If signed by Gov. Hochul, New York would join eight other states
By Gwendolyn Craig
The state Assembly’s return to Albany this week resulted in passage of a controversial ban on wildlife killing contests that upstate Republican lawmakers largely opposed. The state Senate had already passed the measure, and it will now need Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature to become law.
State Assemblymember Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, sponsored the legislation that would ban kill contests for wildlife species such as coyotes, foxes, squirrels and racoons. It would not ban hunting the animals or interfere with any state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations on bag limits. It also does not prevent a person from taking nuisance animals.
Should Hochul sign it, New York would become the ninth state to ban such competitions. Vermont, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Maryland, Arizona, Colorado, California and Washington already have such laws in place.
“Most New Yorkers would be shocked to learn that dozens of gruesome and unsporting contests take place each year in New York to kill the largest number of certain species of wildlife,” Glick said in a news release. “These killing contests celebrate senseless brutality, and serve absolutely no scientifically backed ecological or conservation purpose. The wildlife of the state is a natural resource for all New Yorkers to enjoy, and to allow these radical contests to incentivize wasteful killing for cash is an insult to nature.”
The legislation has the support of many environmental advocacy groups, including the Adirondack Council and Protect the Adirondacks. The DEC did not take a position on the bill, Glick noted on Wednesday, as she faced over an hour of questions from Republican colleagues against the measure.
State Assemblyman Matthew Simpson, R-Horicon, said people of the Adirondacks and elsewhere have been participating in hunting contests for years, including former President Theodore Roosevelt. Simpson said these contests operate within the DEC’s rules and regulations and there was no difference between hunting and hunting contests other than a prize at the end. He also wondered why white-tailed deer, bear, fish and other species were left off the list of species covered by the bill.
Glick said fish are separate from other wildlife, based on the DEC’s laws, and that species not included have separate management plans.
State Assemblyman John Lemondes Jr., a Republican from Central New York, called the legislation “an explicit infringement on hunting rights and second amendment privileges.” State Assemblyman Robert Smullen, a Republican representing the Mohawk Valley and parts of the Adirondacks, dubbed it “a cultural difference that cannot be bridged” between upstate and downstate.
Lemondes, Simpson and others also worried that the ban on contests would impact agriculture and rural homeowners, who have resident coyotes killing their animals.
Groups such as Project Coyote, a California-based coalition of scientists, conservationists and government officials, have said coyote killing contests are a threat to wolf recovery. Wolves are an endangered species and killing them is prohibited under state and federal law. A hunter, who thought he shot a large coyote near Cooperstown in 2021. DNA analysis revealed he had actually killed a gray wolf.
“We commend New York legislators for their leadership on voting to outlaw egregious and unscientific wildlife killing contests,” said Renee Seacor, carnivore conservation advocate for Project Coyote and The Rewilding Institute, in a news release. “During an extinction crisis, with wildlife populations around the world plummeting, indiscriminate killing of wildlife for prizes is ethically indefensible, ecologically reckless and runs counter to sound wildlife conservation and management. This important legislation will help bring New York’s wildlife management into the 21st century.”
The bill passed 86-54.