Conservation advocates protest coyote-killing contest
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Animal welfare and wildlife conservation advocates have turned their attention to a bloodthirsty coyote-killing contest in northern California, where a local sheriff said he won’t enforce federal laws and apparently even justified the violation of those laws.
At issue is the Coyote Drive 13, an old-school predator slaughter that could potentially endanger other species, including a lone wolf that wandered into California last year.
“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.”
In a Feb. 7 letter to the editor in the Modoc County Recorder, Modoc County Sheriff Mike Poindexter said he won’t “tolerate any restriction of legal hunting on our public lands” despite federal laws prohibiting or regulating coyote hunting on federal lands in and near Modoc County.
He also recommended that any hunt participant who is questioned or detained by federal enforcement officials for illegally hunting on federal lands to “cooperate but stand their ground and call the Sheriff’s Office” and that sheriff deputies “absolutely will not tolerate any infringement upon your liberties pertaining to accessing or legally hunting on your public lands.”
“Despite claiming to uphold the U.S. Constitution, Sheriff Poindexter has decided he will not enforce and is encouraging others to flout those federal laws which he opposes,” said D.J. Schubert, wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. “This is a blatant breach of his duty as a law enforcement officer and a violation of the Law Enforcement Code of ethics.”
The groups have contacted the district attorney for Modoc County, the California Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California and a number of state and federal agencies advising them of Sheriff Poindexter’s comments and asking for urgent intervention.
“These laws are on the books to protect our public lands and the wildlife that live there. Not only does this coyote hunt put OR-7 and other wolves at risk, but now it’s also shaping up to be some kind of Wild West misadventure where the sheriff is thumbing his nose at federal laws,” said Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.
Poindexter’s statement came after citizens sent more than 20,000 letters, emails, and petition signatures into the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission calling for an end to Coyote Drive 2013 and a top-to-bottom evaluation of the state’s approach to managing predators in California.
“Given the serious potential for violations of state and federal laws barring predator hunting on public lands, the threat this hunt poses to OR-7 and any un-collared wolves in the area, and the public’s clear opposition to this killing contest, the state should take immediate action to call off Coyote Drive 2013 now,” said Camilla Fox, Project Coyote executive director and a wildlife consultant to the Animal Welfare Institute.
State wildlife officials in California declined to call off a coyote-hunting contest in Modoc County this weekend but did 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 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.