Kalamazoo County Commissioners vote to oppose wildlife killing contests


Will Kriss

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MI (WKZO AM/FM) – The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners has voted to oppose wildlife killing contests by a slim margin.

The measure does not ban these contests outright, but is instead a proclamation voicing opposition against them. It also includes a facet that would have the Commission ask Michigan policy makers to ban them.

The idea to do so was brought forth by Commissioner Mike Quinn earlier this month, when area residents brought a local contest to his attention.

The Kalamazoo area hunt is called The Great Lakes Region Predator Challenge. Considered the largest event of its kind in Michigan, teams of hunters come to the area to kill coyotes and other wild creatures to win prizes.

During a virtual meeting Tuesday night, Commissioners discussed the matter at length after fielding public comments for almost an hour and a half. Some calls even came from outside the Kalamazoo area, including representatives of Michigan State University, and even some as far as the Upper Peninsula.

The majority of callers were in support of opposing these contests, saying that they promote animal cruelty and poor sportsmanship.

Even so, many callers still voiced support of hunting itself, but were opposed to the idea of killing animals in a contest setting. Some said that these contests often don’t make use of the meat or hide of animals that have been killed, and that other states have implemented similar measures as well.

Callers who did not support the measure said that these contests are within the guidelines of recreational hunting, and that there are often other hunting events that offer incentives and prizes, such as bass fishing competitions.

They also said that the act of hunting animals in this setting is good for population control, with one referring to the practice as organized hunts with a competitive structure. Another said that he appreciated those who would hunt coyotes on his farm property, as they had been killing his livestock before he moved most of them into an indoor facility.

Still others pointed out that in Michigan, coyote season is already open year-round.

In the weeks following its introduction, Commissioner Quinn noted that he had learned a lot from both those for and against the idea.

“I was really impressed by all the comments we heard, and I sincerely believe those who expressed opposition, they believed that what they are doing is valid management practice,” Quinn said. “I disagree, but I respect their opinions.”

Commissioner Zac Bauer, who was sitting in on his final Commission meeting, also spoke in favor of the proclamation, although he spoke against the characterization of those who choose to participate in them.

“I struggle with this issue, I grew up around folks that hunted coyotes,” Bauer said. “The representation of some of these people as murderous sociopaths is not correct. But it is rough to see, and its not our best self, and I think there are other ways to address this. After talking to some folks back home about it, I’ve come around, and I will be supporting this.”

Commissioner Jen Strebs echoed the characterization aspect.

“Each of these groups had valid opinions, and their dialogue is a welcome part of the discourse in our decision making,” Strebs said. “I want to recognize that, and I want to encourage us all, as we talk through difficult issues together, we come through points of contention, that we just work hard to avoid inflammatory rhetoric. Where we refer to other people with a different viewpoint than us as liars or murderers. Those things don’t have to be true for someone to hold an opposing opinion.”

She added that she would be voting in support of the proclamation because coyote season is open year-round. She also said she spoke with some of those involved with the The Great Lakes Region Predator Challenge, and was not able to receive answers to some questions.

For example, she said that according to the contest rules, some animals were disqualified if there was evidence of brutal treatment, or signs of being trapped and then killed the day of the contest.

“I was not able to receive any reassurance on whether or not any animals were disqualified,” Strebs said. “When I sought to understand if there was a breaking of the rules occurring, despite trying to seek that information a couple times, it was not provided.”

Before the final vote was cast, Board Chair Tracy Hall reminded residents and Commissioners that the proclamation does not bar hunting altogether, and is not meant to be anti-hunting.

“We want to protect our natural habitat, and also honor the rich history of hunting that we have in this great state,” Hall said. “This doesn’t take away from that – people are still allowed to hunt, protect their animals and hunt in general. This is simply a proclamation that is showing our position, our statement, that these wildlife contests are wrong and outdated in the year 2021.”

Ultimately, the proclamation passed by a slim margin, with a final vote of six to five.

In accordance with the agenda item language, the Board is now expected to ask Michigan policy makers to ban them.


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