WISCONSIN (WKOW) — Wisconsin animal advocates are trying to get a local coyote hunting contest shut down.
Moondog Madness, known to some as Wisconsin’s biggest coyote hunting tournament, is happening this weekend. Hunters from all over compete for the best kill.
Tournament organizer Matt McHugh said he’s aware of the controversy surrounding what they do.
“We hunt them, that doesn’t mean that we hate them,” he said.
Hunting coyote is legal year around in Wisconsin. As long as hunters follow standard regulations, they are free to kill as many coyotes as they want.
In an email, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources writes, “These hunts are hosted by local groups, and the department is not directly involved in the establishment, planning or implementation. All hunters pursuing coyotes must follow all applicable hunting regulations found in our Wisconsin DNR combined hunting regulations pamphlet, no different than if individually pursing these species.”
“We, as coyote hunters, have seen a lot of pushbacks, even more so than the hunting community,” McHugh added. “Surrounding these tournaments, [people think] it’s wanting waste that they all end up in the dumpsters or landfill and that’s not true.”
Instead, he said fur buyers purchase the coyotes to turn into hats, coats and scarfs. While the fur industry is slowing down, McHugh said each animal sells for roughly $10.
McHugh said they hunt for several reasons including for fun and when landowners ask for their help.
“They had their dog attacked in their yard this spring or their grandkids are afraid to play in their yard because they heard the coyotes howling,” McHugh explained.
Is it hunting or slaughter? Like any argument, there’s two sides to the story.
27 News sat down with a group of 20 people advocating for this species to be protected.
“I can’t even voice the sadness,” one person said.
Two of them even went to a Moondog Madness event to document the weigh-in contest after the hunt.
“I could still smell the blood that was just in the air and it’s kind of graphic, but it was very vivid and still in my memory,” one of those two said.
The advocates consisted of scientists, retired officials and people just passionate about animals.
One person claimed studies show killing the animals disrupts the ecosystem which could, in turn, create more issues for people and pets.
Participants also argued population control doesn’t apply.
“Is there an overpopulation of coyotes here? I’d suggest you talk to the DNR and confirm that they have no data,” another person added.
A wildlife expert with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said they do not have a specific population estimate for coyotes. He claimed they are present in large numbers and found in every Wisconsin county. He said they do not keep track of how many are killed each year but estimate it’s a growing number.
McHugh explained his goal isn’t to get rid of all the coyotes, “Hunters are conservationists, we absolutely do not want to get rid of coyotes from the landscape.”
As of now, efforts to ban or regulate coyote hunting haven’t been successful.
However, some aren’t giving up.
“Laws need to be passed in order to stop this,” an advocate said.
Meanwhile, McHugh said he will continue to defend what they do.
A DNR official added, “Individuals opposed to these organized hunts can contact their elected representatives or provide recommended changes through the Wisconsin Conservation Congress annual spring hearing process. It is illegal to interfere with individuals engaged in lawful hunting.”