation of the DEC’s own regulation.
Animals in Wildlife Killing Contests
Wildlife killing contests target wildlife which have been perceived for years as “pests” and for which there are few, if any, protections. While blood sports such as dog-fighting and cockfighting have been condemned as barbaric and cruel, wildlife killing contests are gaining in popularity.
Pennsylvania is the last state to allow “live pigeon shoots.” Shooters stand yards away as captive birds are launched from boxes one at a time. Children are encouraged to join adults in these killing contests. Some pigeons are injured but not killed by guns, at which point children are encouraged to kill them by hand, using barbaric methods. (Please support SHARK, a grassroots group committed to ending Pigeon Shoots.)
Annually in Holley, NY, hundreds of shooters, including children as young as 12 years old, participate in a “Squirrel Slam” sponsored by the Holley Fire Department. It is a contest to see who can shoot the heaviest set of six squirrels in one day. Cash and guns are among the prizes. Baby squirrels, orphaned when their mothers are killed, suffer and die of starvation.
Local Rod and Gun clubs sponsor yearly woodchuck killing contests, and contestants celebrate killing the largest. Springtime hunts leave babies orphaned to suffer and die of starvation. Wounded woodchucks crawl into their dens to suffer until death.
Coyote Killing Contests
Coyotes and foxes have become victims of NYS killing contests in the Rochester and Watertown areas. Shooters use electronic or mouth-blown distress calls to simulate an injured animal to attract and kill coyotes. In previous years, more than 50,000 coyotes were killed in coyote shooting contests in New York State. Bark at the Moon is a killing contest that takes place in Penfield every winter.
Crow hunting season lasts approximately six months. No count of the actual number of crows killed each year is recorded. In the 2005 Auburn NY Crow Shoot, more than 1,000 crows were killed by hunting teams in just one weekend. Also in 2005, the DEC prohibited hunting crows on land that had been baited – a practice used in violation of the Federal Migratory Bird Act. This prohibition was enacted because concerned citizens challenged the DEC regulations. The use of lead shot (popular with crow hunters), fired over a small concentrated area, can cause environmental damage and pollution to the land and water.
Sources: DEC, League of Humane Voters, Ban Wildlife Killing Contests in NYS Facebook Page