Coyotes kill lambs and other livestock. Environmentalists are suing the federal government to stop it from killing coyotes.

A proposal to ban most coyote-hunting contests in Oregon, House Bill 4075, passed the House 42-16 on Feb. 18.

The bill would prohibit most competitions that offers cash or prizes for the killing of coyotes, but the Oregon Hunters Association dropped its opposition to HB 4075 due to an exemption for raffles that don’t reward the “number, weight or size” of animals killed.

That provision would effectively exclude raffles held by nonprofit organizations, such as local chapters of the Oregon Hunters Association that exchange raffle tickets for coyote pelts submitted by members. 

At the end of the year, the winning ticket holder receives a prize but the contest isn’t directly related to the “number, weight or size of the coyotes taken” as specified by the amendment.

Though the Oregon Hunters Association wouldn’t oppose HB 4075 with that exception, the organization nonetheless didn’t sound enthused about the proposal during an recent legislative hearing on the bill.

“This bill does not achieve a compelling state interest in our opinion,” said Paul Donheffner, the group’s legislative committee chairman.

The prohibition against coyote-hunting contests amounts to an attempt to legislate a moral or philosophical point of view, but the U.S. Constitution protects speech and activities that others may dislike, Donheffner said.

However, the Oregon Hunters Association understands the “optics” of large commercial coyote-hunting contests, which are the bill’s primary targets, and appreciates the proposed exemption for raffles that are essential to the culture of its local chapters, he said.

The Oregon Farm Bureau opposed the original version of HB 4075 but hasn’t yet decided whether the proposed amendment would change its position on the bill, said Mary Anne Cooper, the group’s vice president of public policy.

County governments have less money available for predator control and large coyote populations pose a danger to livestock producers in Oregon, Cooper said. “We want to preserve any tool available to us.”

Most of the testimony heard during the legislative hearing supported the ban, with critics of coyote-hunting contests claiming these competitions are ethically and scientifically indefensible.

Removing predators such as coyotes from a territory will just encourage increased reproduction by remaining pack members and the immigration of coyotes from surrounding areas, said Robert Wielgus, former director of Washington State University’s Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory.

“The remaining members of the pack become breeders. That’s how you end up with more predation down the road on livestock,” Wielgus said.

Numerous studies have shown that killing coyotes isn’t effective for livestock protection, as even eliminating three-fourths of the carnivore’s population from an area only had short-term benefits, he said.

“You’re on a never-ending treadmill of livestock depredation and wild game depredation,” Wielgus said. “Scientifically, there is no basis for it.”

Rene Tatro, who identified himself as a hunter, said he supported the prohibition in part because such contests reflect poorly on the hunting community.

The vast majority of Oregonians don’t hunt, so negative public perceptions could have repercussions for the sport, he said.

“We’re going to lose that privilege,” he said. “This isn’t about abridging our rights to hunt, it’s about preserving them.”

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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