New York legislature passed bill to ban wildlife killing contests three months ago, but governor has yet to sign it into law
BEND, Oregon; ALBANY, New York––The Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission on September 15, 2023 voted unanimously to prohibit wildlife killing contests for coyotes and other species classified as unprotected mammals in the state, meaning that hunting them is not subject to bag limits.
Oregon thus became the ninth state to ban wildlife killing contests, ahead of New York, where a bill to ban wildlife killing contests passed both houses of the state legislature on June 22, 2023, but three months later is still awaiting endorsement into law by governor Kathy Hochul.
Other states prohibiting wildlife killing contests include Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont––where a much-publicized crow-killing contest flopped in 2018––and Washington.
“Inconsistent with science-based management”
Testified former Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission chair Mike Finley just ahead of the vote that banned wildlife killing contests in Oregon, “Killing large numbers of predators as part of an organized contest is inconsistent with science-based wildlife management and antithetical to the concepts of sportsmanship and fair chase.”
The ban was endorsed by 22 state and national organizations, including several representing hunters.
Meanwhile in New York, Voters for Animal Rights lamented on September 6, 2023, “We still need Governor Kathy Hochul to sign off to make the [New York ban on wildlife killing contests] into law.
“Countless foxes, squirrels, coyotes, and other animals are killed just for cash prizes,” Voters for Animal Rights reminded New York state members. “We know that these contests do not serve any legitimate wildlife management purpose. It is clear that the legislature agrees, as the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Now we just need Governor Hochul to make it official.”
Explained Gwendolyn Craig for Adirondack Explorer, “State Assembly member Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, sponsored the legislation that would ban kill contests for wildlife species such as coyotes, foxes, squirrels, and raccoons. It would not ban hunting the animals or interfere with any state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations on bag limits. It also does not prevent a person from taking nuisance animals.”
Opposing the proposed ban on killing contests, State Assembly member Matthew Simpson, a Republican from Horicon in remote Warren County, argued that “People of the Adirondacks and elsewhere have been participating in hunting contests for years, including former President Theodore Roosevelt,” Craig paraphrased.
State Assembly member John Lemondes Jr., a Republican representing parts of Onadaga and Cayuga counties, denounced the bill to prohibit killing contests to Craig as “an explicit infringement on hunting rights and Second Amendment privileges,” although there is not in fact a word in the U.S. Constitution, including the Second Amendment, that in any way mentions hunting or “hunting rights.”
State Assembly member Robert Smullen, identified by Craig as “a Republican representing the Mohawk Valley and parts of the Adirondacks,” told Craig that participation in killing contests is part of “a cultural difference that cannot be bridged” between upstate New York and downstate, meaning the greater New York City metropolitan region.
Culture war losers
But that hypothesis would not explain why wildlife killing contests were all but unheard of in both upstate and downstate New York until hunting participation began a long decline in the 1980s. Then wildlife killing contests were introduced in many communities to stimulate local interest in sport hunting––and, in particular, as an attempted thumb in the eye of hunting opponents.
New York governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, may have held back from signing S.4099, the bill to halt wildlife killing contests, primarily to avoid further aggravating opposition to her tenure in rural districts.
Hochul in the 2022 gubernatorial race won only 12 of the 62 New York state counties. Hochul swept the major New York urban areas, including New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, but won in only two rural or semi-rural counties.
Hochul then pushed through to passage a package of gun control measures taking effect on September 13, 2023, including that background checks are now required in New York state for ammunition purchases.
In addition, the New York State Police, rather than the FBI, are now in charge of doing New York state background checks.
The cost of establishing and maintaining the New York State background check system is covered by a $9.00 tax on all firearm transactions, and a $2.50 tax on ammunition sales.
Ineligible to buy guns or ammo
Excluded from eligibility to buy firearms or ammunition in New York state are anyone who has been convicted of a felony, is a fugitive from justice, is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance; has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to a mental institution; is an illegal alien in the U.S.; has received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. armed forces; has renounced U.S. citizenship (a precondition for seeking Canadian citizenship, which in effect prevents many Native Americans with treaty rights in both nations from becoming dual nationals); is under an order of protection that restrains the purchaser from harassing, stalking or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner; has been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence; or is under indictment for a felony offense.
Pistol permit restrictions
Hochul also endorsed into law stricter requirements for people seeking concealed carry pistol permits, including that applicants must submit a list of former and current social media accounts for the last three years, and disclose the identities of any spouse or domestic partner, and any other adults residing in the applicant’s home, including any adult children of the applicant.
Several of these requirements are expected to be challenged in court as allegedly unconstitutional.
HSUS president testifies
Humane Society of the U.S. president Kitty Block, as well as supporting the adoption of the Oregon and pending New York state wildlife killing contest bans, has urged passage of as yet unsuccessful bills to end wildlife killing contests in many other states, including Nevada.
“In January at the Cold Springs Station Overnight Coyote Derby in Fallon, Nevada,” Block blogged earlier in 2023, informed by an unidentified undercover investigator, “At the weigh-in, around 60 coyotes were piled onto a truck bed. Competitors dragged bodies along the ground and flung them into trucks. The pavement was soaked in blood.
“One attendee told the investigator that he killed three coyotes but chose not to retrieve the bodies because they were in deep mud. When asked why he participates in killing contests, another participant said: ‘Being able to shoot as many as I want. And kill. The itch to kill something. Better than people.’
“Thirty-two teams competed at the 9th Annual Coyote Ball in Reno, Nevada, in mid-January,” Block added. “Dozens of coyotes were killed, with the winning team shooting 11 of them.”
“Nuggets Night Vision”
The biggest killing contest that Block blogged about thus far in 2023 was held in Mendon, Illinois, sponsored by “Nuggets Night Vision, a manufacturer of night vision and thermal optics devices often used in wildlife killing contests,” Block noted.
“Over the 45-hour contest period in early February,” Block wrote, “competitors gunned down 405 coyotes—an ecologically important carnivore native to the American prairie—to compete for $15,000 in prize money.
“Out-of-state teams brought dead coyotes across state lines from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Wisconsin,” Block alleged, based on the undercover investigator’s testimony.
“At least one coyote from Kansas appeared to have severe mange,” Block said. “The bodies were not checked for disease, nor were diseased animals disqualified.”
730 killing contests nationwide
“At least 28 killing contests took place in cities and towns across Illinois in 2022,” Block continued, “targeting coyotes, foxes, raccoons and crows. Nationwide, at least 730 contests took place in 2022, killing an estimated 18,000 to 110,000 coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, porcupines, armadillos, opossums, beavers, cougars and other species.
“The competitions take place in nearly all of the 42 states that still allow them,” Block added.
“In December 2022,” Block said, the Humane Society of the U.S. ” joined veterinarians and 18 organizations to petition the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to prohibit wildlife killing contests. The agency has thus far allowed these contests to continue,” even though a variety of polls have found that most Americans and even most hunters consider them unsporting and unethical.