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California banning coyote hunts that offer prizes.

Byline: Scott Smith

California officials on Wednesday banned coyote hunting contests that have sparked a culture clash between wildlife advocates and ranchers who offer cash and other prizes to marksmen who killed the most animals.

It was the first ban of its kind in the nation, according to Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote, which petitioned the state to end the popular contests that occur almost every month in California or nearby states.

The vote by the state Fish and Game Commission allows hunters to shoot as many of the predators as they wish year-round but stops the awarding of prizes.

Commission vice president Jack Baylis said the state also needs to limit how many predators a hunter is permitted to kill while respecting responsible hunters and allowing ranchers to manage their livestock.

''Awarding prizes for wildlife killing contests is both unethical and inconsistent with our modern understand of natural systems,'' Michael Sutton, president of the commission, added during the meeting in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles.

Wayne Raupe, president of the California Bowmen Hunters/State Archery Association, defended the contests as a way to control coyote numbers.

''They're in our neighborhoods,'' he said. ''We see them all the time.''

The board approved the ban with a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, the lone dissenter, said she was waiting for more scientific research before she could support the ban.

The hunting derbies reward shooters who bag the most coyotes with cash, belt buckles, camouflage hunting gear or other prizes.

Fox said the hunts are a cruel throwback to the days before dog- and cock-fighting were banned.

''It's immoral, reprehensible and something that should be part of our history books,'' she said.

California cattle ranchers lost more than $4 million in 2010 to predators, with coyotes committing the largest number of attacks, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent figures.

Those losses -- and the culture of ranchland life in the West -- have spurred the spread of coyote prize hunts across California over the years.

Hunter and cattleman Buck Parks said he and his neighbors in rural Northern California won't turn a blind eye to coyotes killing livestock and wildlife. He said people opposed to coyote hunting don't witness the damage done by coyotes.

Parks is president of the Pit River Rod and Gun Club, which has drawn protests for its coyote hunts based in the Modoc County town of Adin.

Before the commission vote, Parks said the club would abide by the decision. But that won't end coyote hunting, he said.

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Author:Smith, Scott
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Dec 4, 2014
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