The Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission meets in Bend Friday to consider a rule that would prohibit organized derby hunts of unregulated game animals, such as coyotes.
It likely will be a heavily attended and vocal meeting. Several hundred comments have already been submitted regarding the proposed restrictions on coyote hunting derbies in Eastern Oregon. Central Oregon Daily News profiled these contests last winter.
Proponents say coyote killing contests are cruel, inhumane and not based on science.
“It’s unethical to kill them for sport and for blood,” said Adam Bronstein of the Western Watershed Project.
“Most of us are one month away from calving and we welcome it,” Kristin Shelman, a Harney County commissioner.
“They are really more similar to a blood sport like dog fighting or cock fighting, which have been outlawed in every state,” said Katie Steens of the Humane Society of the United States.
“You can’t legislate in Salem what we do over here,” said Rusty Inglis of the Harney Country Farm Bureau.
Opponents say there are benefits, including protection of newborn livestock and economic stimulus the derbies bring to small towns.
“Having this coyote derby doesn’t bother us at all. It actually helps alleviate some of the population when they become the most devastating to us,” said Scott Franklin, a rancher north of Burns.
Last year, the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Commission denied a petition from 15 non-governmental organizations to prohibit coyote killing contests. But they directed staff to draft administrative rules to address concerns about taking wildlife as part of a derby.
The proposal is to prohibit organized hunting derbies but not restrict ranchers or hunters from shooting predatory animals that damage agricultural operations.
“If you want to offer in person testimony, just show up at the meeting,” said Michelle Dennehy, ODFW communications director. “There will be forms at a table right outside the meeting room and you can sign up. It’s only if you want to testify remotely that you need to sign up in advance. That’s just so we can be ready for you and make sure the technology is working on our end.”
The derby hunting agenda item is scheduled to begin at 1 pm. Friday at the Seventh Mountain Resort conference center. If you want to testify remotely, you must register by 8 a.m. Wednesday on the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife website.