Educational Series: Wildlife Killing Contests are a Senseless Celebration of Slaughter and Cruelty

By Nick Engelfried
Every year, in more than 40 states, countless numbers of wild coyotes, foxes, bobcats, rabbits, prairie dogs, and other wildlife are hunted down and murdered like trophies as part of legalized “killing contests.” These cruel events, which are largely unregulated and unfold far from the public view, are reminiscent of the days in which predators and other “pest” animals were routinely slaughtered on sight. Today, wildlife killing contests remain one of the most blatant forms of persecution of wild species who play vital roles in native ecosystems, but who are disliked by many people.

In a typical example that shows the brutal practices endemic at wildlife killing contests, an investigation by the Humane Society of the United States reported at least 60 animals were killed in the span of less than 24 hours at a contest held in Texas last year. The victims included coyotes, foxes, bobcats, and raccoons, with cash prizes awarded for the hunting teams that brought in the heaviest of each species and for the one that killed the most and biggest animals as measured by combined weight. This type of celebration of the killing of predators encourages the wholesale slaughter of species that play important roles in natural food chains.

While contests targeting predatory mammals have rightly received much attention, events where cold-blooded creatures are killed can be just as devastating. At “rattlesnake roundups” held in many southern states, untold numbers of these shy and elusive reptiles are hunted, skinned, and often butchered for meat. Meanwhile, shark killing tournaments in coastal regions award money to whomever can kill the largest victim. Like other types of wildlife killing contests, such events have been roundly condemned by animal welfare advocates and environmental groups alike.

“These bloodbaths constitute neither wildlife management nor sport,” said Tracie Letterman of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, in a statement of support for legislation that would ban wildlife killing events on U.S. public lands.. “Killing contests aren’t merely retrograde cruelty, either. They destroy native carnivores…who play a vital role in ensuring the health of forest and pastoral ecosystems.”

In fact, as the cruelty that goes on at these events has become more widely known, some states have taken action. Eight states–Washington, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont–have made at least some types of wildlife killing contests illegal, with efforts underway to pass similar legislation in other parts of the country. There are also examples of organizations that hold killing practices voluntarily changing the events in response to grassroots pressure or changing public sentiment. In the town of Whigam, Georgia, the local Community Club announced earlier this year that its annual rattlesnake roundup would be replaced by an educational event that celebrates rattlers and educates the public about their conservation. The Center for Biological Diversity lauded the overhaul as a “new vision [that] emphasizes how cruel and antiquated” killing contests are.

Yet, dozens of other states continue to allow predator killing contests, rattlesnake roundups, and similar mass slaughter events. The one with by far the largest number is Texas, where nearly two hundred such contests are believed to happen each year. In response, animal defenders are now calling for a federal ban on events where wildlife are killed for prizes. As a first step, the proposed Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022 would make it illegal to hold the contests on federal public lands.

Most wildlife killing contests are rooted in the scientifically outdated belief that the indiscriminate killing of predatory animals is good for people and game species targeted by hunters. Prior to modern environmental laws and management practices, predators like wolves and grizzly bears were systematically slaughtered as a matter of government policy, leading to their near-extinction in the contiguous United States. The thinking was that fewer predators would lead to more deer, elk, and other prey animals. However, the actual result of this government-sanctioned kill policy was devastating for ecosystems.

Today, good wildlife managers understand that healthy predator populations are essential to the overall well-being of an ecosystem. A classic example comes from Yellowstone National Park, where the elimination of gray wolves resulted in elk herds overgrazing sensitive landscapes. Reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone in the 1990s caused elk to resume natural behaviors like being continually on the move to escape predators–with the result that overgrazed streambanks and woodlands were able to regenerate. In fact, predators are vital to the health of entire ecosystems, including the prey species they feed on. Yet, the persistence of wildlife killing contests shows that outdated ways of thinking about predators have not gone away.

Because they usually focus on common predator species like coyotes that are not protected by federal law, killing contests have been allowed to continue even as scientists and wildlife managers’ thinking about the importance of carnivores has shifted. However, while the target species may not be at high risk of extinction, their removal still puts a strain on food webs in the local environment. Fortunately, a growing and increasingly successful movement has come together to end killing contests for good.

As recently as 2013, no U.S. state prohibited wildlife killing contests. The following year, in response to grassroots advocacy, California passed a ban on contests that target non-game furbearing animals. The fact that several other states have followed with similar policies in the years since shows efforts to expose the cruelties of killing contests are working. This should be encouraging for animal lovers everywhere who want to eventually see the events banned at a national level. For the movement to continue winning victories, more grassroots activism will be key.

If you dislike the idea of wild animals being senselessly hunted for sport and prizes, getting involved in the fight against killing contests is a great way to have an impact. Write to your state legislators in support of a statewide ban on all types of killing events, including those targeting snakes and aquatic predators. Or contact your federal representatives in support of legislation like the Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022. Your letter may be the one that helps convince the next lawmaker to sign onto one of these important efforts.

While the persecution of predators is a centuries-old reality, the movement to end killing contests is in many ways just getting started. With enough grassroots support, it will continue winning fresh victories for animals who have been indiscriminately targeted by hunters for far too long.

Photo credit: Pixabay

The Premium Challenge

We'll donate animal shelter meals for every correct answer:

This week's challenge...Educational Series: Wildlife Killing Contests are a Senseless Celebration of Slaughter and Cruelty.

How much do you know?

One of our core beliefs is that education leads to positive change. That is why we have the Educational Series. To make learning more fun, we are donating meals to animal shelters for every correct answer submitted by our Premium Members!

While everyone can study our educational materials and take our quizzes, only Premium Members will have shelter meals donated for correct answers.

Which state holds the most wildlife killing contests?
What is a “rattlesnake roundup”?
In what year did California ban many types of wildlife killing contests?
Which of these animals are common targets for killing contests?
True or false: Most animals targeted by killing contests are protected under federal law
Which predator was reintroduced to Yellowstone in the ‘90s, helping spur elk herds to resume more natural behaviors?
What is one way wildlife killing contests commonly affect native wildlife and ecosystems?

Wait, there’s one more step:

Over 1,402,880 Animal Shelter Meals Donated So Far –

Upgrade to a Premium Membership to get a free Animals Are Earth’s Greatest Treasure shirt, feed shelter animals with the Educational Series and Meal Wheel, sign 100’s of petitions with one-click, remove ads, and promote your favorite petitions to millions!

7 day money-back guarantee for new members. Zero risk.

Premium Membership comes with the following perks:

• Get a free Animals Are Earth’s Greatest Treasure shirt.
• Feed shelter animals by spinning the Meal Wheel.
• Sign 100’s of petitions with one-click.
• Feed shelter animals with the Educational Series quizzes.
• Remove ads and vote on which petitions are displayed to millions of people.

Our Guarantee:

Cancel your subscription for any reason within 7 days and we’ll refund 100% of your money, as long as you’re a first time member.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How are the animal shelter meals donated?

We donate shelter meals through Rescue Bank because they research all shelters, maintain equitable distribution, and track the meals from their facilities all the way to the rescue groups. This ensures that the donation will be utilized in the most efficient and impacting way.

Why don’t we just donate meals without providing any perks like the Meal Wheel?

We’ve been at this since 2008 and have learned that to really make a difference, we need to get people excited and engaged. Our mission is a serious one, but our methods are playful and educational. We’re serious about doing good, but also want to make it fun.

Who are we?

We are a family of sites that works to protect animals, the environment, and more. Our sites include and We’ve been at this for over a decade and are dedicated to protecting and defending animals and the environment. If we can have some fun and improve the world, then we’re accomplishing our goal!

Try Premium!

We’ve Been Doing This for Over a Decade and Others Have Taken Notice:

7 Day Guarantee!


“Thank you SO much for the premium feature of being able to sign multiple petitions with one click. Many of us go for hours at a time signing each and every petition and crying as we read them. I have often wished for a way to sign my name on every petition because I passionately support them and they all need our voice. This is the best thing – thank you very much!” -Karilyn K., Premium Member

“This is just the most amazing wonderful service that makes me so happy! To be able to feed shelter pets is just the greatest feeling. Thanks again for this, and for all you do for the most innocent and helpless among us, the animals. I’m lovestruck.” Sandra Z., Premium Member

“I love the upgrade option and I am so glad I did enables me to stand with you and many others to fight for the justice these precious souls deserve! We are their voice!!!! And....I adore helping to feed them as well! The spin the wheel game is fun....and I like doing it everyday to help! Keep up the wonderful work....and I know....every click makes a difference!” Dorothy B., Premium Member

“I am so excited to become a Premium Member and to have one-click signing, as I was spending countless hours signing petitions...not that I mind doing it, but my goodness, there sure are a lot of them. I always hope that my signature somehow helps, because these people that abuse/torture animals, need to be put away. As you can tell, that is my passion, I have such a heart for animals, and I want to be their voice.” Darlene R., Premium Member

“Thank you so much! I love being a premium member and spinning that wheel every day, especially when I land on 4 or, best of all, 5 meals. Thank you for all you do, we are all so grateful for you.” Sandy T., Premium Member

“With deepest Aloha, You have no idea how grateful I am for you!” Jan L., Premium Member

“Thank you for the Premium Membership option. I really appreciate that I can sign multiple petitions with one click. It's great! Thank you for the work you do.” Ashley H., Premium Member

“I absolutely love the Educational Series!” Yvonne L., Premium Member

"I am a premium member and religiously sign every petition. THANK YOU for this platform. I also vote for the petition nearest my heart, sometimes voting globally, sometimes I am caught by an individual animal's plight. What gives me great pleasure is noting that almost always, the percentages have no more than a 6-7% spread. It means that, overall, everyone cares about all of the petitions ALMOST EQUALLY! LOL, I also spin that wheel, and when I get 4 or 5 meals, I dance around the room! I have long maintained that what someone does to a helpless animal, they will do to a weaker human if they think that they can get away with it. Those who abuse, no matter how many legs their victims have, should be punished to the fullest extent of the law." Rebecca E., Premium Member

"I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Premium Membership! Everything and anything I can do to help animals and contribute to justice in the world makes me very happy!" Jan L., Premium Member

"Thank you, I love what you do. My friends and I love the membership because we can sign so many more petitions that we may never had heard of. Keep up the good work." Virginia G., Premium Member

Still have questions? Email us:

[easy-social-share buttons=”facebook,mail” morebutton=”1″ counters=0 fullwidth=”yes” query=”yes”]
Nick Engelfried Writes About Animals, the Environment, and Conservation for the ForceChange network

Skip to toolbar