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Arizona Game and Fish moves to ban coyote killing contests

PHOENIX (FOX 10) - The Arizona Game and Fish Commission voted Friday to ban organized contests where hunters try to kill the most coyotes or other predators for prizes like cash or hunting equipment.

The 4-0 vote bans contests that require registration and a fee and award prizes for killing the most coyotes or other fur-bearing animals or predators. The ban needs final approval by the Governor's Regulatory Review Council, appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey. If GRRC approves the rule, it could go into effect on January 1, 2020.

"To the extent these contests reflect on the overall hunting community, public outrage with these events has the potential to threaten hunting as a legitimate wildlife management function," said Kurt Davis, a member of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. "Regulated hunting fundamentally supports wildlife conservation efforts in North America. The loss of hunting would equate to a measurable loss in conservation efforts, and would represent a failure of the Commission to fulfill its duty to conserve wildlife for the beneficial use of current and future generations."

Coyote-killing contests have drawn the ire of activists in recent years. The Oregon Legislature is considering a law banning the practice, and New Mexico's governor signed a new law banning the contests in April.

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the rule "would not apply to lawful, regulated hunting of predators and fur-bearing animals, which plays an important role in wildlife management, nor would it apply to events such as fishing tournaments."

AZGFD also stated, "Predatory animals as defined in A.R.S. § 17-101 are coyotes, bobcats, foxes and skunks. Fur-bearing animals are weasels, raccoons, beavers, badgers, ringtail cats, muskrats, otters and bobcats."

The environment group Center for Biological Diversity hailed the vote but said it remained concerned that loopholes will allow some contests to continue.

"..we were pleased to hear that Commissioner Davis is committed to amending the rule if necessary to prevent participants from evading the ban. We all want the same thing: to end the cruel and ecologically destructive killing of the public's wildlife for no good reason," said Matt Francis, Arizona State Representative for Project Coyote.

Project Coyote, of the environmental protection group National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests, said the events ignore the key ecological roles played by native predators such as coyotes.

AZGFD says removing coyotes from one area only results in coyotes moving in from another area and breeding faster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.