Coyote-killing contests banned in state thanks to outcry

A passionate and persistent coalition of landowners, biologists, farmers, hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and others overcame opposition from paid lobbyists and Vermont's own Fish and Wildlife Department to ban coyote-killing contests for prizes. Vermont will be only the second state in the country to do so, thanks to the successful passage of H.636.

These contests have occurred all throughout Vermont and often operated out of public view. They awarded prizes to those who killed the most coyotes, the biggest, the smallest, even the ugliest coyote. Prizes have included cash, guns, and other items.

Hunters routinely used electronic calling devices that lured these curious and social animals by imitating the sounds of a fellow coyote or prey in distress. They also used radio-collared dogs to chase a coyote to the point of exhaustion and then either shoot the injured animal or allow their dogs to descend on it.

Contest participants often tossed away the bodies like trash. Social media has provided a stark view into this underworld of “hunting,” since contest participants posted photos of piles of bloodied coyotes as they were weighed in.

Last year, Protect Our Wildlife (POW) was approached by Vermont residents who were appalled by the wastefulness and cruelty involved with these contests.

Residents wrote and called their legislators and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department; they signed petitions, demonstrated against the hunts, and many posted their land against all hunting in protest.

In 2017, POW helped organize a protest of one such contest scheduled in Bristol, which likely led to its cancellation. That December, POW tenaciously opposed a statewide coyote-killing contest organized by a Londonderry business. That contest was also canceled.

Coyotes can still be hunted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in Vermont. This open season results in dependent young becoming orphaned and left to die from starvation, predation, or exposure.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates