Hochul Signs Bill to End Wildlife Killing Contests in New York

Photos courtesy HSUS.

New York becomes the 10th state to stop the slaughter of wild animals for cash and prizes. On Friday, December 22, 2023 Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation (A.2917/S.4099) to end the practice of wildlife killing contests in the state of New York. 

Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, squirrels, raccoons, crows and other species are among the animal species protected by this legislation. The new law prohibits competitive events during which contestants compete to kill the most, the heaviest and the smallest animals for cash and prizes.

Championed by State Assembly Woman Deborah Glick, (D-Manhattan), and State Senator Tim Kennedy, (D-Buffalo), this legislation was approved by bipartisan majorities in both houses earlier this year.

New York is the tenth state to end such competitions, following the state of Oregon took similar action last September.

Leading animal protection and conservation groups supported the bill as did thousands of New Yorkers which included hunters, farmers, veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators who also backed the legislation.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) went undercover in 2018 and 2020, attending contests in 10 states, including two in New York’s Wayne and Sullivan Counties, in which participants hauling in bloody piles of dead foxes and coyotes to be weighed and counted for prizes, then threw into a dumpster at the end of the competition was documented. More than 20 killing contests took place across the state in January and February 2023.

“After two decades of work by many people and organizations, New York has finally ended the wanton and senseless killing of various species in contests for prizes,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick. “I thank Governor Hochul for signing into law a prohibition on this abhorrent practice.”

Glick chairs of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, as well as sponsoring the legislation.

“Wildlife killing contests may have been viewed as part of a tradition, but with time we understand that the constant stress on the natural world requires us to re-evaluate customs that are undermining healthy ecosystems,” Glick continued. “At the same time, this measure in no way prevents farmers, ranchers or others from dispatching nuisance animals predating on livestock or companion animals, in accordance with Department of Environmental Conservation regulations.”

“Gov. Hochul has signed into law a critical, meaningful environmental policy, ending the wasteful use of our shared wildlife resources simply for cash and prizes,” said Brian Shapiro, New York state director for the HSUS. “We are grateful for the governor’s action and recognize the bold leadership of Assemblymember Glick and Senator Kennedy for championing this law. These inhumane, wasteful competitions must come to an end across the country once and for all and we hope other states will follow New York.”

Additional data provided by the HSUS includes the following:

·       Competitors often achieve high kill numbers by using night vision, thermal imaging and electronic calling devices. These tactics mimic sounds of dependent young or prey in distress to lure animals in for an easy kill. Animals are then shot with high-powered rifles which rip holes in the fur, often rendering the pelts useless for sale.

·       The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has found that indiscriminate killing of coyotes will not reduce their numbers, prevent conflicts with livestock, or boost populations of game species like deer. Some studies actually indicate that random killing can increase coyote populations and increase livestock conflicts.

·       Hunters and wildlife management professionals across the U.S. have called out killing contests as unethical and warned they are damaging the reputation of hunters and threatening the future of hunting.

The nine other states have also prohibited these killing contests include California in 2014, Vermont in 2018, Arizona, Massachusetts and New Mexico in 2019, Colorado and Washington in 2020, Maryland in 2021, and most recently Oregon in September of 2023.

“Today is a win for every animal that was previously targeted by these cruel contests,” said Regan Downey, director of education at the Wolf Conservation Center. “We applaud Gov. Hochul’s decision to sign A.2917/S.4099 into law. New Yorkers value humane and science-based approaches to wildlife management and we are thankful to finally have a policy that reflects these values in our backyard. Killing contests have no place in the 21st century, nor do they have a place in New York.”

This report has been contributed by the Humane Society of the United States in partnership with In Defense of Animals, an animal advocacy organization based in San Rafael, California.