Alberta coyote killing contest going ahead, despite backlash

The organizer of an annual coyote hunting tournament in Alberta says the competition will go ahead this weekend, despite protests from critics who say the contest glorifies killing animals.

The DKD Coyote Tournament will hold its fourth annual competition this weekend in Lac Ste. Anne County, about 100 kilometres west of Edmonton. The contest challenges two-person teams to hunt and kill as many coyotes as they can in one day, and awards prizes to the teams who return with the most kills.

Participants must be eligible to hunt in Alberta and have a valid hunting licence and firearms training.

The organizer of the tournament, who only wants to be known as Paul, says he has personally received threats from animal rights activists over the tournament. He says he doesn’t understand why the event is so controversial given that farmers regularly kill coyotes.

“Ninety per cent of farmers will take care of coyotes as needed all year long,” he told CTV Edmonton’s Dave Ewasuk.

Paul says that in the first year of the tournament, fewer than 10 animals were killed. Last year, the contest netted 13 animals. This year, about 50 participants are expected.

Lesley Sampson of Ontario-based Coyote Watch Canada says she doesn’t believe the tournament is really about controlling the coyote population.

“It’s not about helping the neighbour; it’s just about killing a lot of coyotes in one day,” she told Ewasuk by phone from St. David’s, Ont.

Sampson says that because coyotes are pack animals, studies have shown that such hunts can hurt the social structure of the packs. She also questions the ethics of the contest.

“When we glorify killing at that level, where there are prizes for the largest coyote, the smallest coyote, the mangiest coyote — I mean really, it leaves a bad taste in most people’s mouths,” she says.

The hunt is perfectly legal. The Alberta government says residents are permitted to hunt coyotes without a licence throughout the year on land to which they have been given the right to access.

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development spokesperson Duncan MacDonnell says, while this is the tournament’s fourth year, this is the first year they’ve received complaints about the event.

MacDonnell says the tournament is not a concern because the coyote population in the province is not under threat.

“There are so many, we can’t count them. We know the population is healthy, they’re everywhere we see,” says MacDonnell.

Shelley Alexander, who researches carnivore conservation and human-wildlife conflict at the University of Calgary, says hunts like this tournament have been outlawed elsewhere. She says that in Australia, farmers have found alternative to culls when animals threaten their livestock.

“(They use) guardian dogs, electric fencing, hazing, donkeys and lights or other forms of chemical deterrents in combination to teach coyotes,” she says.

Tournament organizer Paul says despite the backlash, the tournament will go ahead Saturday.

With a report from CTV Edmonton’s David Ewasuk

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