By Laura Zuckerman
(Reuters) - Nevada wildlife managers on Friday voted down a proposal that would have banned hunts offering cash and prizes for slaughtering coyotes in competitions across Western states that conservationists decry as "killing contests."
In December, California became the first U.S. state to prohibit inducements like money and merchandise for hunting events of wild animals including coyotes, foxes, bobcats and other creatures classified in the state as fur-bearers and non-game mammals.
The recent push by wildlife advocates to outlaw hunting contests for wild animals like coyotes, which are considered nuisances allowed to be shot on sight in most of the West, comes as increasing numbers of competitions are held in states such as Nevada, California, Idaho, New Mexico and Oregon.
The Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners rejected banning the hunts in a 7-1 vote during a meeting in Reno that heard several hours of emotional testimony, mostly from animal activists, said Commissioner Karen Layne.
Layne, who said her seat on the commission obliges her to represent the general public rather than sportsmen, said she voted in support of the prohibition because her constituents oppose the tournaments.
But she said her vote was largely symbolic, because the proposal from wildlife advocates was awkwardly worded and likely would not have passed legal muster in a state where coyotes are not a protected species subject to hunting restrictions.
Fauna Tomlinson, spokeswoman for the conservation group, Project Coyote, spoke in support of the ban.
She said that in some cases the contests have killed hundreds of coyotes per event, and she faulted sportsmen for encouraging young people to join in the "fun."
"That tells children that wildlife has no value, that committing mass slaughter of animals is acceptable," Tomlinson told Reuters by telephone.
Jason Schroeder, organizer of a coyote-hunting tournament that took place outside Reno in December, said the events allow sportsmen to keep coyote populations in check while celebrating the West's time-honored tradition of hunting.
"Any time someone tries to stop hunting, it's so totally ridiculous," Schroeder said of the proposal to ban the contests.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)