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Coyote killing tournament sparks anger among activists for tearing families apart

A popular coyote hunting tournament in North Carolina is being blasted by animal rights activists, who insist the killing is tearing apart coyote families and creating orphans.

The Carolina Coyote Classic is set to hold its sixth annual hunt Feb, 8, 9 and 10 in Stanly County, with cash prizes for the biggest kill and hunting teams that bring in the most dead coyotes.

Carolina Sportsman reports the 2018 tournament attracted 88 hunters who killed 67 coyotes, the biggest of which weighed just over 40 pounds.

The organizer, 704 Outdoors, says the event is staged to control an animal population that heavily preys on the state’s deer population, according to a 2016 Carolina Sportsman article. The tournament is timed during the coyote mating season (February and March), when coyotes are more vocal and more likely to respond to calls, say organizers.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told the Charlotte Observer it questions the tournament’s motives.

“Ironically, the stated aim of the Carolina Coyote Classic is to ‘protect’ the deer population — so that the coyote killers can have more deer to hunt,” said a statement issued by PETA Senior Director Stephanie Bell.

“If killing coyotes controlled their population, this tournament wouldn’t be an annual event. Misguided killing contests and trapping efforts tear families of wild animals apart, leaving orphaned young to starve.”

PETA believes the hunt backfires because coyotes from outlying areas will move into the competition-free feeding areas created by killing tournaments. State biologists backed that belief in a 2016 report.

John MacPherson is among the tournament organizers and he says coyotes will never been eradicated in the state, but they can be controlled. He also notes that, because the hunt is held during mating season, there are no coyote families to break up, as PETA suggests.

“I welcome activists that question our tournament and our goals. The topic draws attention and helps spread facts and information to the public about the coyote issue at hand,” MacPherson told the Charlotte Observer. “This is not the first time we have dealt with animal activists....We would like to thank PETA for drawing more attention to the event and lending a hand to spike participation.”

Coyotes are a wild canine that has adapted to both suburban and urban areas in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Wildlife.

The species, which is known for an unnerving howl, was first documented in North Carolina’s Gaston County in 1938, and it has since spread across the state, according to state data.

A North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission report released in 2016 found 367 documented non-rabid coyote attacks on humans in the U.S. and Canada dating back to 1970. Two were fatal, says the report. Most of the attacks in the United States were in California “and urbanized western states,” the report said.

Multiple attacks on humans were reported in North Carolina in 2018, including two attacks in Davie County involving children. In March, a 9-year-old girl was attacked on her porch and in May, a father and daughter were attacked and bitten as the girl played on a backyard swing, the Charlotte Observer reported in May.

Yet another North Carolina incident was reported in April, when a man in the Town of Wake Forest was attacked by a coyote while taking out his trash, according to the News and Observer. That coyote later tested positive for rabies, the newspaper said.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says the “increasingly bold behavior in coyotes” around humans is the result of the “resource-rich suburban environment, lack of harassment” and cases where some people had been intentional feeding coyotes.

Studies have shown small-scale coyote hunting efforts like the one in Stanly County are better at changing such bold behaviors, rather than reducing the population in a significant way, says the commission.

“Increased behavioral wariness demonstrated by the surviving coyotes....may restrict their activities to nocturnal hours, to avoid people,” says the report.

PETA told the Charlotte Observer it believes there is an alternative to the hunts.

“The only effective coyote-management plans are based on public outreach and personal responsibility,” said a statement issued by PETA’s Stephanie Bell.

“All residents (need to) work together to encourage coyotes to move on by properly disposing of trash, keeping companion animals and livestock safely confined, never leaving pet food outside, and trimming vegetation away from buildings.”

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