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COMMENTARY: Commission should stand against wildlife hunting contests

One of the most despicable examples of cruelty to wildlife is the too-common phenomenon of contests involving the killing of animals. In these contests, teams of two or single shooters head out at dawn to kill as many coyotes, fox, rabbits, bobcats or other small mammals as they can — all to win a shiny new belt buckle, a gun or some cash. Bigger contests require polygraphs to keep their participants from cheating — not exactly indicative of a decent bunch of hunters.

Nevada’s neighboring states have banned these contests in recent years, which has driven contest participants and organizers to flock here, one of the last remaining havens for the blood-sport. Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico were once home to hundreds of wildlife killing contests. Now, these killers come to our state, slaughter animals, and leave carnage and waste in their wake.

As a Nevadan, I believe it is my responsibility (and the responsibility of all my neighbors) to stand up for our wildlife and our lands. These contests are cruel, not representative of ethical hunting, not conservation and not a recognized wildlife management tool. In fact, coyotes, which are a favorite target of these killing sprees, are renowned for their compensatory breeding. Wildlife biologists state that indiscriminately killing coyotes generally leads to more coyotes in the long run.

Now, the Clark County Commission is on the verge of passing a resolution to condemn the scourge of wildlife killing contests in our state. Such a resolution will put Nevada on the path toward joining the bevy of other states that have already eliminated these barbaric practices.

In the past few years, more than 24 wildlife killing contests have occurred in Nevada, including in and around Clark County, with four hosting their weigh-ins and “celebrations” in Las Vegas and Henderson. The killing happens across the entire state, with participants encouraged to kill on public lands.

Organizers are aware that the public does not support their contest killing, so they evade public notice as much as possible. One development has been to move competitions to an app-based system where a virtual check-ins allow for “anyone with a smartphone” to compete. That means this reckless killing can and does occur anywhere.

Southern Nevadans trust the County Commission to protect our families, our treasured public lands, and our recreational areas that bring so much joy to residents. By introducing a resolution to condemn wildlife killing contests, the County Commission will represent the values of the citizens of Clark County, and galvanize the movement to:

— State that contest killing — which rewards participants for killing the most, the heaviest, and the smallest of a given species — is not sportsmanship.

— Provide a place for wildlife to thrive.

— Ensure the public’s safety from stray bullets from unethical shooters in a hurry to kill as many animals as possible.

—Advance scientifically-based wildlife management programs.

— Uphold the values of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, including killing only for legitimate purposes.

— Support the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the Wildlife Commission if and when they ban such contests.

Residents and visitors to Clark County use our extensive public lands for hiking, rock climbing and other outdoor activities that require a healthy environment. The activities of killing contest attendees pose a threat to their safety and well-being.

Taking a neutral position toward these contests threatens the families of Southern Nevada, our eco-tourism, tourism at-large and the future of hunting.

The time has come to take a stand. The Clark County Commission must pass a resolution condemning these cruel contests in our state, saving both the lives of animals that reside on our public lands and protecting our families and children who ought to enjoy these lands safely.

— Shelbie Lynn Swartz is wildlife advocate and director of digital marketing for Animal Wellness Action (animalwellnessaction.org).

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