Wildlife activists are calling on Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to end what they say is an illegal coyote-killing contest based out of Belleville.
In mid-January, Chesher’s Outdoor Store in Belleville invited people to join a coyote-killing contest that would award money and prizes for 11 different categories, including a prize for the largest animal and one for the smallest, essentially a coyote puppy born over the past year.
In an updated post, the store noted that it had been contacted by the ministry, which reportedly instructed the store owner to tweak the contest rules.
“Based on consultation with the MNR we must modify our contest to exclude the prize per coyote as well as the prize for the most coyotes. Both have been determined to be promoting a bounty,” the Jan. 15 Facebook post said.
The owner of the store refused to comment for this story, but the post suggests that the contest was given the go-ahead by the ministry, and was set to run throughout the month of February.
“All MNR applicable hunting regs will apply as well as any provincial/federal or municipal laws with the respect to hunting coyotes,” the post said.
Several wildlife organizations in Ontario are calling the contest illegal, saying that Section 11 of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act directly prohibits hunting for any kind of profit.
“If we look at section eleven in the Fish and Wildlife Act and if you look specifically at one A and B, it outlines very well what the criteria is for incentivizing hunting for game,” said Lesley Sampson, founding executive director of Coyotes Watch Canada.
The two sections Sampson mentioned prohibit hunting for “hire, gain or the expectation of gain,” and hunting for “hire, employ or (inducing) another person to hunt for gain.”
Both Sampson’s organization, and Earthroots Canada, a wildlife organization based out of Toronto also fighting against the Belleville contest, said the ministry previously shut down at least one similar contest in 2015.
“Why then is the current minister failing to shut down a very similar and equally unacceptable killing contest targeting coyotes which is being organized by Chesher’s Outdoor Store in Belleville,” Earthroots said in a press release Feb. 10.
When asked about the possible illegality of the contest, the ministry provided the following statement:
“Anyone hunting coyotes is required to have a small game licence, follow the rules and regulations for hunting in Ontario, and be aware of local discharge of firearm bylaws. In most of southern Ontario, hunting and trapping of coyotes is open year-round.”
Both wildlife organizations are also worried such a contest, which has no boundary limits, might endanger Algonquin wolves, which look very similar to coyotes.
“There are now only a few hundred Algonquin wolves left in the world,” Earthroots said.
According to the store’s Facebook post, the purpose of the game was “to help control the predators that threaten our deer population and have some fun doing it.”
Sampson said that this argument was not scientifically or ethically sound.
“Deer are not even a significant aspect of the Eastern coyote diet,” she said.
“The last few words was and ‘have fun while doing it,’ and so ethical hunters do not subscribe to that. They don’t want to have any part of that. So I think when you look at conservation and looking at the whole activity of hunting, this is glorifying violence towards a particular species, stockpiling dead bodies of animals to win a prize,” she said.
Sampson said Coyote Watch Canada attempted to contact the ministry to enforce Section 11, but that she had yet to receive “any definitive feedback.”
Nevertheless, Sampson said her organization will continue to fight against the contest and any other such contest in Canada.
“They’re ecologically bankrupt and they’re just scientifically void of any reasoning. And that’s why our ministry had that regulation in place because they did not want to have Ontario’s wildlife being targets of these kinds of violent, wanton slaughter games. Killing should never be a game,” she said.