Animal advocates are calling on the province to shut down a coyote killing contest being held this month by a hunting store in Belleville.
Chesher’s Outdoor Store shared on Facebook that it will be holding the contest between February 1st and February 28th, and prizes and cash will be awarded for the 10 largest coyotes — and the smallest.
All participants had to sign up in January and pay $20 for entry.
“The main purpose of this event is to help control the predators that threaten our deer population and have some fun doing it,” the store wrote.
It says the person who is weighing the coyote must be the one who shot the animal, and all “applicable hunting reg’s will apply as well as any provincial/federal or municipal laws with the respect to hunting coyotes.”
Coyote Watch Canada and the Fur-Bearers are joining a call by the organization, Earth Roots, which started the petition, for the province to end the contest.
Coyote killing contests are illegal in Ontario, but the government is allowing one to go forward anyway.
— Earthroots (@Earthroots) February 7, 2021
The petition reads that because shooters are aiming for the 10 largest coyotes, and the smallest, it “will probably be a pup born this past spring.”
Calling the contest “barbaric and ecologically harmful,” the organization warns it is jeopardizing the lives of species at risk because there are no geographic boundaries.
“It jeopardizes threatened Algonquin wolves, which cannot be visually differentiated from coyotes,” the petition reads, “Algonquin wolves are normally bigger than eastern coyotes, so hunters who bring in dead Algonquin wolves can be rewarded with cash and prizes for killing a species at risk.”
— The Fur-Bearers (@FurBearers) February 9, 2021
These 'actors' will spend all of Feb. shooting coyotes & bringing the carcasses to the hunt-store staff to be weighed, hoping they will win a prize. In fact, they want so badly to win a prize that they pay the store $20 just to enter. Comment ➡️ https://t.co/0KcuYcD5iE#onpoli pic.twitter.com/txlWlX42i7
— Coyote Watch Canada (@CoyoteWatchCAN) February 11, 2021
The organization is questioning why this contest is being allowed because, according to Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, hunting for expectation of gain, or inducing anyone else to hunt for gain, is illegal.
In a statement, the province says, “anyone hunting coyotes is required to have a small game licence, follow the rules and regulations for hunting in Ontario, and be aware of local discharge of firearm by-laws. In most of southern Ontario, hunting and trapping of coyotes is open year-round.”
“Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officers continue to patrol and protect our natural resources during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the province says.
Chesher’s Outdoor store did not return 680 NEWS’ requests for an interview, but the business posted a message, written by Billy Chesher, on Facebook about attention its received regarding the coyote contest on social media.
“While we understand that hunting and the activities that go alongside hunting are not seen as necessary or even as acceptable by some of the demographics that our contest and page has reached, we have seen an incredibly difficult level of anger, resentment and threats arise from, what we believe is, a simple misunderstanding as to the direction and purpose of our involvement,” Chesher wrote.
The post continues to say the store is not promoting illegal activity, the prize for the smallest animal allows people to learn perspective of the population, and it’s for “fun.”
“Everybody who knows me, knows that I am referring to enjoying your time in the outdoors, with your buddies, with your families and pets. It’s that simple.”
“No true outdoorsman or sportsman feels joy or fun in the taking of a life. It’s simply part of it, and we all deal with hunter’s remorse in our own ways,” Chesher wrote.
As of Thursday evening, more than 7,420 people have signed the petition.
The province says to report a natural resource violation, or to provide information about an unsolved case, you can call the ministry tips line toll free at 1-877-847-7667, your local ministry office, or Crime Stoppers.
Days after this story was published, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters published a statement in support of Chesher’s Outdoor Store.
In part, the statement reads, “As you may know by now, Chesher’s Outdoor Store in Belleville has been the subject of unwarranted social media attacks, vandalism, and threats because of a coyote hunting contest they are hosting.
This represents just the latest round of attacks that the hunting community has endured. After years of hearing these anti-hunting, anti-fur, anti-fishing, and anti-use sentiments devolve into hate-filled rhetoric, personal attacks, and threats of violence, we are no longer surprised by them anymore.
What we are surprised by, however, is that these threats and actions continue to receive little in the way of public criticism…
…The OFAH will always wholeheartedly denounce actions like these from opponents of fishing, hunting, and trapping, and we will continue to fully and respectfully defend our fishing and hunting heritage against them.”
#UPDATE Federation of Anglers and Hunters reacting to attention the coyote killing contest held by Chesher's Outdoor Store this month has received.
— Michelle Morton (@MichelleEMorton) February 22, 2021