Should coyote hunting contests be banned?

The debate over organized kills and whether they actually impact population, via a new podcast.


Coyote hunting competitions were banned in California at the end of 2014, and wildlife advocates hoped to get a similar ban passed in Nevada late last year, but failed to persuade the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commission. The commission voted 5-2 against the ban, a vote that seemed to have more to do with the department's opinions on regulatory solutions in general than organized coyote hunts in particular.

"My opposition was really more in regards to I don't believe we're at a point where a regulatory approach is the right course," commission head Jeremy Drew says. "We've tried to deal with controversial topics through a regulatory process in the past and it's been very difficult to get both sides to come to the table and try to find a consensus-based approach."

Two hunters display the ten coyotes they shot to win a coyote derby in North Dakota.
Courtesy Barnes County Wildlife

Despite the ban in California, the most popular hunt in the state just took place again. The organizers made just enough changes to stay within the limits of the law -- sending an outcry through the animal rights community. But while wildlife advocates (led by nonprofit Project Coyote) and hunters made impassioned pleas for and against the ban in Nevada, coyote expert Fred Knowlton, who has studied coyotes for more than 40 years, says humans killing coyotes really has little bearing on the animals. 

"I don't believe any coyote hunting expeditions are effective at reducing coyote numbers," Knowlton says. "If everything stays equal -- if you've got hunting going on or not -- you can remove up to 70% of coyotes without affecting the population."

In this episode of the Range podcast, we hear from activists on both sides of the issue, and more from Knowlton, in an attempt to understand the real impact of coyote derbies on the animals. 

Range podcast produces stories of the New American West and is co-hosted by reporters Amy Westervelt and Julia Ritchey.

Tim Parmly
Tim Parmly Subscriber
Feb 09, 2016 01:42 PM
Nature does a lot better job of population control than humans ever could, except those species that humans drove to extinction.
Renee DeMartin
Renee DeMartin
Feb 09, 2016 03:37 PM
Absolutely they should be banned and any loophole closed. I'm so tired of seeing pics of grinning camoed hunters standing over their mass coyote kills. It's a truly barbaric and pathetic pastime. I really don't care what percentage of the coyote population can be killed off without affecting the species, sometimes the actual act of the slaughter itself needs to be questioned.
Carmen Macdonald
Carmen Macdonald
Feb 09, 2016 04:24 PM
Nature controls populations by boom and bust. After explosive growth from the good times, disease and famine take over to knock a population back. Predators don't cease mating and giving birth during these periods, the offspring and adults simply die a horrible and painful death. Of course, they don't put those images in Disney movies and on postcards from national parks.
It would be great if registering for this site came with a requirement to read the North American Model of Conservation. From a biological perspective, coyote hunting events are meaningless. From a fiscal perspective, the participating hunters probably contribute far more to the actual management of wildlife than the average HCN reader.
So much whining and sniveling. And I'm not even an active coyote hunter for God's sake.
Don't like the events? Don't go. That's a really good place to start. Life ain't all roses.

Mark Rozman
Mark Rozman
Feb 09, 2016 04:59 PM
How do you cook coyotes? I don't kill anything I don't eat. Simple enough, huh?
Patrick  Johnston
Patrick Johnston
Feb 09, 2016 09:03 PM
I was born and raised in Montana and i was witness to the disaster that was created by wiping out the coyote. Number one was the increase in gophers, next they were poisoned and low in behold the the pocket gophers or voles had no predators to stop their complete take-over of hay and grain fields and the result was devastating. Harvesting became a real challenge and the damage to machinery was devastating, time consuming, and very expensive. All because somebody lost a calf or some chickens. Oh, by the way, this happened in the late 1 9 40s and early 1950s. Some people never learn.
Rich Jordan
Rich Jordan
Feb 09, 2016 09:07 PM
One major difference between the two viewpoints is obvious: the hunt participants view the coyote as nothing more than a sustainable specie and a target. Opponents see them as individuals and appreciate their complex family dynamics. Quite frankly, I don't think anyone who kills for fun has an ounce of empathy for the animals they kill. No empathy - no ethics.
Gene Sengstake
Gene Sengstake Subscriber
Feb 09, 2016 11:41 PM
So now it's come down to coyote killing "contests"? I have to wonder what kind of depraved individuals actually get any satisfaction from this kind of activity. They surely can't consider themselves sportsmen as only cowards would kill defenseless animals and look upon it as a "sporting" activity. Any purported human being of reasonable intelligence would realize that it is not coyotes that are the supposed "problem" that initiates these "contests" - but that the seemingly overabundance of these animals is the result of activities of the human animal that has thrown all nature out of balance. These competitions demonstrate the power that the perverted portion of human society is able to impose upon others in that these activities are even allowed to happen despite the outrage expressed by so many other individuals in the community. These coyote killing contests are only the tip of the iceberg of what has become a "sick" segment of our human society - - -
Joseph Yannuzzi
Joseph Yannuzzi
Feb 10, 2016 05:26 AM
So Mr. Knowlton the so called coyote expert says the killing has little or no real effect on coyotes but the real question he is not revealing is just how incomprehensible cruel this killing is and the unimaginable pain the animals suffer just to satisfy the hunters sick idea of recreation or sport.
Even an idiot knows that the more animals hunters kill, the more they reproduce to compensate for the heavy losses they incur as a result of hunting season.
Hunting is indefensible and there is no way to rationalize the senseless killing and we don't need someone like Mr. Knowlton to defend the hunters when we have responsible ecologists and scientists that can easily prove his defense of killing coyotes unacceptable and morally corrupt.
Rich Jordan
Rich Jordan
Feb 10, 2016 06:53 AM
I agree there is something apparently very perverted in humans who take pleasure in a kill-'em-all competition. I've seen some of their photos and read a number of comments. My conclusion is they (coyotes) take a bullet for us.
Charles Fox
Charles Fox Subscriber
Feb 10, 2016 05:01 PM
The mass killing of native wildlife is an obvious and extreme form of abuse. The courage to challenge this abuse has come mostly from citizens and rarely from the state wildlife agencies that exist for the purpose of protecting wildlife from exploitation. This chronic and conspicuous failure on the part of state wildlife agencies is sickening and pathetic.

How it is possible to kill 70% of anything “without affecting the population”? That statement is inaccurate and insane. If 70% of mule deer died from drought that would be recognized as “affecting the population”. If the number of Mexican wolves went from 109 to 33 that would “affect the population” and we would all regard it as a problem. But not with coyotes. They’re trash.

This deranged attempt at a conversation indicates the presence of a perverse and lethal set of assumptions. Coyotes and other native carnivores have been vilified, demonized and exterminated for so long that “rational” society can’t bring itself to consider that these animals could serve any possible purpose or even have the right to exist. Calling any animal a "varmint" is rank prejudice, a form of vilification with persecution and killing the predictable result.
Mark Rozman
Mark Rozman
Feb 10, 2016 05:12 PM
Just because humans don't know the purpose of a certain animal, does not mean there is no purpose. Don't mess with Mother Nature, remember?
Jesse Dial
Jesse Dial
Mar 03, 2016 11:15 AM
I believe that the hunting competition part should not be banned but maybe it should regulated with a maximum number of kills per person. seeing as coyotes dont have a huge impact on the environment based on their population. Many landowners and farmers rely on the hunters to keep their cattle and livestock safe.
Tim Parmly
Tim Parmly Subscriber
Mar 03, 2016 01:33 PM
Jesse Dials' last sentence is the real and entire reason for mass killings of predators. The fact that the Wildlife Service killed over 60,000 coyote in 2014 and the data are not out for 2015 says that the cattle and sheep ranchers have the power over predator killing. The faster you kill them, the faster they will breed to keep the population balanced.