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Boone and Crockett Club: Coyote Management and Fair Chase

Animal rights groups attempting to end all public hunting is nothing new. Their most recent efforts have focused on banning local contests that encourage hunters to help reduce coyote overpopulation. Some states are now considering these bans primarily based on a question of fair chase.

Animal rights groups have gained support for these initiatives by incorrectly using the Boone and Crockett Club's principle of fair chase, claiming such contests use methods that violate these principles. As the originator of the fair chase concept for hunting in the late 19th century and the primary authority on fair chase today, the Boone and Crockett Club is offering a few important points of clarification. 

"There is important distinction that is being overlooked here," stated Mark Streissguth, chair of the Club's Hunter and Conservation Ethics Committee. "Fair chase applies to the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the game animals. Coyotes are not game animals."

Naturally-occurring wildlife in North America generally falls into two classifications, game and non-game species. Game species, like elk and deer, are legal to hunt under regulatory laws that are based on population objectives and to ensure sustainability. Many game laws for hunting are based on fair chase, which is part of a broader conservation ethic that includes an ethical, sporting approach.

Predator species such as coyotes, on the other hand, are classified as non-game species. The applicable rules and regulations, if any, are less stringent for coyotes in order to encourage sufficient harvest that minimizes harm to other wildlife, pets, and livestock. Controlling populations for such purposes has never incorporated a fair chase approach because it is more closely associated with removal or reduction of animals by the most efficient means possible.  

"Allowing coyotes to negatively impact other wildlife and people because of a moral judgment that killing them is wrong is irresponsible," said Streissguth. "Coyotes, which are prolific breeders, are expanding their range into more states where conflicts with people and other wildlife are increasing. Their numbers will have to be managed, with or without contests."

Streissguth concluded, "While we object to applying fair chase incorrectly to gain a political victory, the Boone and Crockett Club maintains that no animal should be culled or killed without a purpose and encourages anyone participating in predator and varmint reductions to do so as respectfully and humanely as possible and commends those that do."

For more information, read the Principles of Fair Chase and Boone and Crockett Club position statement on Predator Management