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Coyote hunting contest prompts animal advocates to file lawsuit against Ontario

Animal Justice, The Fur-Bearers, and Coyote Watch Canada say the coyote hunting contest is illegal because it violates the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA).
File photo.

Three animal advocate groups are suing the province over an annual coyote hunting contest held near Belleville, claiming Ontario is breaking its own laws.

Chesher’s Outdoor Store posted to Facebook that it was holding the contest again in February, with various prizes and thousands of dollars in cash awarded to participants who killed the five heaviest coyotes, as well as five ‘additional hidden weight’ prizes.

The shop wrote it was $20 to enter, and all “applicable hunting reg’s will apply as well as any provincial/federal or municipal laws with the respect to hunting coyotes.”

Last year, the store updated its Facebook post, saying “based on consultation with the MNR (Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry) we must modify our contest to exclude the prize per coyote as well as the prize for the most coyotes. Both have been determined to be promoting a bounty.”

Animal Justice, The Fur-Bearers, and Coyote Watch Canada say this contest is illegal because it violates the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA).

According to the FWCA, hunting for expectation of gain, or inducing anyone else to hunt for gain, or to pay or accept a bounty is illegal, excluding with the authorization of the minister responsible.

Ministry is authorizing an illegal activity, says lawyer 

Lawyer with Animal Justice, Kaitlyn Mitchell says, “the law is quite clear.”

“If it’s correct, that the minister essentially told the store ‘you can go ahead with this contest,’ then to us it is the minister who is at fault because the minister is the one who is authorizing what is otherwise an illegal activity to take place,” Mitchell said.

“We think that no one is above the law when it comes to animal protection laws, and that includes the government itself, so we would like to hold the minister to account, and make sure that the minister has to actually apply this law — which protects animals against being killed in cruel hunting contests."

Even though the annual hunting contest wrapped up last month, Mitchell says the goal now with this lawsuit is to make it the last year it’s held, and to prevent further contests like this one from taking place again in the province.

“We, and the other groups, worked as hard as we could to encourage the minister to enforce the law, thousands of people wrote in, alerted the ministry to the fact that this contest was going on, called on them to enforce the law, we were hopeful that they would,” Mitchell said. “But as the month wore on, it became very clear to us that the minister was not going to apply the law and so our only choice was to go to court.”

Threatened species at risk?

The location of where this coyote killing contest is held is also concerning for the groups because they say it poses a risk to Algonquin wolves, which are a threatened species in Ontario, and are described to be nearly identical to coyotes.

Killing coyotes can also have a larger impact on the ecosystem and animals around them, Mitchell says, because they are keystone species.

In a statement to CityNews, the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry said, “Ontario has been served with a notice of application for judicial review. Ministry counsel are reviewing the application. As this matter is before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

CityNews has reached out to Chesher’s Outdoor Store for comment, but a staff member said police advised them not to say anything. In an email statement, a spokesperson claims the store has received threats and was vandalized since the public learned about the contest last year, and did not want to comment.

Mitchell says they hope to have this matter heard in court before the next annual coyote killing contest takes place next year.

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