Coyote hunt contest creating controversy among animal advocates

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) - Cabela's in Charleston is hosting a coyote hunt for the first time this weekend and hundreds of hunters have already signed up to hit the woods.

Meanwhile, animal advocates believe making it a contest just isn't right.

Coyotes are known to be vicious and kill other animals ranging from livestock, deer and even house cats. With an increased population, hunters are gearing up for the hunt Saturday and Sunday.

Throughout the Mountain State, the number of coyotes roaming woods, farms and even some neighborhoods is increasing, and more animals are being killed.

"They'll kill anything - birds, rabbits, deer, squirrels, everything. They'll kill fox just because, because they are competition they will kill them and leave them, they won’t even eat them. They are a pretty invasive animal,” hunter James Grim, who is participating in the coyote hunt, said.

Hundreds of hunters will hit the woods this weekend for the first West Virginia coyote hunt, sponsored by HM Defense Team Fur Seekers. It is being held at Cabela's in Charleston.

So far, 117 teams of up to four people have signed up. Teams will receive money and prizes for the heaviest and most coyotes.

Eric Davis, the marketing manager at Cabela's, said the overpopulation has become more than a nuisance.

"Every day there’s a farmer in the store talking about losing livestock, house cats," Davis said. "It’s crazy, they're really getting overpopulated.”

Davis said they hope the hunt will help control the population and provide something new for hunters.

"There’s no season going on except rabbit season, so it’s something for hunters to do that helps control the population,” Davis said.

The Humane Society of the United States - West Virginia is hitting Facebook in opposition to voice concerns about teams competing to kill.

The post states, "allowing this blood sport to continue gives hunters and wildlife agencies a black eye and sends a dangerous message to our youth that killing is fun. Gratuitously slaughtering animals for thrills and prizes is unethical and out of step with our current understanding of ecosystems and the important role each species plays."

Lisa Mitchell is an animal advocate who also thinks it’s wrong.

"They are being rewarded for it and paid for it and celebrated and winning raffles for it, and it’s just not the spirit of ethical hunting or ethical wildlife management,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said she's not anti-hunting, she just doesn't think this will help.

"It actually has been proven over and over again that this type of killing contest does not serve that purpose, it’s called the vacuum effect. If you exterminate coyotes from a certain area, then new coyotes will simply repopulate that area,” Mitchell said.

The Humane Society of the United States - West Virginia is asking people to voice their concerns to Cabela's.

Meanwhile, people can still sign up from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Cabela's. Hunters must follow regulations.

According to the event flyer, "All coyotes must be killed in West Virginia or a State that borders West Virginia! All hunters must comply with state laws regarding hunting coyotes. All hunters must have a hunting licence. This is a gun hunt only. No trapping, snaring, or dogs. All coyotes will be checked by a veterinarian at weigh in and top 3 winners and biggest coyote will be given a polygraph test!"

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