Ban on wildlife killing contests ‘unlikely’ to clear state Senate

By Cole Longcor Capitol News Illinois

State House Bill 2900, which would ban contests that reward the killing of “fur-bearing mammals,” is unlikely to move before lawmakers adjourn, according to its Senate sponsor. Much of the debate on the measure in the House centered on coyote-hunting contests.

A measure that would prohibit contests that award cash or prizes for killing certain wildlife is unlikely to clear the Senate after narrowly passing the House, according to its Senate sponsor.

House Bill 2900 would ban the practice of holding wildlife contests that reward participants with cash, prizes or inducements for killing fur-bearing animals. Much of the floor debate centered on contests that award the killing of coyotes as a method of population control.

Under the measure, organizing, sponsoring or participating in such contests would be a Class A misdemeanor and subject to a fine between $500 and $5,000.

State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure arrived too late in the process for passage by the chamber’s scheduled adjournment. It arrived in the Senate on May 16 but had not yet received a substantive committee assignment.

During the floor debate in the House on May 15, bill sponsor Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, said the focus of the bill is to “end the very unethical and unsportsmanlike practice of mass slaughter of fur-bearing mammals for cash prizes.”

Moeller said the contests are a “blood sport” that are not authorized or overseen by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and are not “an official means of managing wildlife populations.” She added that the bill would not prohibit “ethical hunting” or protecting one’s property, pets, or children from harm.

When asked about the lack of a definition of “prizes” during debate, Moeller said she interprets the bill to ban contests that give away anything of monetary value, such as firearms. Opponents raised concerns that, as written, the bill does not define what is considered an inducement or prize, making it unclear if trophies or awards are included.

The proposal is supported by Project Coyote, a California-based nonprofit organization. According to the organization’s website Project Coyote along with the Sierra Club Illinois Chapter and The Rewilding Institute petitioned IDNR to ban the contests through agency rulemaking. According to Project Coyote 10 states have banned wildlife contests, five of which banned the practice through agency rules. In a letter, IDNR said that any such change would have to be made through the legislature to amend the Wildlife Code.

The bill passed on a 62-45 vote after more than 40 minutes of debate. While no Republicans supported the measure in the House, several Democrats — mostly from outside the Chicago area — opposed the bill.  They include Reps. Will Davis of Homewood, Anthony DeLuca of Chicago Heights, Jay Hoffman of Swansea, Dave Vella of Rockford, Larry Walsh of Elwood and Lance Yednock of Ottawa.

Deputy Republican Leader Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, called the debate “a tale of two regions.”

“This is a bill that goes against the face of health and safety of our livestock,” Hammond said. “It does significant damage to our agricultural crops that we are growing to feed your families.”

If it doesn’t pass by the legislature’s end-of-May adjournment, the measure could be revived in the fall veto session.

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