BUZZARDS BAY, Mass. (TNS) — In a public listening session Tuesday where the majority of attendees spoke out against controversial coyote contests, some stood up for the right to hunt the canines.
“Hunters are the silent minority due to the ruthless tactics of the opposition,” Elise Costa, an employee of Powderhorn Outfitters in Hyannis, told the crowd of about 50 people.
The gun shop has held coyote contests for the last two years. Costa said there is no difference between a coyote contest, big buck deer contest, turkey contest or fishing contest.
“Contests do not increase hunting, likely they bring people together,” she said.
At the fourth and final listening session held by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, residents from across the region traveled to Massachusetts Maritime Academy to voice their support or opposition to the current regulations surrounding coyote hunting. .
Staff with MassWildlife will consider the public feedback received in writing and at the listening sessions to determine what, if any, regulatory changes will be recommended to the agency’s board. The board is responsible for supervising and controlling the agency and has the authority to make regulations, set policy and oversee personnel appointments.
If the board endorses a regulatory change, a formal public hearing and public comment period will be scheduled at a later date.
Powderhorn launched the first coyote killing contest on the Cape in January 2018. The second annual contest ended on March 10.
The contest awarded cash prizes to hunters who brought in the largest coyote and the most cumulative weight. Raffle tickets were also awarded for each coyote weighed in at the store.
In both years, protesters bearing signs and expressing their condemnation of the competition lined the road outside the store.
“Killing is 100% completely wrong,” said Selin Nacar, who organized some of the protests. “They are just canines trying to survive, let them live.”
During the meeting, Brian O’Gorman, an East Sandwich resident, stood up with a pelt of a coyote. The move drew audible gasps that could be heard throughout the auditorium.
A lifelong hunter, fisherman and trapper, O’Gorman said he began to hunt coyotes to prove the point that it is alright to hunt and help manage the species.
“Hunting is under attack and it shouldn’t be,” he said after the meeting. “I struggle to see the other point of view. We live in a free democratic society.”
It is a lot of work to get coyotes cleaned in order to sell the pelts, which O’Gorman said sell for around $50 to $60. The pelts are then used to line hoods and cuffs on jackets, he said.
“I still let most of them go,” he said after the meeting.
Hunting is a tool that helps manage the coyote population, East Bridgewater resident John Fabroski, a hunter, said after the meeting. He supports the current management being done by the state.
“Yes we’re a mitigating tool, but we’re controlling the population,” Fabroksi said.