Idaho Mountain Express
By George Wuerthner
17 December 2014
Recently, the BLM canceled a permit for a proposed coyote/wolf killing “derby” on public lands scheduled for January near Salmon, Idaho. The three-day event is a contest to see who can kill the most and largest wolves, coyotes, jackrabbits and other wildlife.
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The BLM revoked its permit after conservationists questioned the agency’s conclusion that the contest would have no real impacts on wildlife or other uses of the public lands. It was a wise call on the part of the BLM, but the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Fish and Game have failed to do the same.
The Forest Service insists that such a contest doesn’t even require a permit, and is allowing it to occur on the Salmon-Challis National Forest, despite requiring permits for many types of less destructive activities—even cutting a Christmas tree. For its part, Idaho Department of Fish and Game has said nothing, even though it has a policy stating that it will not support contests “involving the taking of predators which may portray hunting in an unethical fashion, devalue the predator, and which may be offensive to the general public.”
Even a loose interpretation of that policy would find the proposed derby to be a violation, yet Fish and Game has failed to regulate or restrict these contests. Fish and Game implies its support with its silence and failure to act.
As a hunter, I despise gratuitous killing. Hunters owe it to both the animals they kill and the public who supports wildlife to ensure that no animals suffer or die gratuitously.
But a killing contest, by its very nature, is gratuitous killing. This type of contest treats animals like trash. This is not only ethically wrong but hurts hunting everywhere by portraying hunters in an unethical manner. Hunting, to be accepted by the general public, must be perceived as principled. The public usually supports killing of wildlife for food, but contests are not about obtaining food. Hunters and their organizations risk damaging public support for hunting by not opposing such contests.
The killing contest is also ecologically wrong. Ironically, fragmentation of wolf and coyote packs through indiscriminate killing often leads to greater livestock losses and greater killing of the very big game animals that the derby sponsor claims it is trying to protect.
This is because disruption and loss of pack members reduces hunting effectiveness of the remaining animals. With fewer pack members to pull down difficult prey like elk, wolves and coyotes often turn to livestock as food.
Smaller packs also cannot guard the animals they have killed, and often before they can come back from the den or other locations, ravens and other scavengers will consume a kill, forcing the wolves and/or coyotes to kill yet another elk or deer.
Morally and ecologically, the Salmon [coyote/wolf] killing derby is a mistake.