A group of hunters in Salmon, Idaho is being criticized for a two-day "coyote and wolf derby" its sponsoring next week.
Idaho for Wildlife's organized hunt is December 28 and 29. The event is focused on young hunters. Sponsors have put up two $1,000 prizes for teams that kill the biggest wolf and the most coyotes.
The contest has once again highlighted the divide between wolf hunters and wolf advocates.
Christine Gertschen is a wildlife advocate in Sun Valley. She says she’s been a critic of hunting derbies in the past.
“Then when this one came up, I just kind of lost it,” she says. “I started writing Fish and Game, and the commissioners. It sends such a poor message of how we feel about wildlife. That we just throw their carcasses in a pile and count them?”
The event has drawn sharp criticism from all across the country. A Change.org petition to stop the derby had 12,500 signatures as of Friday morning.
The statewide director of Idaho for Wildlife, Steve Alder, says the hunt won’t yield stacks of dead wolves. He says he’s not sure hunters will kill any of the animals. But he does regret the way his group has marketed the derby.
“I would have removed the wolf’s name out of it and just called it a 'predator youth derby',” he says. “That would have hopefully circumvented some of the radical [environmentalists’] emotional rubbish about the killing of all these wolves that [they claim] we’re gonna do.”
On Thursday, the Humane Society of the United States issued one of the strongest rebukes of the event so far. It called the contest a “wolf massacre” and labeled organizers as “ruthless”. It urged those who feel the same to write Idaho’s Fish and Game commissioners.
Alder, of Lewiston, Idaho, doesn't see it that way.
Idaho's Department of Fish and Game recently hired a hunter to eliminate two wolf packs in the Frank Church Wilderness area. The state says the wolves have killed too many elk calves.
Alder says his group plans to publicize how many wolves are killed after the derby.
“Hunting is the tool that Idaho Fish and Game uses to manage, and this is a tool for management,” he says.
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