If Wildlife Killing Contests are Illegal in Ontario, Why is There One Happening Now?
In Ontario, most wildlife species are subject to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA). This legislation summarizes the rules and regulations around hunting, trapping, angling – otherwise known as "management". While it does have significant faults, the FWCA does prohibit bounties, the incentivization of killing, and killing in expectation of gain. More specifically, section 11 states:
(1) Except with the authorization of the Minister, a person shall not,
(a) hunt for hire, gain or the expectation of gain;
(b) hire, employ or induce another person to hunt for gain;
(c) trap for hire, gain or the expectation of gain;
(d) hire, employ or induce another person to trap for gain; or
(e) pay or accept a bounty.
In 2015, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry rightly shut down two coyote killing contests after finding that they were in violation of these prohibitions. The Minister took its direction from the rule of law, as well as public opinion that barbaric and scientifically unjustifiable coyote killing contests did not belong in our province.
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?
Perhaps more importantly, why did the Ministry consult with the contest organizers, instruct them to change a couple of the prizes, and allow the contest to go ahead despite obvious contravention of s. 11(1) a & b? The people who entered the contest for the chance to win cash, guns and other hunting accessories are very clearly hunting for the expectation of gain. They will spend all of February shooting coyotes and bringing the carcasses to the hunting store staff to be weighed, hoping they will win a prize. In fact, they want so badly to win a prize that they pay the store $20 just to enter.
Conversely, by offering prizes to the hunters of the 10 largest as well as the smallest coyote handed in, Chesher’s is inducing many people to hunt for gain.
The government has repeatedly ignored our requests to confirm or deny if they've authorized the contest formally. It makes little difference whether they have authorized it, or are refusing to enforce the Act. They are obviously aware of how brutish they look by giving the green light, however indirectly, to a contest that rewards people for slaughtering native wildlife that don't even get eaten.
Surely, too, they are sensitive to the fact that Ontarians would be rightly upset and shocked to learn that this contest needlessly jeopardizes at-risk Algonquin wolves as well as eastern coyotes.
Eastern coyotes evolved in Ontario in the wake of historical persecution, including government bounty programs, poisoning and rampant snaring, which decimated the Algonquin wolf population that once occupied southern Ontario. There are now only a few hundred Algonquin wolves left in the world.
The eastern coyote’s evolution is characterized by a fairly rapid uptake of Algonquin wolf genetics. When coyotes from the Plains arrived in a newly cleared habitat that was largely wolf-free, they were so rare that they bred with the wolves they encountered. That genetic mixing makes it impossible to visually differentiate between many eastern coyotes and Algonquin wolves, which are typically larger. You need to look at the DNA in order to accurately tell them apart.
By biasing the prizes toward the largest “coyotes” shot by hunters, Chesher’s is well poised to be soon awarding hundreds of dollars and guns to hunters murdering a species at risk that is supposed to be protected across the province.
The government is ready to allow this to happen, but is not ready to admit that to the public.
Perhaps their reluctance is due to the fact that the people who support these contests spout violent and badly misinformed rhetoric, copying us on messages to the government asking them to “kill them all”, or sending us gruesome photographs of coyote carcasses they brag about.
A government which fails to address and discourage this bloodthirsty mentality is failing wildlife and will ultimately have to show its face to a more informed public. We recommend that the government look to nearby jurisdictions and plan their next moves carefully. Killing contests have recently been banned in seven states since 2014, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington.
We urge you to join us, and make your voice heard as we come together in an attempt to shut down this unacceptable contest. Please ask the Ministry why they are letting this cruel contest continue at: earthroots.good.do/killingcontest/email/.
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