Massachusetts bans furbearer contests

By Laura Bies

Under new regulations, hunting contests for predators and furbearers will no longer be permitted in Massachusetts. ©Steve Thompson/USFWS

The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board approved new regulations last month that would prohibit hunting contests for predators and furbearers.

The decision came after thorough consideration by the board of state agency staff recommendations and public concerns that such contests conflict with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

The regulation will make it unlawful to organize, sponsor, promote, conduct or participate in a contest for take of coyote, bobcat, red fox, gray fox, weasels, mink, skunk, river otter, muskrat, beaver, fisher, raccoon and opossum. Contests include participants competing for prizes in the capture or take of the animals.

In recent years, several other states, including California, New Mexico, Vermont and Arizona, have enforced similar restrictions on hunting contests for coyotes and other wildlife.

In an issue statement approved in March 2019, The Wildlife Society discourages wildlife killing contests that adversely affect the wildlife resource or the public’s appreciation of wildlife resources. The statement also highlights that killing contests may undermine the public’s perception of ethical hunting and encourages public attitude surveys to be used by agencies when managing or regulating killing contests.

During the same meeting, the fisheries and wildlife board also voted to approve regulations prohibiting the waste of game animals and changing the harvest reporting requirements for fox and coyote.

The new prohibition on waste, which makes it illegal to intentionally or knowingly leave a wounded or dead animal in the field or the forest without making a reasonable effort to retrieve and use it, is intended to reinforce a core principle and expectation that any animal taken during regulated seasons should be utilized to the greatest extent possible, as taught in the state’s hunter education classes.

The other regulation will update existing rules to require that fox and coyote be checked (either online or in-person) within 48 hours of harvest, which is consistent with deer, bear and turkey requirements. The previous regulations required them to be checked by four days after the end of the season.

The three new regulations still need final administrative approval, but the department expects them to be in place for next fall’s hunting seasons.

Read TWS’ issue statement on wildlife killing contests.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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