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Effort to end wildlife sporting contests underway in Wyoming

CODY, WY (AP) –  Drivers traveling from Cody to Yellowstone National Park will see a large billboard featuring a wolf and a call to action to end wildlife sporting contests.

A new billboard campaign launching this week near Yellowstone National Park aims to draw attention to the practice of wildlife-killing contests, where participants pay fees for the chance to win prizes for killing the largest numbers of wildlife including bobcats, coyotes and wolves.

Michelle Lute, national conservation manager for Project Coyote, said most people are not aware of the  events, where participants compete to kill the most, largest or smallest animals for cash or other prizes.

She pointed out the practice does not align with widely accepted hunting ethics or values around how wildlife should be treated.

“They use night optics, huge high-powered rifles to rip the animal apart such that they couldn’t even use the pelts,” Lute explained. “They’re just wasted, piled up, and they’re tossed aside like garbage. So, this is not hunting.”

Defenders of the practice claim killing predators will help protect pets, livestock and big game.

Fifty organizations across the nation have launched campaigns to end the contests, and so far seven states have banned the practice. The billboard campaign promotes a petition to end  contests on public lands, at projectcoyote.org.

Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, said there are non-lethal, and less expensive, tools that are far more effective at preventing conflicts with predators. She noted randomly killing coyotes won’t reduce populations because the animals respond to losses by expanding their litter sizes.

“There’s not any kind of wildlife-management benefit to it,” Combs contended. “There’s not any conflict-reduction management. It’s literally just killing for the sake of killing.”

Lute added the contests are out of step with the economic future facing Wyoming communities as revenues from extraction industries continue to decline. She sees opportunity in the growing demand for people to access wild areas, which Lute believes will require finding better ways to coexist with wildlife.

“We see the future, especially across the American West for local and regional economies, is about outdoor recreation,” Lute asserted. “That’s going to bring money into places like Cody, Wyoming. It’s not about killing and taking out wildlife that everyone values and belongs to all Americans.”

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