MassWildlife proposes regulations to ban predator contests and prohibit wanton waste
In response to public concern related to coyote hunting contests sponsored by private entities, MassWildlife and the Fisheries and Wildlife Board conducted a review of policies and regulations associated with coyote hunting and contests. Public feedback was collected at four listening sessions held from April through June and received through phone calls, letters, and emails. In addition to gathering and considering input from stakeholders, MassWildlife professionals examined the best available science and consulted with wildlife professionals from other state agencies. On July 17, MassWildlife staff made a regulatory recommendation to the Fisheries and Wildlife Board based on this comprehensive review. The proposal addresses public concerns that these hunting contests are unethical, contribute to the waste of animals, and incentivize indiscriminate killing of wildlife, inconsistent with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Further, recognizing that public controversy over this issue has the potential to threaten predator hunting and undermine public support for hunting in general, MassWildlife recommended the following regulatory changes:
- Prohibit hunting contests for predators and furbearers.
- Prohibit “wanton waste” of game animals and birds taken during regulated hunting and trapping seasons.
- Change harvest reporting requirements for fox and coyote to be reported within 48 hours, consistent with current reporting requirements for deer, turkey, and bear.
The Fisheries and Wildlife Board voted to hold public hearings on MassWildlife’s recommendations. Public hearings will be held at two locations:
October 22: Public Hearing on Predator Hunting Contests and Wanton Waste Regulations, Lenox – A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Lenox Town Hall, 6 Walker Street.
October 29: Public Hearing on Predator Hunting Contests and Wanton Waste Regulations, Westborough – A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, Richard Cronin Building, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, off North Drive in Westborough.
Please click here to read the proposed regulatory language and learn how to provide public comment. Comments may be submitted for up to 2 weeks following the hearings by email to Susan.email@example.com, Attn: Fisheries and Wildlife Board or by mail to Chairman, Fisheries and Wildlife Board, c/o Director of MassWildlife, Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.
- Fulfills one of MassWildlife’s core functions to develop and maintain hunting, fishing, and trapping opportunities in Massachusetts.
- Addresses public concern that certain contests contribute to the waste of animals.
- Recognizes and addresses that public controversy over this issue has the potential to threaten predator hunting.
- Discourages the waste of wildlife and reinforces a core principle and expectation that all animals taken during the regulated seasons are utilized to the greatest extent possible, as taught in Hunter Education.
- Recognizes that coyotes and other furbearers are managed as a valuable natural resource.
- Does not reduce opportunity for hunting coyotes or other furbearers.
Summary of proposed changes
Prohibition on contests for predators and furbearers
- A predator or furbearer contest is where participants compete for prizes of cash value or other inducements in the capture or take of predatory or furbearing animals.
- It shall be unlawful for any person to organize, sponsor, promote, conduct, or participate in a contest for take of coyote, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, weasels, mink, skunk, river otter, muskrat, beaver, fisher, raccoon, and opossum. (Animals regulated under 321 CMR 3.02(3) or 3.02(5)(b)(2, 5-11)).
Prohibition of wanton waste
- “Waste” means to intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead animal or bird in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it.
- It is unlawful for any person while hunting or trapping in accordance with 321 CMR 3.02 to waste an animal or bird. Each retrieved animal or bird shall be retained or transferred to another until processed or used for food, fur, feathers, or taxidermy.
- The draft waste regulation does not apply to:
- Animals “unfit for consumption or use” – animals or birds and their parts that are damaged, destroyed, decayed, rotting, diseased, or infected.
- Defense of people or property (M.G.L. Ch. 131 Sec 37).
- Problem wildlife, such as Beaver Emergency Permitting (321 CMR 2.08) and Problem Animal Control (321 CMR 2.14).
- Certain animals listed in M.G.L. c. 131 Sec. 5: English sparrow, starling, crow, chipmunk, flying squirrel, red squirrel, porcupine, skunk, weasel, or woodchuck.
- Wounded or dead animals that cannot be retrieved after a reasonable effort has been made.
Change harvest reporting requirements for fox and coyote
- Fox and coyote shall be checked within 48 hours of harvest, consistent with deer, bear, and turkey requirements. Fox and coyote may be checked online or in person.
Q: Have other states banned similar contests?
A: Yes. Since 2014, California, Arizona, Vermont, and New Mexico have banned coyote, predator, or furbearer contests. New York and Oregon are currently contemplating laws on this matter.
Q: Are hunting contests or coyote hunting regulations threatening the current coyote populations?
A: Coyote populations are stable, healthy, and abundant. MassWildlife estimates the statewide population of coyotes is between 9,500 and 11,500 animals. Over the past 10 years, the annual coyote harvest has ranged from 400 and 750—less than 10% of the statewide population. Due to the coyote’s unique reproductive biology, it would take an annual 70% harvest to reduce coyote populations. The current harvest from coyote hunting does not reduce the coyote population.
Q: Coyotes kill deer; shouldn’t coyote populations be controlled in order to maintain the deer population in the state?
A: With a historic high of 95,000 deer estimated in Massachusetts combined with recent record deer harvests, deer populations are thriving despite the presence of coyotes. Recent research shows that coyote predation on fawns and adult deer does not impact deer populations. Annually, biologists estimate that coyotes kill about 20–30% of fawns. Scientific studies have shown that fawn survival rates are similar with or without coyote predation. Coyotes rarely kill adult deer and in Massachusetts, adult doe survival rates are very high. High adult female survival translates into more fawns produced over a number of years, contributing to a flourishing statewide population.