Washington, DC June 1, 2017 – Wisconsin’s practice of allowing coyote-killing contests in the midst of habitat for federally-listed endangered gray wolves is fraught with legal and practical pitfalls, according to a coalition of national and state-based conservation groups. They are pressing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to exercise its statutory duties to protect the wolf from these open-ended hunts or face federal suit.
Wisconsin permits coyote hunting year-round, including at night. It also sanctions “coyote-killing” contests to promote indiscriminate killing of coyotes, often with prizes for the most coyotes killed or the biggest coyote killed, etc. Dozens of these contests occur each year largely in the habitat of the endangered gray wolf, and are problematic because they –
- Often have young and minimally trained hunters participating. In the field, even a veteran hunter or wildlife biologist can easily confuse coyotes and wolves, as evidenced by numerous instances where hunters have turned themselves in after killing a wolf by mistake;
- Rather than being sponsored by sportsmen’s organizations, many are hosted by bars or taverns, where consumption of alcoholic beverages is encouraged; and
- Are essentially unregulated, as the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not monitor the contests or even track the number of coyotes killed.
“These contests epitomize the abdication of responsible wildlife management by Wisconsin DNR,” stated Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco, noting that California has already outlawed these contests and legislation is advancing in New Mexico to do the same.
“The poor quality of DNR oversight also raises questions as to whether it is competent to manage gray wolves should this population be delisted from federal protection.”
In a letter sent today, PEER, the National Wolfwatcher Coalition, and Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf identify two violations of the Endangered Species Act by FWS concerning these coyote-killing contests:
- Failing to review impacts from these coyote-killing contests on wolves (per mandatory “consultation” requirements); and
- Neglecting to evaluate the need for safeguards to protect wolves from coyote hunters shooting them by mistake, such as a look-alike or “de facto” listing conferring protections on the coyote.
“In Wisconsin, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is apparently asleep at the switch,” added Carlesco, pointing to a recent PEER Freedom of Information Act request confirming that FWS had undertaken no consultation or any other evaluation of Wisconsin’s coyote-killing contests. “The Endangered Species Act allows citizens to file lawsuits to enforce its provisions when the government is in dereliction of its duties. We hope FWS executes its statutory obligations so that we do not have to make this into a federal case.”