Organizers of coyote hunt settle animal-rights lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Organizers of a Kansas coyote hunting contest have settled a lawsuit filed by an animal rights group that sought to stop them from holding another one.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, based in San Francisco, filed a recent lawsuit in Kansas against organizers of the WaKeeney hunt, which was held in January. Coyote hunting contests usually involve hunters using mouth-blown or electronic callers that mimic the sounds of a wounded rabbit, songbird or fawn to attract coyotes looking for an easy meal. Contests have been held across the western half of the United States for decades.

Jordan Bleske, one of three organizers of the WaKeeney hunt, told The Wichita Eagle the lawsuit was settled by agreeing to not hold the contest again and paying the organization $2,000 in legal fees.

Bleske, 24, would not say how many hunters entered the contest or how many coyotes were shot.

“It’s been resolved,” Bleske said. “I’ve moved on.”

ALDF lawyer Sarah Hanneken said her group cited Kansas’ gambling laws to say the WaKeeney contest was a game of chance. Entrants paid $80 to participate in the one-day event. The grand prize of $500 went to whoever killed the most coyotes that day. She said the ALDF has ended contests in other states by citing gambling laws.

“As a general matter, anytime you have to pay to participate to win a prize that is largely based on chance, that is going to fall within the definition of gambling,” she said.

The ALDF represented the Western Plains Animal Refuge in Hays in the lawsuit.

“These contests are not welcome in Kansas,” said Brendon McCampbell, the refuge’s director. “We are happy this horrible event has been canceled, and we hope others like it will also be ended soon.”

Chris Tymeson, a lawyer for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the department was not contacted about the lawsuit, but he believes hunters would win if such a case went to court in Kansas.

“It does take skill (for hunting and fishing),” Tymeson said. “Gambling is pure chance. You can’t control the card that will be dealt or what color something will land on. A contest is a determination of skill. You have to have skills to hunt coyotes, or about anything.”

Charles Lee, a Kansas State University extension service wildlife biologist, has hunted coyotes for decades and said it helps ranchers who are losing livestock to the animals. Lee also disputes whether luck is involved in coyote hunting and said the skills involved include knowing how to spot good coyote habitat, and having the ability to sneak into the area without being seen, heard or smelled by coyotes.

“People with the most experiences always tend to do better at coyote hunting and most things outdoors,” he said.

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