Massachusetts Just Banned Coyote Hunting Competitions

Massachusetts has officially banned coyote hunting contests.

Hunters in the state of Massachusetts will no longer be able to participate in hunting contests for coyotes and a variety of other animals after a decision by the state Fisheries and Wildlife Board.

MassLive reports the voted-upon ban will not only end hunting contests for coyotes, but also for these furbearers: red and gray foxes, weasels, mink, skunk, bobcats, beaver, fisher, raccoon, opossum river otter and muskrats. The Bay State joins Arizona, California, New Mexico and Vermont as states that have adopted bans on these types of contests.

States like Wisconsin and Nevada have also mulled over similar predator hunting contest bans.

On their website, the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board said they conducted a review of policies and regulations that led to these new regulatory recommendations back in July. A period of public hearings and comment followed, and the results from these listening sessions were overwhelmingly in support of wildlife officials banning the contests.

"Public perception was that the contests weren't ethical, and that they incentivize the indiscriminate killing of wildlife, and contributed to their waste," MDFW biologist Dave Wattles told New England Public Radio back in August when the proposed changes were first announced.

The Humane Society of the United States has already praised the ban. "We thank MassWildlife for taking decisive action to ensure that the Commonwealth no longer supports such barbaric and wasteful killing of its treasured wildlife," Laura Hagen, the state director for the society said after the news broke.

The regulations have also changed regarding the topic of wanton waste. The board defined it more clearly on their website: "'Waste' means to intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead animal in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve it," the board wrote. There are exceptions for animals deemed "unfit for consumption or use," or for problem animals such as beavers.

It seems wildlife officials considered many recurring themes in making their decision with these contests. One was a question of wildlife management. More specifically, it was felt such contests for animals such as deer are different because deer populations are closely managed through bag limits. Coyote populations are not.

"The key difference is that contests for quantity are specifically designed to incentivize the take of more animals or the most animals," the board wrote on their website. "This problem is particularly acute for species that do not have a season bag limit. In the absence of a season bag limit, a "largest" contest still incentivizes the take of multiple animals in order to get the largest (or smallest, or nicest coat, etc.)."

MassWildlife recognized the regulations could negatively affect farmers. They have suggested farmers and other landowners will be able to get special permits to shoot problem coyotes in defense of people or livestock. The rules on wanton waste of animals would not apply for these situations.

Along those same lines, they also acknowledged some concerns by the public that a reduction in coyote hunting as a result of the contest could cause more human-coyote conflicts in an urban setting. Such conflicts have become a problem in many U.S. cities in recent years.

However, MassWildlife is disagreeing with that sentiment, saying hunting cannot prevent those problems. They are recommending preventative measures to avoid those encounters before they happen.

The new rule changes will also change reporting requirements. Gray and red fox and coyote harvests will now also need to be checked in within 48 hours.

While these regulation changes were just approved, they will not go into effect until the 2020 fall hunting season begins.

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