Counterpoint to "Letter in Favor of Hunting Coyotes"

from Carter Luke, President and CEO of MSPCA-Angell and Sandwich resident

Letter to the Editor:

There are many false and misleading statements in Mr. O’Gorman’s opinion piece “Letter in Favor of Hunting Coyotes” that warrant a response and clarification.

The MSPCA and citizens across the state have advocated to restrict practices that are unsporting and unjustifiable—and those that inflict the most suffering and contravene modern wildlife management practices, such as bear baiting, spotlighting, hunting contests, and the unrestricted use of body-gripping traps.

Mr. O’Gorman references the ballot question—the Wildlife Protection Act—extensively. This measure passed with 64% support of Massachusetts voters and restricts cruel and non-selective body-gripping traps while permitting their use in situations involving health or safety threats. Contrary to some assertions, “modern” body-gripping traps are still terribly inhumane, causing prolonged and intense suffering and capturing non-target animals. Further, recreational trapping has never been an effective management tool for either the beaver population or beaver conflicts. Studies have shown that beaver populations ebb and flow independent of trapping. The most effective conflict management method remains the use of flow devices to alleviate flooding caused by beaver activity, which cost municipalities far less than trapping year after year. The Wildlife Protection Act also changed the statute to prohibit the hunting of bears with dogs. This practice used packs of dogs to hunt bears until the animals would seek refuge in a tree before being shot or forced to fight the dogs. Bear hounding results in injuries or death to both bears and dogs, and can leave cubs orphaned.

Mr. O’Gorman also criticizes those who oppose coyote killing contests. Though he points to Vermont as an example of a state that is “not hampered by anti-hunters with an agenda,” he probably does not realize that Vermont banned coyote hunting contests in 2018. The state’s Fish & Wildlife department explained that, “Coyote hunting contests are not only ineffective at controlling coyote populations, but these kinds of competitive coyote hunts are raising concerns on the part of the public and could possibly jeopardize the future of hunting…”  

Vermont is not alone in banning wildlife killing contests. California, New Mexico, and Maryland have also passed statewide bans; Arizona Game and Fish has proposed a rule to do so; and Oregon is considering legislation. And consider the following statements:

  • Hunter and Chairman of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission Mike Finley condemned wildlife killing contests as “slaughter fests” and “stomach-turning examples of wanton waste.”
  • Former President of the California Fish and Game Commission and waterfowl hunter Mike Sutton denounced the events as “unethical” and “an anachronism [with] no place in modern wildlife management.”
  • New Mexico Republican Senator Mark Moores, co-sponsor of his state’s bill, stated: “Killing contests are just blood sports. All they are about is killing as many animals as you can, and not about protecting livestock or property.”
  • And Eric Nuse, former executive director of the International Hunter Education Association, stated: “We don’t like anything that smacks of commercialization with money or prizes. Anything that doesn’t honor the animals grates on us and seems inherently wrong. These contests create very poor PR for hunters.”

Mr. O’Gorman also states that “Coyotes are prolific predators that our Division of Fish and Wildlife are attempting to manage and control scientifically” and that coyote hunting contests are a tool to manage these predators. However, MassWildlife has made it clear at recent listening sessions, as well as in the recent Washington Post article “Coyote-killing contests face growing outrage, state bans,” that they do not manage the coyote population and that they do not consider coyote hunting contests “a management tool by any stretch of the imagination.” In his support for coyote hunting contests, Mr. O’Gorman is out of step not only with many of his fellow citizens, but with many of his fellow hunters, including those quoted above and several who spoke at a MassWildlife listening session.

The MSPCA and the majority of the public view these coyote contests as unacceptable. By banning such competitions, MassWildlife can both serve its ethical hunters by sparing them this black eye on their sport, and respect the views of the Commonwealth’s natural resource users who firmly reject this killing contest subculture.

Carter Luke, President and CEO of the MSPCA-Angell and Sandwich resident


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