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Clark County Commission Considers Opposing Predator Hunting Contests

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(Editor's Note: This story originally aired Feb. 11, 2021) 

Do you hear it late at night, the howl of coyotes? To some, it’s the beauty of nature. But to others, it’s a sign that danger lurks too close to home.    

Almost everyone in Nevada has coyotes for neighbors, and for many years, the state has been a hotspot for competitive predator hunts.  

The question is: how big of a threat are coyotes and other non-endangered predators, especially in urban areas like Reno and Las Vegas?  

The Clark County Commission is considering a resolution to oppose the hunting of predators like coyotes. 

The effort is being pushed by Commissioner Justin Jones.

“I think that part of the reason it's really important right now is because all of our neighboring states have banned them it has just driven more of those competitions, blood sport competitions, here to the state,” he said.

Jones believes the competitions are wrong on a lot of levels. He notes that most people hunt for sport or to feed their families, but that is not the case for these hunts.

“Just killing dozens of coyotes and piling them up in hopes of a cash prize isn't the ethics of a real hunter,” he said.

The county commissioner is not opposed to killing coyotes, but to the organized hunting competitions.

“It’s not about hunting. It’s not about killing coyotes. It's about having competitions for the killing of coyotes and other types of animals, which is just wrong,” he said.

Jones said control of the population of coyotes should be in the hands of Nevada wildlife officials, but he does say that a problem with the hunts is the maturity of the animals that are targeted.

“Part of the reason why it’s bad to have these competitions is when you kill off the mature animals, it takes away the training that those mature animals give to the juvenile, and the juveniles become more aggressive,” he said.

Riley Manzonie is the founder of Currant Creek Outfitters, a hunting guide service based in Elko. Manzonie has participated in dozens of different coyote hunts.

“I completely think it’s wrong-headed,” he said of the purposed non-binding ban.

Manzonie pointed out that last year the Nevada Department of Wildlife spent thousands of dollars to kill 52 coyotes but the world coyote hunt killed 191 coyotes without using any taxpayer dollars.

“To me, it’s a no brainer," he said "I mean, why would you want to stop them other than they’re not living how you want them to live. You want them to conform to your standards.”

Manzonie said he hasn't participated in a coyote hunt in several years, but he wanted to speak out about the issue because he feels like it is another effort to take away people's rights.

He said people who are opposed to the hunts have never been to one and are only reacting to pictures they've seen of coyotes piled up after a hunt. In addition, he doesn't think it is any different than the first day of deer season, which he said can get pretty gory.

The difference between hunting game, like deer, is people use the meat for food, but people don't eat coyotes. They can, however, get money for the pelts, which are used to make coats.

“Some of the hunts actually let you keep the coyotes and so if I go out and killed 10 coyotes in a weekend, that’s a thousand bucks to pay for my gas and everything else," he said.

Manzonie believes the only reason predator callers, which is how he refers to people who call and then shoot coyotes and other predators as they run toward the sound, is because they're easy targets. 

“You’ve got organizations like Project Coyote and they’ve got the support of the Humane Society," he said, "They’ve got a lot of money to go push legislators and stuff like that. All it is, is predator callers competition. Predator callers are a soft target. They’re a small group of people and they don’t really have the voice or the funds to backup going up against them in trying to get things to continue.”

Doug Nielson is the head of conservation education at the Nevada Department of Wildlife. He said there are different schools of thought on whether allowing hunts of coyotes are a good idea.

“We, as an agency, really don’t have a formal position on the subject," he said, "We’re not here to determine what is acceptable to society. We just go about our business and let the public input process do its work and let the Wildlife Commission sort that out.”

Nielson said the population of coyotes is "plentiful" in Nevada. 

Last year, in Las Vegas, there were 489 calls of concern about coyotes, he said. Those concerns ranged from people wanting to know who was caring for a coyote they saw in the desert to people calling about one on a golf course. 

“Generally, what we try to do as these calls come in is we try to educate the caller," he said, "If they’re concerned about a pet, we give them information, things they can do, in their yard, in their behavior, in the way they manage their personal pets to minimize the chance of them being eaten by a coyote.”

Nielson said the best thing people can do to keep a coyote out of their neighborhood is to make sure the animal knows it is unwelcome. He said if you spot one - make a lot of loud noises, spray them with the hose if you can, and make yourself look as big and menacing as possible.

He noted that most coyotes want to have nothing to do with humans. 

Justin Jones, commissioner, Clark County Commission; Doug Nielsen, Conservation Education, Nevada Department of Wildlife; Riley Manzonie, Founder, Currant Creek Outfitters  

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.