SALEM — The Oregon Hunters Association is willing to drop its opposition to a bill banning coyote-hunting competitions if it exempts raffles that don’t reward the “number, weight or size” of animals killed.
House Bill 4075 would prohibit any contest that offers cash or prizes for the killing of coyotes. It is similar to a proposal that was voted down in the Oregon House after passing the Senate last year.
An amendment to this year’s proposal would exclude raffles held by nonprofit organizations, such as local chapters of the Oregon Hunters Association, that exchange raffle tickets for coyote pelts submitted by members.
At the end of the year, the winning ticket holder receives a prize but the contest isn’t directly related to the “number, weight or size of the coyotes taken” as specified by the amendment.
Though the Oregon Hunters Association wouldn’t oppose HB 4075 with that exception, the organization nonetheless didn’t sound enthused about the proposal during a Feb. 11 hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee.
“This bill does not achieve a compelling state interest in our opinion,” said Paul Donheffner, the group’s legislative committee chairman.
The prohibition against coyote-hunting contests amounts to an attempt to legislate a moral or philosophical point of view, but the U.S. Constitution protects speech and activities that others may dislike, Donheffner said.
However, the Oregon Hunters Association understands the “optics” of large commercial coyote-hunting contests, which are the bill’s primary targets, and appreciates the proposed exemption for raffles that are essential to the culture of its local chapters, he said.
The Oregon Farm Bureau opposed the original version of HB 4075 but hasn’t yet decided whether the proposed amendment would change its position on the bill, said Mary Anne Cooper, the group’s vice president of public policy.
County governments have less money available for predator control and large coyote populations pose a danger to livestock producers in Oregon, Cooper said. “We want to preserve any tool available to us.”
Most of the testimony heard during the legislative hearing supported the ban, with critics of coyote-hunting contests claiming these competitions are ethically and scientifically indefensible.
Removing predators, such as coyotes, from a territory will just encourage increased reproduction by remaining pack members and the immigration of coyotes from surrounding areas, said Robert Wielgus, former director of Washington State University’s Large Carnivore Conservation Laboratory.
“The remaining members of the pack become breeders. That’s how you end up with more predation down the road on livestock,” Wielgus said.
Numerous studies have shown that killing coyotes isn’t effective for livestock protection, as even eliminating three-fourths of the carnivore’s population from an area only had short-term benefits, he said.
“You’re on a never-ending treadmill of livestock depredation and wild game depredation,” Wielgus said. “Scientifically, there is no basis for it.”
Rene Tatro, who identified himself as a hunter, said he supported the prohibition in part because such contests reflect poorly on the hunting community.
The vast majority of Oregonians don’t hunt, so negative public perceptions could have repercussions for the sport, he said.
“We’re going to lose that privilege,” he said. “This isn’t about abridging our rights to hunt, it’s about preserving them.”