Sneak Peek at Project Coyote’s short film “Killing Games – Wildlife in the Crosshairs”

On any given weekend, some of America’s most iconic wild animals are massacred in wildlife killing contests. Bloodied bodies are weighed and stacked like cords of wood, and prizes are awarded to the “hunters” who kill the largest or the most of a targeted species. More information.

Coyotes, bobcats, wolves and foxes are common victims of these contests; children as young as 10 are encouraged to participate. Fueled by anti-predator bias, these legally sanctioned but relatively unknown contests are cruel and foster ignorance about the critical role apex predators play in maintaining healthy ecosystems. These contests occur on both public and private lands in almost every state except California — where killing predators for prizes has been outlawed. In KILLING GAMES, a groundbreaking exposé, actor, conservationist and Project Coyote Advisory Board Member Peter Coyote — with environmentalists, ranchers, public officials and Native Americans — brings these shadowy contests to light and speaks out against this hidden war on wildlife. Project Coyote’s KILLING GAMES inspires viewers to call on their state and local legislators to bring an end to these brutal contests where wild animals become living targets. More information.

Director and Producer Camilla H. Fox is the founder and executive director of Project Coyote- a national non-profit organization based in northern California that promotes coexistence between people and wildlife and compassionate conservation through education, science, and advocacy. With more than 25 years of experience working on behalf of wildlife and wildlands and a master’s degree in wildlife ecology, policy, and conservation, Camilla’s work has been featured in several films, books and national media outlets. A frequent speaker on these issues, Camilla has authored more than 70 publications and is co-author of Coyotes in Our Midst, co-editor and lead author of the book, Cull of the Wild, producer of the award-winning documentary Cull of the Wild ~ The Truth Behind Trapping and most recently, producer and director of the film KILLING GAMES: Wildlife in the Crosshairs. Camilla has served as an appointed member on the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee and currently serves on several national non-profit advisory boards. In 2006, Camilla received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Marin Humane Society and the Christine Stevens Wildlife Award from the Animal Welfare Institute. She was named one of the 100 Guardian Angels of the Planet in 2013 and the 2014 Conservationist of the Year Award by the John Muir Association. In 2015 she was honored with the Grassroots Activist of the Year Award by the Fund for Wild Nature. Read more here.

A review…

“Killing one, ten, twenty or more wild animals is most assuredly not a game—all animals deserve our deepest respect, regard, and compassion. KILLING GAMES ~ Wildlife In The Crosshairs exposes the barbaric practice of slaughtering coyotes, bobcats, wolves and other wild animals for prizes and “fun.” Thank you, Project Coyote, for bringing to the forefront this cruel and ineffective “wildlife management” method. We at Born Free, who work to conserve and protect wild animals and to end their exploitation, encourage everyone to watch this groundbreaking film, and to take action to end these shameful killing contests.”

~Will Travers & Virginia McKenna Born Free

Poaching may be a bigger threat than the state thought…

Hunters may need to keep their paws off Wisconsin wolves. 

By Sarah Fecht, Popular Science 

Wisconsin’s wolves are a great success story in many ways. When the state began monitoring its gray wolf population in 1979, there were only about 25 left in the area, after bounty hunting and prey decline nearly wiped them out. Today, thanks to the Endangered Species Act and the state’s efforts, Wisconsin is home to about 800 gray wolves. But they may not be out of hot water yet.

In 2012, Wisconsin declared its wolves were no longer endangered, and over the course of three years, hunters obtained permits to kill more than 500 of them. A federal judge put the population back on the endangered list in 2014, where it remains today. But there are folks in Wisconsin—including the governor and some senators and congressmen—who hope the wolves will be fair game again soon.

That might not be such a good idea, according to research published Monday in the Journal of Mammology. The study found that Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has systematically underestimated how many wolves are killed by poachers each year. And without an accurate estimate of the population size and the threats they face, hunting quotas could potentially imperil Wisconsin’s wolf populations again.

“We’ve found that poaching or illegal killing is the primary threat to wolves in Wisconsin,” says lead author Adrian Treves, who studies human-carnivore interactions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “This isn’t something that only happens in Africa. It’s happening in our own backyard, with controversial species like the wolf.”

Poaching problems

Treves and his colleagues received a grant from the WDNR to study how the state’s 2012-2014 cullings impacted the wolves’ population growth rate. In the course of that study, the researchers tracked down the state’s data on how wolves die every year. The state sorts cause of death into five basic categories: vehicle collisions, legal killing, poaching/illegal killing, and non-human causes. After digging through the state’s figures, the researchers found problems with how the data were collected and analyzed.

The discrepancy between poaching’s estimated and actual impact was particularly profound: Treves’ team found poaching to be the cause of at least 39 to 45 percent of wolf deaths every year, compared to the state’s estimate of 34 percent. And Treves says that 45 percent is based on conservative estimates—the real number may actually be higher.

“The care that should have been taken was not taken,” says Treves. “We don’t think somebody was intentionally underreporting poaching, but it seems like the state agency errs on the side of not calling something poaching.”

Data difficulties

Treves and his colleagues found a number of problems with the way the state estimated the cause of death in wolves.

Since it would be impossible to monitor every wolf in Wisconsin, the state radiocollars only about 13 percent of its wolves. By monitoring those wolves, they try to get an idea of how the entire population is doing. But Treves argues that the wolves that are studied don’t provide an accurate picture of the larger group. That’s because they’re mostly selected from state lands, which represent the best and safest habitat for wolves. The wolves that live outside those core areas are at a higher risk of being poached or struck by cars, says Treves, and they’re not represented in the data.

There’s another problem. The state assumes that lost radiocollared animals have died of the same distribution of causes as they animals they’ve managed to keep tabs on. So if 34 percent of the successfully tracked population dies from poaching, the state assumes 34 percent of the collared wolves who went missing also died from poaching. But that’s not quite right, says Treves. Legal hunting claimed the lives of about 13 percent of tracked wolves, but since the state records each and every wolf that’s killed legally, none of the missing wolves could have met such a fate. So that 13 percent needs to be redistributed elsewhere, suggesting that the number of poached wolves would in fact be higher than 34 percent. And since poachers may be more likely to target a wolf that’s not wearing a radiocollar, the applicability of those numbers to the larger population is debatable.

“The state made a decision about the cause of death, and we think they got it wrong.”

Finally, Treves’ team revisited the files of a few dozen wolves that were autopsied, and found that many of the wolves classified as dying from car collisions contained bullet remains. “It looks to us like people might be shooting at wolves on the road and then hitting them with their cars as a weapon,” says Treves. He says that although the veterinarians reported the bullet evidence, “the state made a decision about the cause of death, and we think they got it wrong.”

Hunting on hold

Overall, poaching may be at least 6 to 11 percent more common than expected. Treves worries that if Wisconsin regains the power to hunt its wolves, and if it continues to underestimate poaching rates, it could put the population into a downward spiral.

“Without estimates of mortality and births that are unbiased, precise, and accurate,” the paper notes, “policies that promote the killing of wildlife will risk unsustainable mortality and raise the probability of a population crash. The current government of the state of Wisconsin risked that crash when it issued high wolf-hunting quotas and when it liberalized culling from 2012 to 2014, both done without presenting careful, transparent accounting of mortality and births.”

The WDNR did not respond to Popular Science’s request for comment, but state leaders claim the wolf population never dipped below 350, the state’s minimum target. However, some researchers think 1,000 to 1,500 wolves might be necessary to maintain healthy genetic diversity.
Treves’ paper is surely not the end of the debate about whether to legalize the hunting of gray wolves. But the team is putting all the data online, so that other researchers can analyze their findings.

“The state has never published all of its mortality data,” says Treves. “We’re doing it for the first time to be totally transparent.” Source: Popular Science

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