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Humane Society takes aim at Indiana wildlife hunting contests; undercover investigation released

In the contest, teams competed in categories for killing the most coyotes, the heaviest coyote and the smallest coyote.
Credit: Hamilton Society of the United States
Killing contest contestants bring their dead coyotes to be weighed and counted, Williamsport Fire Department, Williamsport, Indiana, Dec. 6, 2020.

WARREN COUNTY, INDIANA, Ind. — WARNING: This story contains graphic images and videos that some might find disturbing.

The Humane Society of the United States released the results of an undercover investigation carried out in Indiana. The investigation focused on a two-day coyote killing contest in Warren County.

In the contest, teams competed in categories for killing the most coyotes, the heaviest coyote and the smallest coyote. The hunt culminated at a local fire department on Dec. 6, 2020 with approximately 60 coyotes being killed, according to the Humane Society.

Credit: Williamsport Indiana Fire Department Facebook Page
A Facebook post by the Williamsport, Indiana Fire Department promoting the December hunt.

"Wildlife killing contests have no place in Indiana," said Samantha Morton, Indiana state director for the Humane Society of the United States. "The pointless slaughter of coyotes, who are cousins to domestic dogs, is an embarrassment to our state. There's no sportsmanship in this depraved pastime. We urge the Indiana Natural Resources Commission to follow the lead of other states and ban these cruel wildlife killing contests."

The investigation claims the teams punched holes in the animals' legs to hang them on a scale to earn cash and prizes.

"Killing coyotes for cash and prizes and then throwing them away like trash is barbaric. These animals are essential to a healthy ecosystem. This kind of sadistic competition needs to be banned in every state," said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Credit: Humane Society of the United States
Killing contest contestants bring their dead coyotes to be weighed and counted, Williamsport Fire Department, Williamsport, Indiana, Dec. 6, 2020.

Killing contests in 2021 include:

  • Montezuma, Indiana, coyote killing contest, Jan. 8-10
  • Bargersville, Indiana, coyote killing contest, Feb. 6-7
  • Greenwood, Indiana, coyote killing contest, March 13-15

The Humane Society said wildlife killing contest participants use devices like electronic callers that mimic sounds of dependent young or prey in distress to lure them in for an easy shot, then kill the animals using high-powered weapons that inflict significant damage on their bodies.

Credit: Humane Society of the United States
Killing contest contestants bring their dead coyotes to be weighed and counted, Williamsport Fire Department, Williamsport, Indiana, Dec. 6, 2020.

Hunt organizer response

13News spoke with an organizer of the hunt contest. He stressed that the hunt was done to raise money to go toward helping a veteran that lost his home in a fire. The contest raised thousands of dollars toward that cause. He said a lot of the hunts are done to benefit a cause.

In terms of the number of coyotes killed, the organizer said, "If there was an issue with the amount taken, the state would put a limit on it."

He also said that the coyotes are dead when they are being weighed and that they would never permit the torturing of an animal and follow state laws.

The organizer also pointed out that coyotes compete with fox and have been known to attack farm animals and people's pets. In some cases, coyotes have even been known to attack children and adults.

Hunting coyotes in Indiana

13News reached out to the DNR about hunting contests in the state and received the following response:

“Individual participants must follow the existing hunting laws. The Division of Fish & Wildlife has been studying the issue and collecting data. Any rule proposals the Division of Fish & Wildlife submits to the Natural Resources Commission will consider what is in the best interest of all Hoosiers and wildlife in the state. The results of the studies will be made publicly available and shared with the Natural Resources Commission to help inform their decision on proposed rules.”

A valid hunting license is needed to hunt coyotes in Indiana. It is legal to hunt coyotes with the use of mouth or hand-operated calls, or with the use of recorded calls. There are no restrictions on hunting hours or firearms for hunting coyotes. Landowners, or a person with written permission from a landowner, may take coyotes year-round on private property by trapping or shooting without a permit from the DNR. A landowner does not need a permit to take coyotes on their property by one of these methods, but a hunting or trapping license is required to hunt or trap coyotes on land other than your own.

According to the DNR, hunting and trapping are important components of managing coyotes in Indiana. However, not all coyotes are problem coyotes. Removing coyotes not causing problems around livestock can encourage new coyotes to move in, which may cause damage.  

The DNR lists preventative measures people can take:

  • Feed pets indoors when possible; pick up leftovers if feeding outdoors; and store pet and livestock feed where it’s inaccessible to wildlife.
  • Eliminate water bowls and other artificial water sources if possible.
  • Position bird feeders in a location that is less likely to attract small animals or bring the feeders in at night (to keep coyotes from feeding on the bird food or the other animals). Take down bird feeders if issues are occurring.
  • Do not discard edible garbage where coyotes can get to it. Secure garbage containers.
  • Trim and clean shrubbery near ground level to reduce hiding cover for coyotes or their prey.
  • Always keep pets leashed and if kept outside, provide secure nighttime housing for them. Any outdoor pet or poultry runs should have a top to make them more secure and the fencing should be buried in the ground to prevent digging under the fence.
  • If you start seeing coyotes around your home, discourage them by shouting, making loud noises, shaking a container of coins, using an air horn or whistle, spraying them with a hose, or throwing rocks or tennis balls, but NEVER corner a coyote — always give the coyote a free escape route.