SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 7, 2013 — State wildlife officials in California declined to call off a coyote-hunting contest in Modoc County this weekend but, in response to public outcry, agreed to take steps to clarify the scope of the hunt and protect OR-7, the first wild wolf in California in nearly nine decades. The precautionary steps were recommended by a coalition of conservation groups representing more than a million Californians, including Project Coyote, the Center for Biological Diversity and Animal Welfare Institute.
The California Fish and Wildlife Department received more than 20,000 comments and petition signatures from members of the public who oppose the coyote hunt. On Wednesday, following a hearing that included testimony from more than a dozen hunt-contest opponents, wildlife officials agreed to educate the hunt's sponsors and participants on the physical differences between coyotes and wolves and to make clear that shooting wolves violates both state and federal law. The agency will also provide wardens to monitor the hunt and ensure it complies with the law.
"We'd rather the hunt was called off altogether, but were pleased state officials will take extra measures that could reduce the risk of hurting or killing wolves," said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.
The coalition notified federal land-management agencies about the contest — known as "Coyote Drive 2013" — and informed the event sponsors, the Pit River Rod and Gun Club and Adin Supply Company, that because special-use permits have not been obtained, contestants cannot kill coyotes on Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Forest Service lands. Also, nearby national wildlife refuges, National Park Service lands and state wildlife management areas are not open to predator hunting. While the sponsors advise participants to obtain permission to hunt on private land, they fail to specify that the permission must be in writing to comply with state law, a concern the coalition brought to the attention of public officials.
"The concept of making a contest out of killing wildlife is ethically indefensible and suggests that wildlife have no value other than as live targets in an outdoor shooting gallery," said Camilla Fox, Project Coyote executive director and a wildlife consultant to the Animal Welfare Institute. "We intend to work with state officials to put an end to such gratuitous slaughter of wildlife as part of a contest to win prizes."
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