Each year, trophy hunters kill hundreds of thousands of America’s native carnivores, and bears, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, and foxes are their principal victims.

The primary motivation of these hunters is to obtain animals’ heads, hides, claws, or even their whole bodies for displaying and bragging. Trophy hunters use cruel methods like baiting, hounding, night vision scopes, and even electronic calling devices that mimic the sound of young animals or prey in distress to lure their quarry.

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Our valuable native wildlife species are also targeted in cruel wildlife killing contests, in which participants compete to kill the largest, the heaviest, or even the smallest animals for cash and prizes. These events take place regularly in almost all 43 U.S. states where they are not yet banned, and hundreds of animals may be killed at a single event. The pandemic hasn’t slowed the slaughter; emerging evidence suggests that many of these grisly competitions are going virtual.

Here’s What’s Happening to the Target Animals

Black Bears

Black bears are highly sentient and spend prolonged periods raising, bonding with, and nurturing their cubs. In fall, the very season in which they should be focused on feeding for hibernation, bears instead must hide from trophy hunters who rely on hounding, baiting, trapping, and targeting mothers and newborn cubs. In Alaska, trophy hunters can even kill black bears asleep in their dens. Trophy hunters in Alaska also killed 400 brown bears in 2019 alone – it’s the only state that allows the killing of brown/grizzly bears.

Some states also allow springtime bear hunting, leaving tiny cubs orphaned and at risk of dying from starvation, predation, or exposure.

Coyotes

Every year, roughly half a million coyotes— highly misunderstood native carnivores – are shot, poisoned, trapped, and even gunned down from airplanes by trophy hunters and government agencies, and slaughtered for entertainment and prizes in wildlife killing contests.

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Investigations of killing contests by the Humane Society of the United States in New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia, Indiana, and Texas have revealed gruesome images of coyotes tossed in dumpsters after prizes were awarded. In most states, coyotes can be killed all year long in unlimited numbers, even though wildlife management professionals and scientists acknowledge that random killing serves no legitimate wildlife management purpose.

Mountain Lions

Mountain lion kittens depend on their mothers until they are about two years old. When trophy hunters kill a mother, her young, inexperienced kittens typically die from starvation or predation.

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Big cats play a key role in balancing healthy ecosystems and maintaining biological diversity. They selectively prey on sick deer, such as those inflicted with chronic wasting disease and Lyme disease, and help to decrease deadly and expensive vehicle-deer collisions. Yet mountain lions in 10 states are subjected to cruel hound hunting, in which trophy hunters fit their dogs with high-tech radio collars. After the hounds have treed a mountain lion, the hunters arrive to shoot the animal at close range. In states like Nevada, Montana, and Wyoming, which prohibit mountain lion trapping, they often die in traps or snares set for other species.

Wolves

Wolves are highly social and raise their pups in extended family units. When trophy hunters kill one family member, an entire pack can be lost, causing the death of dependent young and disrupting the wolves’ complex social structure.

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These apex carnivores have faced relentless persecution in some western states for years.  Montana state lawmakers are currently mounting a legislative assault that would drastically expand the carnage which already involves the killing of hundreds of wolves per year. Worse, federal protections were recently removed for wolves in the rest of the lower 48 states, too. Following a court decision, Wisconsin opened a February season in which more than 100 wolves were shot, trapped, and chased to their deaths.

Bobcats

Weighing only 15 to 35 pounds, bobcats are just slightly larger than the average house cat. But these shy and elusive wild cats are killed for their beautiful fur by trophy hunters and trappers in 39 states.

In Colorado, state officials have allowed nearly 30,000 bobcats to be trapped or killed in recent decades. In Texas, the HSUS documented a wildlife killing contest in which participants slaughtered bobcats with AR-15 rifles, then dragged them to the contest check-in at a parking lot.

Foxes

Artic, red, gray, swift, and kit foxes occupy important ecological niches. Nevertheless, they are viciously killed for their fur by trophy hunters and trappers or shot and discarded as rubbish in killing contests.

In many states, there are no limits on the number of red and gray foxes killed during hunting and trapping seasons. In Colorado, swift foxes fall victim to fur trapping. And an HSUS investigation in Maryland revealed killing contest participants—and their young children—unloading pile after pile of red foxes ripped apart by high-powered weapons.

How Can We End the Killing?

The Humane Society of the United States and other organizations are making tremendous progress in ending trophy hunting. We’ve won major victories in the courts to protect America’s iconic grizzly bears from trophy hunting and to prevent trophy hunters from luring brown bears in Alaska’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge with masses of donuts and pastries to be shot.

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Bobcats are protected from trophy hunting in California, and advocates are pushing New Hampshire, Indiana, and Ohio to withdraw plans to begin hunting and trapping them.

In just the past few years, seven U.S. states have banned wildlife killing contests, and with the other member groups of the National Coalition to End Wildlife Killing Contests, we’re working to add more states to that list.

We’re doing our best to equip advocates who want to bring an end to trophy hunting and wildlife killing contests and pursuing both federal and state legislation to get us there faster.

Learn more about trophy hunting, wildlife killing contests, and take action by joining the fight.

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